Why Vladimir Putin lost out to Taylor Swift as Time's Person of the Year

Magazine commends the singer for being 'a source of light in a time of darkness'

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift, who beat an eclectic shortlist to win the award, was recognised as a person of 'singular influence'
(Image credit: Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Taylor Swift has been named Time's Person of the Year, defeating Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and becoming the first person ever to be recognised by the magazine for success in the arts.

Traditionally, Time has bestowed the accolade on presidents, popes or business people, but Swift was recognised as a person of "singular influence" who, during "a year with significant shares of darkness", managed to "transcend borders and be a source of light".

Time's eclectic shortlist also included King Charles III, Donald Trump's prosecutors, Sam Altman, Jerome Powell, Barbie and Hollywood's striking screenwriters and actors.

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Swift told the magazine that receiving the award made her "the proudest and happiest I've ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been".

'A career breakthrough at 33'

Swift entered 2023 "with significant momentum", said Forbes, having released her 10th studio album, "Midnights", just before the end of last year. The album sold more than 1.5 million units in its first week and Swift became the first artist to occupy the entire top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

But even though she was a well-established name before 2023, Swift "reached new heights" this year with her Eras tour, the BBC said. The ongoing concert series involves Swift delivering a 45-song set each night in a whistle-stop tour through her extensive career. 

The overwhelming demand for tickets not only caused Ticketmaster's website to crash, leading to a US Senate inquiry into its business practices, but also has seen fans without tickets gather in car parks just to listen to the music. In Seattle in July, Swift's ecstatic audience caused seismic activity akin to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.

This year "feels like the breakthrough moment of my career, happening at 33", the singer told Time. "And for the first time in my life, I was mentally tough enough to take what comes with that."

'Coronation is almost superfluous'

The announcement of the magazine's shortlist on 4 December was met with "a long string of commentary" as fans and pundits "questioned and criticised this year's prospects", The Independent said.

According to Time, the winner each year is chosen from "a selection of the individual, group, or concept that has had the most influence on the world throughout the previous 12 months". This means that the Person of the Year does not have to have made a positive impact on the world.

Indeed, with names including Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump, Time has "certainly had a colorful past of nominees and winners", said the Daily Express US. Other controversial victors have included Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, entrepreneur Elon Musk and US president Richard Nixon.

Swift winning Person of the Year felt "only slightly less inevitable than the rising of the sun", said Slate. The past year has seen the singer "breaking record after record – many of them previously set by her – on her way to becoming a Forbes-certified billionaire".

In fact, such was her success in 2023 that "the coronation is almost superfluous", the site said. But it still comes as "a fitting capstone to a year when even those inclined to resist her ubiquity finally gave up trying".

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