For an article about Taylor Swift's marketing strategies, a dark image of a blonde woman with a white collar necklace holds her two fingers up like a "gun." In the background, a red figure with a similar pose is seen with red horns and a tail drawn on her.
Illustration by Lee Ortiz, University of Texas at San Antonio

Taylor Swift: Evil Genius?

Is Taylor Swift a well-intentioned lyrical genius or a mastermind of manipulation?

Taylor Swift is a revered icon by many, and her rereleasing of her masters is an exciting launch many look forward to (myself included). However, is there a scheme behind the relaunch of her masters? Is it all just a marketing ploy to make more money and manipulate her fans?

“(Taylor’s Version)” is a shorthand way for Swift to say she’s reclaiming the rights to her masters after her conflict with Scooter Braun. While there isn’t anything wrong with her rereleasing the masters to regain those rights, the question lies in the multiple special editions of the albums. Skepticism rose with the release of “Midnights”  and the timing of releasing the new album amidst the rereleases. Also the rise of special editions of the album made fans suspicious, with five different versions of the vinyl album

It’s definitely neat to see how the five vinyl albums can be hung to make a clock, but it can be argued there’s no point to releasing five different versions of the album with no variations save for the colors. This pattern is continued with the upcoming release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” and brings forward the question: is Taylor Swift just a “Mastermind” like her song claims? 

The Taylor Swift masters themselves could be nothing more than a way to make money, especially seeing how The Eras Tour,  a three plus hour show where Swift plays through almost all of her music, sold out so quickly it broke Ticketmaster (a story most have heard at this point). 

Why else rerelease so many different albums? 

Maybe the tour could’ve served as a creative break for Swift, yet her rerelease of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) and 1989 (Taylor’s Version) that were hugely promoted during her tour begs to differ. Again, rereleasing the masters really isn’t as much of the problem as all of the special editions and special edition merchandise is. 

What it comes down to is that Swift is an entertainer, selling a product. At the end of the day, does she really care about her fans? Or does she just care about the money they make her? After all, The Eras Tour has made her reach billionaire status.

In the past, Swift has proven herself to be a manipulative mastermind, with petty shots being thrown out in her lyrics time and time again. Entire articles have been written about these lyrics with theories as to who other songs could be about. In addition to this, she has also sued fans over copyrighted “1989” merchandise sold on Etsy.


This to be said, Swift’s character has shown through on numerous occasions. While she paints a beautiful picture for the cameras and the public eye, there’s definitely more to be seen. She’s an icon for millions of people and puts up a good façade, but what else is there that she keeps hidden from her fans?

We know for a fact that Swift is incredibly petty, if her inviting her entire high school to the CMA’s is anything to go by. Not to mention, her lyrics are incredibly pointed, going as far as to name-drop in songs like “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Dear John.” Of course, there’s also “All Too Well,” which is incredibly well-known as the anti-Jake-Gyllenhaal anthem. A lot of Swift’s fans have undue hatred towards Gyllenhaal and other exes of Swift’s because of her dislike and past experiences with him. She is a star of heavy influence and is not afraid to use it. 

Of course, with her stardom, she has done good things, like speak out against gun violence with the song “Only the Young” or speak about feminism with the song “The Man.” It could be argued, however, that Swift only supports political causes when it suits her. Specifically, “You Need to Calm Down” was controversial because of Swift’s ambiguous sexuality when releasing a pro-LGBTQIA+ anthem. Swift speaks from a place of privilege, so it can be argued her attempts at feminism, anti-violence and pro-LGBTQIA+ steps aren’t actually more performative than authentic, seeing as Swift is from a Christian family, is a white female and is straight. These attempts would be much more meaningful from a person of color or from a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, though Swift could be given kudos for at least attempting.

Further, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was easily one of the most anticipated “Taylor’s Version” album releases to date. With marketing being done wildly with many large companies supporting the release of the album (such as Starbucks and Duolingo), it drew copious amounts of attention and specifically, to “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version).” Not to mention the short film Swift made to compliment the ten-minute version of the song, starring well-known actor and actress, Dylan O’Brien (“The Maze Runner”) and Sadie Sink (“Stranger Things”).

What it all comes down to is that Swift is an expert at drawing attention to herself, which is easily a fantastic form of marketing. As P.T. Barnum once said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”  

No matter how Taylor Swift seems to end up framed in the media, she’s still getting overwhelming amounts of attention, which really only works in her favor. So, while sitting here and writing a critique of her choices, multiple album releases and marketing ploys, I’m actually playing right into her hands and doing exactly as she planned: giving her more attention. Swift, like most celebrities, thrives off of the attention others give her. It’s almost like she feeds on it, using it to grow her influence more and more. 

In the end, we’re still left asking, “Is Taylor Swift an evil genius? Or is she actually well-intended?” Honestly, who’s to say she can’t be both? Personally, I’m a fan of Taylor Swift, but I find myself leaning towards the “Evil Genius” side of things from the analytical standpoint. Will this change the fact that I’m a fan? Absolutely not. Will I be more mindful when buying things from her? Most likely. 

Some food for thought to take with you: just because we’re critical of the media we consume, doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy it.

Natalie VanHecke, University of Texas at Dallas

Writer Profile

Natalie VanHecke

Columbia College Chicago
Communication, Minor in Journalism

"Natalie is a college student majoring in English. She's a local to the Dallas area, and spends her free time with a book in hand or with her dog.."

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