Taylor Swift’s First Mention in The Times Humbly Hinted at What Was to Come


Taylor Swift in concert. Credit John Salangsang/Invision, via Associated Press

Friday was launch day for “Reputation,” the sixth studio album by the pop singer Taylor Swift.

The months long rollout — the album’s first single, “Look What You Made Me Do” was released in August created such anticipation for the record on social media interest that a custom emoji was even created for twitter mentions of the album.

It’s an incredibly different world than the one Ms. Swift first encountered during the release of her first

On October 22, 2006, the New York Times pop music critic Kelefa Sanneh included the song “Tim McGraw” in his weekly playlist recommendations — it would be Ms. Swift’s first mention in the Times. The 145 word item was wedged between a review of the mid-aught reggae act Da’Ville and Stephen McGregor (complete with a link to their MySpace page) and a mention of the “hummable” work of short-lived Blink-182 spin-off act Plus-44. The full text of Ms. Swift’s first mention in The Times from 2008:

Have you heard the new Tim McGraw song? No — the new “Tim McGraw” song. Ms. Swift is a young singer who is brazen enough to sing a song named after one of country music’s biggest names. The song is a lightweight ode to seasonal love — “I was right there beside him all summer long” — and an acoustic guitar helps set the bucolic scene. Then, in the refrain, comes the name-dropping: “When you think Tim McGraw/ I hope you think my favorite song/ The one we danced to all night long.” For the protagonist in the song, it’s a humble request. For the singer of the song, less so. “When you think Tim McGraw, I hope you think of me,” Ms. Swift sings, and given how much time country listeners seem to spend thinking about that guy, it seems like asking a lot.

The blurb caught Ms. Swift’s career as it was just taking flight. The single, her first, had just been released four months earlier. Her first self-titled album – which would go on to be certified platinum – would be released two days later. She had just been announced as the new opener of that fall’s Rascal Flatts tour.

Both everything has changed, and nothing has changed since that brief mention, when she was called “brazen enough” to name her single after a country megastar.

Indeed, maybe it was asking a lot then – a bombastic move perhaps – for new face in the country music scene. But Ms. Swift’s ability to transform from a “Teardrops On My Guitar” crooner to a performer who’s “…Ready for it?” music video presents a post-apocalyptic laser-beaming warrior shows that maybe it wasn’t asking for too much at all.

But in the past 11 years, with what Mr. Sanneh called her “lightweight ode to seasonal love,” Ms. Swift has become one of the best selling artists of all time, with 10 Grammy wins and 29 Grammy nominations.

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