The Lover Era
Taylor finished the decade in a totally different realm of the music world from where she started. Her crossover from country to pop — hinted at on 2012’s “RED” and fully embraced on 2014’s “1989” — reflected a mainstream era in which genres were blended with little abandon, where artists with roots in country, folk and trap music could join forces without anyone raising eyebrows.
Taylor’s seventh studio album “Lover”, released in August of 2019, was both a warm break from the darkness of “reputation” (2017) — which was created during a wave of negative press generated by her public clash with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian — as well as an amalgam of all her stylistic explorations through the years, from dreamy synth-pop to hushed country. “The skies were opening up in my life,” said Taylor of the album, which garnered three Grammy nominations, including “Song Of The Year” for the title track.
LOVER IS A CAREER-CAPPING MASTERPIECE
“Lover” is so much more than just another great Taylor Swift album because it’s the one where she’s trying to make all the great Taylor Swift albums, at the same time. It is, fittingly, evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But nevertheless it feels like an epiphany: free and unhurried, governed by no one concept or outlook, it represented Taylor at her most liberated, enjoying a bit of the freedom she won for her cohort. She was closing down her twenties, which she spent making five of the decade’s best albums — “Speak Now”, “RED”, “1989”, “reputation” and now “Lover” — all released before she reached thirty. It was a career-capping masterpiece: She touched every place she’d ever visited along her musical journey, and made them all sound new.
TAYLOR’S VERY OWN FESTIVAL: LOVER FEST
Taylor recorded “Lover” after the “reputation Stadium Tour” broke the record for the highest-grossing U.S. tour in 2018. In 2020, Taylor planned on embarking on “Lover Fest”, a run of stadium dates that would have featured a hand-picked lineup of artists and would have allowed Taylor more time off from the road. “This is a year where I have to be there for my family — there’s a lot of question marks throughout the next year, so I wanted to make sure that I could go home,” she said, likely referencing her mother’s cancer diagnosis. Originally, “Lover Fest” was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. On February 26, 2021, Taylor announced that “Lover Fest” had been canceled and will not be rescheduled. In a social media post she said:
“This is an unprecedented pandemic that has changed everyone’s plans and no one knows what the touring landscape is going to look like in the near future. I’m so disappointed that I won’t be able to see you in person as soon as I wanted to. I miss you terribly and can’t wait til we can all safely be at shows together again.” — Taylor Swift
LOVE IS EQUALITY: THE EQUALITY ACT
At the end of the decade, Taylor broke her silence on politics when she endorsed a Democratic candidate in her home state, resulting in more than 160.000 people registering to vote. “Lover” was a celebration of love in all its complexities. In Taylor’s words: “Love is also equality”, as she spoke out for LGBTQ+ rights with the single “You Need To Calm Down“. And thus she further petitioned the Senate to pass the equality act and donated 113.000 dollars to the cause.
At the end of 2019, Taylor found herself in a highly publicized dispute. This time, it was with Scott Borchetta, the head of her former label, Big Machine Records, and Scooter Braun, the manager-mogul whose Ithaca Holdings acquired Big Machine Label Group and its master recordings, which include Taylor’s six pre-Lover albums, in June 2019. Upon news of the sale, Taylor wrote in a Tumblr post that it was her “worst case scenario,” accusing Braun of “bullying” her throughout her career due to his connections with Kanye West. She said she was never given the opportunity to buy her masters outright. On Tumblr, she wrote that she was offered the chance to “earn” back the masters to one of her albums for each new album she turned in if she re-signed with Big Machine; Borchetta disputed this characterization, saying she had the opportunity to acquire her masters in exchange for re-signing with the label for a “length of time” — ten more years, according to screenshots of legal documents posted on the Big Machine website.
RE-RECORDING HER FIRST SIX ALBUMS
Taylor said that she intended to re-record her first six albums starting in November of 2020, when she was contractually able to in order to regain control of her recordings. Becaue of that announcement, Borchetta and Braun wanted to block Taylor from performing her past hits at her “Artist of the Decade” ceremony at the American Music Awards in November, 2019. Furthermore, they blocked her from using recordings of her songs in her 2020 Netflix documentary “Miss Americana.”
The battle over her masters was the latest in a series of moves that had turned Taylor into something of an advocate for artists’ rights — and made her a cause that everyone from Halsey to Elizabeth Warren rallied behind. From 2014 to 2017, Taylor withheld her catalog from Spotify to protest the streaming company’s compensation rates, saying in a 2014 interview, “There should be an inherent value placed on art. I didn’t see that happening, perception-wise, when I put my music on Spotify.” In 2015, ahead of the launch of Apple Music, Taylor wrote an open letter criticizing Apple for its plan to not pay royalties during the three-month free trial it was set to offer listeners; the company announced a new policy within 24 hours. Most recently, when she signed a new global deal with Universal Music Group in 2018, Taylor (who was now on Republic Records) said one of the conditions of her contract was that UMG share proceeds from any sale of its Spotify equity with its roster of artists — and make them nonrecoupable against those artists’ earnings.
ARTIST OF THE DECADE
As Billboard named Taylor the “Woman Of The Decade”, she expressed hope that she can help make the lives of creators a little easier in the years to come — and a belief that her behind-the-scenes strides will be as integral to her legacy as her biggest singles. “New artists and producers and writers need work, and they need to be likable and get booked in sessions, and they can’t make noise — but if I can, then I’m going to,” Taylor promised. This is where being impossibly famous can be a very good thing. “I know that it seems like I’m very loud about this,” she said, “but it’s because someone has to be.”
Taylor continues to use her platform and her art for good after finding her own voice and not staying silent anymore, as explained in her recent documentary “Miss Americana”, detailing her tumultuous life this past decade and her fight against sexism in the music industry. So at the end of 2019, the American Music Awards rightfully crowned Taylor “Artist of the Decade.” Hated but also very beloved, even long after the 2010s, no one could ever possibly say, ’Who’s Taylor Swift anyway?’’