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Taylor: the Swift rise and rise of a pop princess


Taylor swift at CMT Awards in 2013.

Taylor swift at CMT Awards in 2013.

Taylor Swift performing in Arkansas in 2012

Taylor Swift performing in Arkansas in 2012

Taylor Swift and Bono

Taylor Swift and Bono


Taylor swift at CMT Awards in 2013.

Taylor Swift and "unauthorised" are not words you'd expect to find in a sentence together. Since shooting to fame with her debut album at just 16, the country queen's squeaky clean image has been as carefully conditioned as her corkscrew curls.

Now a new biography of America's sweetheart by Chas Newkey-Burden – not signed off on by the star – promises to tell "the whole story". For Ireland's army of "Swifties", take it as "Red".

Incidentally, that's the colour the star was left when she thought she'd won Album of the Year for her fourth studio album at the Grammys last month. Still, with seven Grammys – among dozens of other awards – to dust already, the 24-year-old is unlikely to be too disappointed.

Growing up on a Pennsylvanian Christmas tree farm, you might say that Swift was destined to become a star. But with a stockbroker dad and opera singer grandmum, it wasn't all down to fate.

When it comes to Taylor Swift Inc, a brand worth €160m ($220m) according to Forbes magazine, however, it's long been thought to be "momager" Andrea Finlay who wears the chaps.

And revealing how the former marketing manager deliberately gave her first-born a unisex name to help her succeed in a man's world, this latest tome does little to lasso the rumours.

For her part, Swift insists her parents were "empowering" not pushy: "My mom and I have always been really close. There were times in school when I didn't have a lot of friends. But my mom was always my friend."

Let's face it, since transitioning from country to pop like her hero Shania Twain, Taylor can do with all the friends she can get.

Teen girls throughout the globe may have downloaded her songs 75 million times, making Swift the number one digital singles artist of all time, but not everyone is such a fan.

In 2009, rapper Kanye West memorably stormed the stage during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, protesting that runner-up Beyonce "had one of the best videos of all time".

Last year, Golden Globes presenter Tina Fey poked fun at Taylor's lively love life by warning her to "stay away from Michael J Fox's son".

Meanwhile, Victoria's Secret model Jessica Hart swiped that the wholesome star "didn't fit" at the lingerie brand's annual spectacular in November.

Still, at 5ft 11ins you get the impression here that the sugar-coated songwriter is well able to stand up for herself.

At the age of just 12, she "convinced" her mum and dad to move to Nashville with little brother Austin in order to get her big break.

Even after landing the deal of a lifetime with RCA Records, the headstrong youngster quit to join independent label Big Machine Records because she didn't want to sing other people's songs.

"I didn't come into this to be baby-sat," says Swift, who wrote her breakout hit 'Tim McGraw' in maths class. "I'm intimidated by the fear of being average."

Indeed, from hand-delivering cookies to radio stations that play her songs to posing for selfies with fans, being the anti-Miley is hard twerk.

"I can't believe I get to have the life I have," says the reigning Billboard and American Music Awards Artist of the Year, "so I've got a complete fear of messing up, of making a misstep where it all comes crumbling down.

"Your career could go up in smoke just like that. It's a high-wire act in my brain all the time."

For teetotaller Taylor, love is the drug. Born into money, and with looks and talent to boot, as a teenager she certainly didn't have to work 'Nine to Five' like Dolly Parton.

Instead, she struck a chord by agonising over teenage girls and their relationships with boys.

By now, Swift is infamous for her "revenge songs" – and it all started with an unrequited crush at school.

'I think it's one of everybody's favourite things to talk about – who my songs are written about," she reveals.

"There are definitely a few more people who think that I've written a song about them than there actually are."

One Direction's Harry Styles, John Mayer and Jake Gyllenhaal are just some of the stars with whom she'll probably never, ever, ever, get back together with though.

After being immortalised in her song 'Dear John', singer Mayer, who dated Swift for four months, lashed back: "I will say as a songwriter that I think it's kind of cheap songwriting.

"I know she's the biggest thing in the world, and I'm not trying to sink anybody's ship, but I think it's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait till he gets a load of this!'"

As LL Cool J joked in his opening speech at this year's Grammys: "Music gave (Swift) the perfect way to express whatever she is going through . . . and now a whole new generation of young women are growing up ready to write about whatever is being done wrong to them. Gentleman behave yourselves!"

As the third richest celebrity under 30, Swift isn't changing her tune, though: "It's not my job to make people like me if they don't want to. I love my life, I love my career, I love my friends – but things are not okay all the time.

"I'm fine with being honest with my fans about that."

Strictly one for the Swiftians, Newkey-Burden's biography isn't about to put a dent in the starlet's Pollyanna persona anyway. And it seems unlikely that Swift will "do a Bieber" by self-combusting any time soon either.

"Before I can make decisions, I always think: what is my mom going to think if I tell her this?" she says.

"Is my mom going to be really upset if she finds out about this?"

If all that sounds a bit yawnsome, just ask yourself: who would you rather your teen daughter idolise – Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift?



Age at which Taylor, or 'T-Swizzle' as she jokingly calls herself, penned her first song.

Number of songs she's reportedly written since then, eight of which have topped the charts including 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together'.

Gongs she's been awarded over the years, including the Country Music Association's Pinnacle Award last year and People's Choice Award for Favourite Country Artist 2014.

Her personal fortune in euro, according to Forbes magazine.

How much of that DoSomething.org's 'Most Charitable Celebrity 2013' donated to the Country Hall of Fame Museum.

Number of Irish gigs she's playing as part of her 'Red' tour – sorry, Swifties.

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