Taylor Swift: Who Made Her Famous?

Taylor Swift: Who Made Her Famous?
Taylor Swift at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival for her award-winning All Too Well: The Short Film. At the event, Swift wore a custom golden Louis Vuitton gown. (Sebastian Kim)

Whether you love her or hate her, there’s no doubt Taylor Swift is one of the most influential artists of our time. Her career, spanning 17 years and counting, has encompassed multiple scandals, the re-recording of her first six albums, and a highly successful tour. Her impact on the music industry is truly one for the books. However, critics claim her rise in fame isn’t attributed to just her artistry. So who is responsible for all of her success?

Let’s rewind to the 2009 VMAs where 19-year-old Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video for her song “You Belong With Me”. In the highly televised award ceremony, millions of fans watched as 32-year-old Kanye West walked on stage, took her mic, and ruined what would’ve been an amazing moment for the upcoming artist. West later apologized, first, in a drunk, sarcastic blog post but then via a personal phone call to Swift, foreshadowing their future on and off “friendship.”

West’s drunken apology posted on his blog KanyeUniverseCity.com. The post was soon after deleted.

Crushed dreams and insincere apologies began the years-long feud between the two artists. Come 2016, with the release of Kanye’s album “The Life of Pablo”, it only worsened.

“I feel like me and Taylor might still have s*x / Why? I made that b*tch famous.”

The release of Kanye West’s song, “Famous”, marked a turning point in the previously public friendship between Taylor Swift and Kanye West, which had included multiple reports of flowers exchanged, dinner shared, and Kanye’s 2015 VMA win, presented by Taylor Swift herself, per his request. However, the song’s debut shifted the dynamic. 

Swift tweeting in response to the Snapchat clips. Attached is her response of a screenshotted note. ((Unknown))

During her acceptance speech for the 2016 Grammy award for Album Of The Year, Swift indirectly referenced Kanye: “There are going to be people along the way who try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.” The music video for “Famous” further escalated tensions, featuring a naked sculpture resembling Taylor Swift. According to a 3-minute video released by Kim Kardashian West, West’s then-wife, Kanye called Taylor, requesting her approval and promotion of his song, “Famous.” The clips, shared on Kardashian West’s Snapchat story, seemingly prove Swift’s approval, even despite her adamant public refusal. Swift’s representatives countered, stating she “declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyrics, ‘I made that b*tch famous.'” Swift later took to Instagram to defend herself, but the public’s opinion was already supporting the Kardashian West’s release. This led to the top trending Twitter hashtags, #KimExposedTaylorParty and #TaylorIsOverParty.

Taylor Swift’s decision to take a step back from the public eye after the incident was a clear response to the situation. She mentioned in the Netflix documentary “Miss Americana” that she felt the need to disappear, and that’s exactly what she did. For almost a year, she kept a low profile, avoiding public appearances, And that was what I thought they wanted”. Swift later made a comeback, announcing her sixth studio album, “Reputation.” She built up excitement with a series of cryptic Instagram posts featuring a serpent. This seemed to be her way of reclaiming the snake emoji, a symbol that had been used against her during the #TaylorIsOverParty. While much of the album focused on Swift’s new relationship with Joe Alwyn, she also alluded to the feud in a couple of songs. In one track, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” she sings, “It was so nice being friends again / There I was giving you a second chance / But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand / And therein lies the issue, friends don’t try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you / If only you weren’t so shady.” Taylor uses her renowned songwriting to address and directly call out the pair. Even without much context, Taylor’s lyrics leave little room for alternative interpretations.

Click HERE for “Famous” by Kanye West

Click HERE for “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” by Taylor Swift

In 2019, Taylor Swift spoke out about her side of the story, and “various events that led up.” She expressed in an interview with Rolling Stone that she grew “really sick” of their dynamic, where Kanye West would privately attempt to reconnect in a friendly manner, only to portray a different image publicly and “look cool, get up in front of everyone, and talk sh*t.” Initially, Taylor says “all I ever wanted … was for him to respect me”, something evident through her previous adoration of him. However, during Kanye’s 2015 VMA acceptance speech, where he claimed MTV was exploiting their interaction to boost ratings, after he asked her personally to present the award, “I realized he is so two-faced.” Following the “Reputation” era, the intensity of their feud seemed to simmer down. Then, in 2020, the full phone call between West and Swift was leaked. In the phone call, West tells Swift “I’m going to send you the song and send you the exact wording and everything about it, right? And then we could sit and talk through it” – something coincidentally edited out from Kim’s initial post. The 25 minute call, albeit it’s mostly Kanye speaking, proves Swift was never informed of being referred to as a b*tch. In fact, according to her, she was never sent the song or wording promised by West. Kanye eventually admitted he had written “I made her famous”, to which Taylor responded apprehensively “Did you say that?”.

West: Yes, it might’ve happened. [Laughs.]
Swift: Well, what am I going to do about it?
West: Uh, like, do the hair flip?

Tree Paine, Taylor’s publicist, reiterating her statement through Twitter. The tweet was a direct response to Kim Kardashian West’s tweet. (Unknown)

Following the leak, devoted Taylor Swift fans celebrated and #KanyeIsOverParty dominated Twitter trends. In response, Kim Kardashian West took to social media to clarify her stance, stating, “To be clear, the only issue I ever had around the situation was that Taylor lied through her publicist who stated that ‘Kanye never called to ask for permission…’ They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word “b*tch” was used without her permission.” While there still remains animosity between the two artists, they have refrained from public disputes and gone their separate ways.

Swift’s “The Eras Tour” poster. The poster includes her 10 eras photographed in order of release. (Unknown)

Since then, Taylor Swift has achieved extraordinary milestones in her career. She has risen to become the top female artist on Spotify, a testament to her continuous popularity and relevance. Additionally, the rise of college courses taught at varying universities, from Stanford to Berklee College of Music, centered around Taylor Swift’s lyricism and social impact and how they are like none other. Since her Reputation Era, Taylor has released three new albums and is on the verge of unveiling her highly anticipated re-recordings, including “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” set to be released on October 27. Swift also began her highly anticipated “The Eras Tour” on March 17, 2023, captivating audiences worldwide with almost three-hour-long performances. Its impact is monumental, both economically and culturally, for each city visited. Furthermore, her documentaries, including the upcoming one centered around “The Eras Tour” on October 13, provide an inside look into her journey, solidifying her legacy as a cultural icon.

Taylor Swift singing through her Lover Era set at The Eras Tour. Her Lover album followed Reputation, and was the first album whose master recording she owned.

The question of whether Kanye West played a major role in Taylor Swift’s career is still debated, even despite their estrangement. Some maintain that Kanye did make Taylor Swift famous, while others insist her success has amassed despite his influence. The long-lasting effects of their public feud continue to influence the narratives surrounding both artists’ careers. What do you think? Did Kanye West actually make her famous? Or is Taylor Swift’s empire due entirely to her hard-work and talent? 


  • CelebSnapzTV, “Fans Chanting F*** Taylor Swift in Kanye’s Tour” YouTube, uploaded by @celebsnapztv6236, 27 September 2016, https://youtu.be/LREhnwrkqc4?feature=shared.
  • MTV, “360 VR: Kanye West VMA Vanguard Speech Highlights | MTV VMA 2015” YouTube, uploaded by @MTV, 9 September 2015, https://youtu.be/r7mLs9LeQB4?feature=shared.
  • Recording Academy / GRAMMYs, “Taylor Swift | Album of the Year | 58th GRAMMYs” YouTube, uploaded by @RecordingAcademy, 16 Februrary 2016, https://youtu.be/dMCAEUb0h34?feature=shared.
  • Rikka, “Kim K – Taylor Swift/Kanye Phone Call [Full snapchats with subtitles]” YouTube, uploaded by @rikka1609, 17 July 2016, https://youtu.be/x9whRaPgfLs?feature=shared.
  • Swift, Taylor. Interview by Brian Hiatt, The Rolling Stones, 18 September 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music- features/taylor-swift-rolling-stone-interview-880794/, Accessed 28 September 2023.
  • Swift, Taylor, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Reputation, Big Machine Records, 2017.
  • Tayleesi, “Taylor Swift Miss Americana “It just gets loud sometimes”” YouTube, uploaded by @tayleesi8674, 4 Janurary 2021, https://youtu.be/43R5OQQTMas?feature=shared.
  • Taylor’s Swifties, “Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift during VMA Awards (Miss Americana Clip)” YouTube, uploaded by @taylorswifties.13, 22 July 2023, https://youtu.be/G5iEniUb33w?feature=shared.
  • Taylor Swift Station, “Famous” Lyrics Negotiation Phone Call (Full)” YouTube, uploaded by @TaylorSwiftStation, 21 March 2020, https://youtu.be/-5FUBwcpjrY?feature=shared.
  • West, Kanye, “Famous.” The Life of Pablo, Def Jam Recordings, 2016.
  • Wilson, Lana. Swift, Taylor. “Miss Americana”. Netflix, 2020.
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