cma pinnacle award

With 1989, Taylor Swift succeeds where Garth Brooks failed 14 years ago

A few days before Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989, another country star snagged his first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Country chart.

The song in question was a ballad about love and promises and worrying about the future — all themes Swift would come to call her own. The song was “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” and it set the groundwork for Garth Brooks’ monumental fame.

By the time Swift could hold a guitar, Brooks was selling out stadium shows across the country. Now, she does the same because — knowingly or not — she’s following the path he created to achieve superstardom. The two share a level of success that no other country artist has come close to touching. They are the only two recipients of the CMA Pinnacle Award, an honor given to a country music artist who has achieved worldwide success and recognition.

Now, Brooks and Swift are are facing pivotal moments in their careers. He’s on a national comeback tour with his first full-length studio album of new music after a 14-year break, which he took after a failed foray into pop music. On Monday, she releases 1989, which she’s dubbed her first official pop album. Up until now, at every turn, she has succeeded where he succeeded before her — from connecting personally with fans, to tweaking the traditional country formula to create an individual sound, to astronomical album sales. But this is the first time she could succeed where he failed. When Brooks tried to become a pop star, he failed miserably. But all signs point to Swift completing the transition with no problem at all and forging into unchartered territory for a star with country roots.