Date of Award
As a globally renowned superstar, Taylor Swift’s lyrics not only reflect notions of gender on a culture level, but also influence them, as language both reflects and constructs society. The purpose of my project is to identify how Taylor Swift’s lyrics surrounding conceptions of gender, agency, and image have changed over the course of her career in order to better understand the messages she disseminates to the world. My central research questions are: How do Taylor Swift’s lyrics display different types of femininity, such as normative or deviant femininity, over time? How do Swift’s varying conceptualizations of her gender identity interact with her personal agency and her image as a celebrity? I conducted a content analysis on the entire population of Swift’s songs through her seventh album, which was released in 2019. Content analysis is well suited for this project because it describes both the general themes in Swift’s music as well as the longitudinal changes within these themes. I deductively created a coding sheet based on my literature review, focusing on normative and deviant notions of femininity. I also inductively incorporated codes about celebrity branding and personal agency as they arose during the data collection and preliminary analyses. By applying theoretical notions of gender and how it relates to agency as well as celebrity branding, drawing on literature from Bay-Cheng and Lieb, I will investigate the implications of Swift’s discography. To my knowledge, this is the first content analysis of Taylor Swift’s lyrics, making it a novel contribution to the research literature. Due to Swift’s global reach, it is important to understand how the messages she disseminates around gender have changed in order to extrapolate these ideas to how her listeners may be influenced by her lyrics. This study contributes to sociological research by dissecting how sociological conceptions of normative and deviant femininity are reflected in popular music as well as providing a framework for future research of a similar structure.
Patel, Emily, ""Got a Long List of Ex-lovers, They'll Tell You I'm Insane": Gender, Agency, and Image in Taylor Swift's Lyrics Over Time" (2023). Sociology Undergraduate Senior Theses. 3.