This year was a testament to the power of two women in music: Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, whose respective stadium tours took them worldwide, delighting fans, dominating the discourse, and breaking records in the process. Both artists were credited with giving the U.S. economy a much-needed boost with their tours, to the tune of an estimated $5.4 billion. That number will only continue to grow as fans flock to their concert movies: Swift’s Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, which released on Oct. 13, and Beyoncé’s Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, which hit theaters on Dec. 1.
The fact that these two women artists in their primes were both on tour at the same time, and both releasing concert films at around the same time in the same groundbreaking way, meant that they were often held up against one another, despite their distinct sounds, styles, and fanbases. It’s nothing new for successful women to be pitted against each other in the public eye; instead, rumors of a budding friendship were bolstered when Beyoncé attended the premiere of the Eras Tour movie in Los Angeles in October, where the pair posed for a photo op together, and continued when Swift attended the London premiere of Renaissance in late November.
In her 2023 Person of the Year interview with TIME, Swift opened up about her relationship with Beyoncé, saying that Beyoncé’s support at her film premiere was "everything." She describes the Lemonade singer as "the most precious gem of a person." Says Swift, “When I'm talking to her, she is so warm and open and funny.” She also credits Beyoncé as a trailblazer in the music industry, especially when it comes to handling her business affairs.
"She's such a great disruptor of music-industry norms. She taught every artist how to flip the table and challenge archaic business practices," Swift said, noting that the pair discussed their AMC deals. "She's always thinking in an innovative way."
The fact that she and Beyoncé are often assumed to be in competition, in media narratives and in online forums, isn't lost on Swift, who alluded to the sexism inherent in framing two women artists as rivals.
"There were so many stadium tours this summer,” she said. “But the only ones that were compared were me and Beyoncé. Clearly it’s very lucrative for the media and stan culture to pit two women against each other, even when those two artists in question refuse to participate in that discussion.”
The female rivalry narrative is hardly new to Swift and Beyoncé, who have both been among the most successful music artists in the world for the better part of two decades. It began to follow them in 2009, when rapper Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, interrupted a then-20-year-old Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, saying it should have gone to Beyoncé. What’s less often remembered is Beyoncé gracefully inviting Swift to join her on stage after she won Video of the Year for “Single Ladies” later that night so that Swift could have a chance to give her acceptance speech.
All these years later, Swift makes the case that she and Beyoncé have bigger goals than dignifying petty rumors or Internet chatter. In doing so, she hopes that a new and more positive narrative emerges.
“I think it's radical and beautiful that the two of us actively reject that conversation,” she said. “I know we've evolved past that conversation because she and I are trying to do bigger things.”
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Write to Cady Lang at email@example.com