The 1989 Era
It is important to contextualize just how big 1989 was at the time it was released. It 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. A week before 1989 was released there was a glitch on iTunes Canada where a Taylor track labeled “Track 3” with just eight seconds of static was accidentally made available. It shot to the top of the chart within minutes. “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood” are all No. 1 hits. When “Blank Space” replaced “Shake It Off” at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Taylor became the first woman in music history to ever replace herself at the top spot. In 2014, she was named Billboard‘s “Woman of the Year”, 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.
Evidently, the 1989 era was a phenomenon. As Taylor was moving to New York on her own and hanging out with all her girl friends, her music reflected those changes. Very few albums have been as unifying from generation to generation, as this one was. 1989 was even compared to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, simply because there was something in there for everyone.
Table of Contents
Becoming a True Pop Star
1989 is Taylor’s birth year. In all of her interviews leading up to the release of 1989 she talked about rebirth. She was essentially telling people, “I am being reborn as a pop star”. On the album, she sets the scene with “Welcome to New York.” That song works like an intro to a play: Here she was, in New York, in a new apartment. She was immersing herself in the culture of the Great American City that she was used to be afraid of and said she would never move to.
When announcing the album, Taylor mentioned she had been listening to a lot of music from the 80s decade. Wanting to place 1989 within a context, the general public largely assumed that the album was going to be heavily 80s influenced. In reality, it is not. Rather, Taylor was going for something completely contextless. The New York Times wrote in a piece called “Fairwell to Twang”: “By making pop with almost no contemporary references, Miss Swift is aiming somewhere even higher, emotive timelessness that few true pop stars even bother aspiring to.”
Taking Back the Narrative
Changing the Music Industry
1989 Secret Sessions
The 1989 World Tour
A Silent Battle
Record Label Disagreements
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 (she would win again for folklore in 2021). 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.”