Beyoncé vs. Taylor Swift: Who is the better artiste?

Written by Daniel Nkado

As someone who plays a lot of Taylor Swift and is also surrounded by a lot of Beyoncé fans, I am frequently confronted with the Beyoncé vs Taylor Swift debates. As someone who understands art and the subjective nature of it, I always avoid arguing about artists.

Being a fan of both singers (yes, we exist – people who like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift), I can share what my experience with both stars is.

First of all, Beyoncé and Taylor are not really to be compared. They are not even of the same era. Beyoncé released her first album as a solo artiste in 2003 and that’s not even counting her time in Destiny’s Child. Taylor Swift’s first album came three years later (2006) and remember she was just 16 years old at the time of the release of this album. Beyoncé is legendary in her own right especially when you consider all her achievements in music and the records she has broken. She deserves all the respect she is getting in the industry (and quite frankly, she is one lucky artiste to be getting all her flowers right in her time). Even Taylor Swift would be a fool not to accord Beyoncé her respect (and quite frankly she does).

All that said, I completely disagree with the narrative that Taylor Swift is overrated. Or that she cannot sing, or doesn’t deserve the fame she has, and all those kinds of talks. I’ve heard things like “she’s being pushed by the White media” or that “nobody even knows any of her songs or albums yet she’s breaking all these records”, blah, blah, blah. Music like every other art comes in multiple facets and forms of appeal and you don’t have to be a vocal powerhouse or stage acrobat to deliver music that touches an audience.

The thing that most people DON’T know about Taylor Swift is that she is what I call a very “niche” artiste. To explain this, what I’m saying is that her music caters to a specific audience with common interests and needs. By focusing on a niche, Swift has been able to attract a highly targeted (and very passionate) audience (emphasis on passionate) that is fully devoted to her content.

I’m not saying Beyoncé doesn’t have passionate fans, but just like in marketing, one thing going niche does is reduce competition. It’s really as simple as this – if you don’t listen to Taylor Swift, you DON’T listen to Taylor Swift. But the people who listen to Taylor Swift REALLY DO listen to Taylor Swift. One single Taylor Swift fan can give the singer hundreds of streams in a week – I’m talking steady album-to-album streams every day. The people who listen to Beyoncé are also big listeners of other pop singers like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, etc., and it’s possible for works of multiple singers to give the same or similar experience.

Genre and the nature of songs are a big factor. Most Taylor Swift’s songs have the same or close characteristics…the same gentle rhythm, pacing, relatable storytelling, etc., meaning you can listen to multiple songs at one time for the same purpose or experience. Take note of the word – EXPERIENCE. Taylor fans play her albums like back-to-back playlists.

The reason Beyoncé’s older albums have remained her most successful albums to date is because most of the songs have close or similar elements and can provide the same experience. You can play “Naughty Girl,” “Baby Boy,” “Upgrade U”, “Crazy In Love”, etc in the same setting without having to move to other artists.

Beyonce attends “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” Concert film premiere on October 11, 2023. Credit – John Shearer/Getty Images.

Beyoncé got more adventurous in sound as her influence in music grew. Her later albums had a mix of songs with very varied elements and often could not be played together. And I think this variety got bolder with each new album. I think it all started with the Lemonade album.

Before that album, Beyoncé had kept up her mediated music persona (it was so good she even had a name for it – Sasha Fierce) which fans had fallen deeply in love with and things were very streamlined. The Lemonade album had a big misalignment in position – the mediated music persona clashed with the singer’s personal brand leading to gaps. Instead of repairing these gaps in her next work, Beyoncé poured more petrol.

The The Lion King: The Gift album was the mess of it and I can’t imagine there was one person who could play that album from beginning to end without constantly skipping songs. The 2022 Renaissance album was no different too. And now we have a country album! The next release is rumoured to be gospel (I am not sure). However, this goes to further prove the power of being Beyoncé – only Beyoncé can move this way and not lose relevance.

But in the end, it’s up to Beyoncé to choose what she really wants – the influence or the numbers. I could argue that the daring moves have helped her establishment as a global star in some way – for instance, the Lion King album helped spread her fame around Africa and the new country album has kept her in the news for months. But she has also sacrificed something for that – her stream numbers.

Taylor Swift, on the other hand, has stayed in her lane across 11 albums and I bet you she is not changing anytime soon. That’s nearly 20 years of giving her audience what they want. Artistes can explore but this shouldn’t be done so widely as to create a gap.

Another good thing about staying in your niche is the ease of creating content. That’s why Taylor Swift can pen songs easily and put albums together quickly. She released three albums in the space of one year (2019 – 2020): Lover (2019), Folklore (2020) and Evermore (2020) and they were all very successful. Folklore won the 2021 Album of the Year Grammy.

Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are arguably the two biggest female singers in America at this time in terms of fame and influence. The question of who the better artiste is cannot be objectively answered as there are so many factors to consider such as commercial success, critical acclaim, cultural and social impact, vocal abilities and style, personal preferences, etc. Some of these factors cannot be realistically measured.

One thing is true – both artists have made significant contributions to the music industry and will forever be remembered as stars.

Views expressed in this article are solely the writer’s.

About the writer:

Daniel Nkado is a Nigerian writer and the founder of DNB Stories Africa. You can get some of his books on Amazon.

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