The most recent Forbes list has revealed that there's one honor and record that Taylor Swift or Adele haven't broken this year. Katy Perry is the highest paid woman in music of 2015, an honor I was sure that Swift had in the bag between her outrageous 1989 album sales and her star-studded 1989 World Tour. However, Swift came in second place to Perry, who made a whopping total of $135 million this year between her Prismatic World Tour and her deals with Covergirl, Coty, and Claire's. In fact, Forbes even has an answer ready for the surprise people might be feeling, writing, "Taylor Swift may have gotten the most press over the past year, but it’s Katy Perry who claims the honor of being the highest-paid woman in music." And yet, despite the fact that this is a very real question that people might be having, it seems in bad taste to make Katy Perry's spotlight moment about Taylor Swift.
The article even opens with the paragraph, "The top-earning woman in the music business has been cashing in on a massive world tour, a constant stream of hit singles and a string of endorsements with a slew of major companies, while occasionally throwing thinly veiled barbs at her chief rival. Sounds like Taylor Swift — but, in fact, it’s her frequent competitor, Katy Perry." Frequent competitor? While we know the two women have "Bad Blood," Perry has outright avoided saying anything pointed about Swift and even Swift has not only not mentioned Perry by name when describing her inspiration behind the song, but has also done her best to dispel the conversation that placed the two pop stars on opposite ends of a metaphorical boxing ring.
Swift isn't the only female artist to get a lot of press in 2015 — Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and now Adele join that list — and the fact that she came in second to Perry on this list is no excuse to frame this narrative as if Perry has "won" something in the "feud" that neither pop star has been fanning the flames of for months. When half of the paragraphs about Perry's honor talk about Swift instead, it kind of detracts from an accolade that Perry should be incredibly proud of. After all, as Forbes later writes, "Our Celebrity 100 cover star also claims the top spot on this list, largely because of her Prismatic World Tour. During our scoring period, Perry grossed more than $2 million per city over the course of 126 shows. She adds to her total through deals with Coty, Claire's and Covergirl." That's a big deal, and not just because it means she beat Swift's second-place score of $80 million.
Perry didn't get a lot of press this year, it's true. Sure, she was the headlining performer of the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show and, sure, she's had the Prismatic World Tour going on, but, most times in 2015, when you saw Perry making headlines, it was usually in some connection to "Bad Blood" or, worse, John Mayer. And, ultimately, with this accolade, she's proven that was a good thing. Perry was working. She was working hard. Her next album might not be due until 2016, but she promoted the hell out of Prism, she started her own record label, and she kept people listening to her music and turning out for her concerts even though she hadn't released new music since 2013. Talk about being a savvy entrepreneur.
So to take all of that hard work and reduce it to being especially amazing because you'd think this would have gone to Taylor Swift, or especially amazing because she beat her "frequent competitor" Taylor Swift, or especially amazing because one woman "beat" another, we need to change this pervasive narrative of competition between women. We need to focus on Perry's victory not because she dominated over the other women on the list, but because she's a female artist who made tens of millions of dollars as a musician and businesswoman in a game that is still stacked against women everywhere. We need to focus on Perry's victory because, in topping the list, she has taught us that you don't have to be the subject of every headline in order to make bank. We need to focus on Perry's victory because it shows that hard work is just as important, if not more so, than media attention.
We need to focus on Perry's victory for the great things that it says about Perry, not for the negative things it implies about Swift. To do anything else is to do a disservice to Perry, a disservice to Swift, and a huge, huge disservice to women everywhere.