Apple Music Artist of the Year 2023
Taylor Swift is Apple Music’s Artist of the Year in 2023. To celebrate, we’re reflecting on the music and moments that defined her Eras era—an event so culture-engulfing it turned songs from her past into some of the biggest of this year.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour
Maybe you were there, bathed in song, friendship bracelets jangling on your wrists. Maybe you couldn’t be, so you waited to see every set list as it came online, pored over every guest reveal and secret track, caught the movie in theaters. Whatever the case, there have been few pop cultural happenings in recent memory quite like the initial US leg of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, a 53-date stadium jag that wasn’t just the centerpiece of Swift’s year, but the sun around which most conversations seemed to orbit in 2023. This is what it looks like when one of our most ambitious and prolific artists feels like she needs to make up for lost time. After the global pandemic prevented her from supporting 2019’s Lover, Swift ended up staying off the road for five years—a near eternity for an artist of her profile and productivity. But she definitely didn’t slow down, instead releasing five successive No. 1 albums, including two rerecordings (her versions of Fearless and Red), a pair of ruminative indie-folk records (folklore and evermore), and 2022’s Midnights. So when Swift finally announced her return to the stage in late 2022, the demand for tickets was so extreme it crushed servers—and dreams—leaving some fans and their parents scrambling. “It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets,” she wrote on Instagram at the time. “But it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.” But those who made it (and even those who didn’t) quickly realized that this wasn’t so much a tour as a celebration—of her songbook and nearly two-decade career, of the opportunity to be together again in numbers after a long period of lockdowns and variants and spikes. From SoFi in LA (capacity: 70,000) to Chicago’s Soldier Field (capacity: 63,500) to, ahem, Arrowhead in Kansas City (capacity: 76,000), the overriding feeling was one of joy and collective embrace, bringing together generations of Swifties and casual onlookers for over three hours of communal retrospection and communal bliss, each night organized by 10 distinct album “eras.” The tour not only broke sales records (estimates already place it at the billion-dollar mark) and catapulted her catalog back into the charts—65 of her songs reached Apple Music’s Global Daily Top 100, more than any other artist—it was an industry unto itself. Local economies were galvanized at every stop, and the big-screen document, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour—self-financed and self-distributed at the peak of the rancorous, paralyzing strikes in Hollywood—became the highest-grossing concert film ever. You could feel that impact across Apple Music, where more people listened to Taylor Swift in 2023 than to any other artist in the world, setting a new all-time record for a single year on Apple Music. In fact, Swift’s streams on Apple Music have more than doubled since last year, growing at a rate that is a new record not only for Swift, but for any star of her stature. She is currently the No. 1 most-streamed female-identifying artist in Apple Music history. And yet it never once seemed strange that an artist who’s still so young would be taking a kind of victory lap or looking back—especially given that, at her current peak, Swift’s influence among rising artists has never felt so palpable. Maybe this is another inflection point, the start of something new. Maybe it’s simpler than that. You know what she’d probably say: “A diamond’s gotta shine.”
1989 (Taylor’s Version)
It makes perfect sense that Swift would finally release 1989 (Taylor’s Version) in the months following the Eras Tour’s first leg: It’s a rerecording of the 2014 album on which she reintroduced herself (at just 24) as the all-conquering, planet-like presence we know today. She’d already started adjusting the ratio of country to pop on 2010’s Speak Now and 2012’s Red, but on 1989, Swift did away with the idea of ratios entirely—just launched them into the ocean, and went all the way. It was a kind of rebirth—made with producers Max Martin, Shellback, Ryan Tedder, and future bestie Jack Antonoff—that’s become so beloved over time that it’s difficult to imagine where she’d be right now if she hadn’t pivoted toward pop superstardom like she did. On the wave of interest in her catalog that she’s generated by touring and rerecording this year, album highlights “Bad Blood,” “Blank Space,” “Style,” “Shake It Off,” and “Wildest Dreams” reached the Apple Music charts for the first time in 2023.
Lover was not only the original impetus for the Eras Tour, but also the original home of “Cruel Summer,” a song that, with the help of intense grassroots support among fans online, became an official single and legitimate song-of-the-year candidate—four years later. It was her “pride and joy” at the time of Lover’s release, she told the crowd during a June show in Pittsburgh, sitting at her moss-covered piano. “I was finally, finally about to have my favorite song become the single,” she said. “And I’m not trying to blame the global pandemic that we had, but that stopped ‘Cruel Summer’ from ever being a single. No one understands how this is happening, but you guys have streamed ‘Cruel Summer’ so much, right now, in 2023, that it’s rising on the streaming charts so crazy and my label just decided to make it the next single. It is truly, truly perplexing to me, because I just haven’t had something like this happen in my career.” In fact, “Cruel Summer” reentered Apple Music’s Global Daily Top 100 in April for the first time in four years and has stayed there ever since, reaching a new peak of No. 2, and it even reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late October.
It’s a testament to the body of work (the world, really) that Swift has built over time, song by song, that her most recent full-length, Midnights, doesn’t immediately eclipse everything else she’s done. Because upon its release in October 2022, Midnights became the biggest album of all time by a female artist in Apple Music history, by first-day and first-week streams worldwide. And since then, it’s been a steady, friend-like presence—anchoring each night of the Eras Tour and producing singles like “Anti-Hero” and “Bejeweled” that, in addition to being chart mainstays this year, speak to where Swift is right now as a songwriter, and where she might be headed next. In May of this year, she released Midnights (The Til Dawn Edition), an enhanced version of the original that includes a collaborative remix of “Karma” with Apple Music Up Next artist (and new friend) Ice Spice as well as an updated take on “Snow on the Beach” that features “More Lana Del Rey”—a direct response to feedback from fans who were disappointed by LDR’s reduced role in the song. “You asked for it, we listened,” Swift tweeted. “Lana and I went back into the studio specifically to record more Lana on ‘Snow on the Beach.’”
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)
“Rather than me speaking about it, I thought I would show you,” Swift said to the crowd at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on May 5, as she pointed to screens unveiling the art and release date for her rerecording of 2010’s Speak Now. To make the announcement in Nashville, where her career began, was a symbolic gesture: Even though Swift began to consciously move away from country music with Speak Now, she very clearly has a deep affection for that time period and those songs, which she wrote entirely on her own in her late teens. In the midst of the Eras Tour, as she (and we) surveyed the entirety of her career each night, her ongoing quest to regain her own masters has taken on added significance. Every single song on the rerecorded album, in fact, made its way onto Apple Music’s Global Daily Top 100. “I always looked at this album as my album,” she said on social media shortly after the announcement. “And the lump in my throat expands to a quivering voice as I say this. Thanks to you, dear reader, it finally will be. I consider this music to be, along with your faith in me, the best thing that’s ever been mine.”
From mayoral honors to Taylor-gating to the much-anticipated release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) and more, relive 12 key moments in Taylor’s record-breaking 2023 with a series of original audio vignettes narrated by Apple Music Radio’s Brooke Reese.