Time magazine on Wednesday named Taylor Swift as its person of the year.
“Picking one person who represents the eight billion people on the planet is no easy task. We picked a choice that represents joy. Someone who’s bringing light to the world,” said Sam Jacobs, the magazine’s editor in chief, on NBC’s “Today” program on Wednesday morning. “She was like weather, she was everywhere.”
Swift beat out eight other finalists who were announced on “Today” this week, including King Charles III and Barbie.
“Swift’s accomplishments as an artist — culturally, critically, and commercially — are so legion that to recount them seems almost beside the point,” the magazine wrote.
Swift grabbed many headlines in 2023, in part spurred by her immensely popular Eras Tour that proved too much for Ticketmaster to handle, the release of the rerecording of her 2014 album “1989” that broke sales records and her relationship with the Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Swift has also become the subject of academic and (even more) journalistic interest: Harvard University will offer a “Taylor Swift and Her World” class, and Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States, appointed a special reporter to cover nothing but Swift.
Time awards the title to “the individual, group, or concept that has had the most influence on the world throughout the previous 12 months.” Launched as a marketing gimmick in the 1920s, the award has continued to drive fanfare as weekly print magazines struggle to remain relevant.
The past few years
Last year, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the magazine awarded the distinction to Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, and the “spirit of Ukraine.”
The magazine named Elon Musk person of the year in 2021. “With a flick of his finger, the stock market soars or swoons,” the magazine wrote at the time.
In 2018, the title went to Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and other journalists. The previous year, the title went to “the silence breakers,” women who stepped forward to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault. And in 2016 it was President-elect Donald J. Trump, whom the magazine called the “president of the divided states of America.”
The persons of the year have not always been without controversy. In 1938 Time chose Adolf Hitler, and the magazine gave the dubious honor to Josef Stalin twice, in 1939 and in 1942.
In 1972, the magazine chose the “improbable partnership” of President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
Other times, the magazine chose regular citizens. In 1969, Time gave the distinction to “The Middle Americans,” celebrating them for continuing to pray in public schools in defiance of the United States Supreme Court.
Nearly 40 years later, the magazine plastered a mirror on the cover of the magazine and named “You” its person of the year for 2006.
And in other instances, it wasn’t a person at all. In 1982, there was a “machine of the year”: the computer.
Victor Mather contributed reporting.