The 1989 Era
BECOMING A TRUE POP STAR
In crafting her aspirational plane, Taylor focused on the transition from her country persona to her pop presence, highlighting the seismic shifts that come with accumulating a formidable amount of celebrity. The strategy worked out really well for her: the album’s lead single, “Shake It Off“, was released in August 2014 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Blank Space” and “Bad Blood” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) also reached the top spot. “Style” and “Wildest Dreams” were both top-ten singles, and “Out of the Woods” was a top-twenty hit. “New Romantics” peaked at number 46. When “Blank Space” replaced “Shake It Off” at No. 1 on the Hot 100, Taylor became the first woman in music history to ever replace herself at the top spot.
The novelty of Taylor’s “1989” persona helped the album sell like it was the ’80s again, and the fact that it sounded like the ’80s didn’t hurt, either. Instead of mimicking what was already on the radio, Taylor leaped back in time, drawing on ’80s Madonna, making her bid as the kind of historic pop superstar that had already been relegated to anachronism. “1989” sold 1.28 million copies in the US during the first week of release and debuted atop the Billboard 200 — this made Taylor the first act to have three albums sell more than one million copies in their opening release week, for which she earned a Guinness World Record. She didn’t outsell her peers ten-to-one by tapping into the present. She invested in the past, its booming drum machines and Polaroid snapshots, and reaped the nostalgic rewards.
Taylor was named Billboard’s “Woman of the Year” in 2014, becoming the first artist to win the award twice. Also that year, she received the “Dick Clark Award for Excellence” at the American Music Awards.
THE POWER OF TAYLOR SWIFT
In 2015, “Shake It Off” was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year” and Taylor won the Brit Award for “International Female Solo Artist”. In March 2015, she started dating Scottish DJ and record producer Calvin Harris. By June 2015, the duo were ranked as the highest-paid celebrity couple over the past year by Forbes with combined earnings of over $146 million. Taylor was one of eight artists to receive a “50th Anniversary Milestone Award” at the 2015 Academy of Country Music Awards.
In May 2015, Taylor embarked on her fourth headlining tour, the “1989 World Tour“. By the time she wrapped the tour in December 2015, it had grossed over $250 million, and became one of the highest grossing tours of all time.
“Blank Space” and the video for “Bad Blood” won four accolades at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, with the latter winning for “Video of the Year” and “Best Collaboration”.
In August, Taylor addressed her mother Andrea’s cancer diagnosis, and encouraged others to get a medical checkup.
CHANGING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY — THE APPLE MUSIC LETTER
Prior to “1989’s” release, Taylor stressed the importance of albums to artists and fans. In November 2014, she removed her entire catalog from Spotify, arguing that the streaming company’s ad-supported, free service undermined the premium service, which provides higher royalties for songwriters. In June 2015, Taylor criticized Apple Music in an open letter for not offering royalties to artists during the streaming service’s free three-month trial period and stated that she would pull “1989” from the catalog. The following day, Apple announced that it would pay artists during the free trial period, and Taylor agreed to stream “1989” on the streaming service.
MAKING MUSIC HISTORY
In 2016, Taylor won three Grammy Awards for “1989”: “Album of the Year”, “Best Pop Vocal Album”, and “Best Music Video” for “Bad Blood”. She became the first woman, and fifth act overall, to ever win “Album of the Year” twice. That night, “1989” became the most awarded pop album in history.
Rolling Stone wrote in 2019: “‘1989’ was a blockbuster — hit singles after hit singles after hit videos after tabloid headlines after, ‘Damn, is it really 2016 already and this album is still going?’ Sure was, and Taylor used her second ‘Album of the Year’ win that February to trumpet her own historic accomplishments while also shading Kanye West for saying some not-nice things about her on wax — wow, what a pop star. But the most remarkable thing about ‘1989’ was that once it finally did die down, there were still singles to go: ‘Welcome to New York‘ was Devil Wears Prada-worthy enough to excuse the stretch in credibility, and ‘All You Had to Do Was Stay‘ was one of the decade’s best pop songs, straight up.”
BREAK FROM MUSIC
After the Grammys 2016, Taylor officially went on her first “break” from releasing music since the beginning of her career ten years prior in 2006. Before Taylor and Calvin Harris announced the end of their relationship in June 2016, the two co-wrote his hit song “This Is What You Came For“, for which she was initially credited under the pseudonym Nils Sjöberg.
In October 2016, she penned Little Big Town’s “Better Man” for their seventh album, “The Breaker”. Two months later, Taylor and Zayn Malik released a single together called “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever“, for the soundtrack of the film “Fifty Shades Darker” (2017), which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.