1989 Era 2014-2016 In March 2014, Taylor relocated to New York City. It marked the beginning of the 1989 era which was, simply put, her world domination phase. She was certain that this album was going to be huge and she made sure that it succeeded in ways that no other album of hers had before.
October 27, 2014
Table of Contents
Having been known as “America’s Sweetheart” due to her wholesome and down-to-earth image, by the mid-2010s Taylor saw her public image blemished by her history of romantic relationships with a series of high-profile celebrities. Her relationship with English singer Harry Styles during the promotion of RED was a particular subject for tabloid gossip. Taylor disliked the media portraying her as a “serial-dater”, feeling it undermined her professional work, and became more reticent to discuss her personal life in public. Most of her lyrics up until RED were derived from her journal detailing her personal life; she had been known for autobiographical narratives in her songwriting since her debut. A new inspiration this time was her relocation to New York City in March 2014, which gave Taylor a sense of freedom to embark on new ideas. She also took inspiration from the media scrutiny of her image to write satirical songs about her perceived image.
Writing and Recording
Another key figure on the album’s production team was Jack Antonoff, with whom Taylor had worked on the new wave-influenced song “Sweeter Than Fiction” for the soundtrack of One Chance (2013). Jack co-wrote and co-produced two tracks on the standard edition. The first, “I Wish You Would“, stemmed from his experimental sampling of snare drum instrumentation on Fine Young Cannibals’ 1988 single “She Drives Me Crazy”, one of their mutual favorite songs. For “Out of the Woods“, he sent his finished instrumental track to Taylor while she was on a plane. She sent him a voice memo containing the lyrics roughly 30 minutes later. The song was the first time she composed lyrics for an existing instrumental. The duo produced one more track for the album’s deluxe edition, “You Are In Love“.
Taylor also contacted Ryan Tedder, with whom she had always wanted to work. He co-wrote and co-produced two songs—”Welcome to New York” and “I Know Places“. For “Clean“, Taylor approached English producer Imogen Heap in London after writing the song’s lyrics and melody in February 2014. Heap helped to complete the track by playing instruments on it; the two finished recording after two takes in one day at Heap’s studio. Taylor finalized the record upon completing the Asian leg of “The RED Tour” in mid-2014.
Lyrics and Themes
Each CD copy of 1989 includes a packet, one of five available sets, of 13 random Polaroid pictures, made up from 65 different pictures. The pictures portray Taylor in different settings such as backdrops of New York City and recording sessions with the producers. The photos are mostly out-of-focus and off-framed, with a sepia-tinged treatment, and feature the 1989 songs’ lyrics written with black marker on the bottom. Polaroid Corporation chief executive Scott Hardy reported that the 1989 Polaroid concept propelled a revival in instant film, especially among the hipster subculture who valued the “nostalgia and retro element of what [their] company stands for”. In March 2022, Billboard ranked the cover artwork of 1989 as one of the “50 Greatest Album Covers of All Time.”
Release and Promotion
To connect further with her supporters, Taylor selected a number of fans based on their engagement on social media and invited them to secret album-listening sessions, called “The 1989 Secret Sessions“. The intimate sessions took place at her properties in Los Angeles, New York City, Nashville, Rhode Island, and London throughout September 2014. The songs “Out of the Woods” and “Welcome to New York” were released through the iTunes Store as promotional singles on October 14 and 20, respectively.
The album’s standard and deluxe editions were finally released on October 27, 2014. From then on, 1989 was supported by a string of commercially successful singles, including the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood” featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar, and the Top 10 hits “Style” and “Wildest Dreams“. Other singles were “Out of the Woods”, previously a promotional single, and “New Romantics“. The deluxe edition bonus tracks, which had been available exclusively through Target in North America, were released on the iTunes Store in the US in 2015.
In addition to online promotion, Taylor made countless appearances in magazines and on radio and television. The album’s supporting tour, “The 1989 World Tour“, ran from May to December 2015. It kicked off in Tokyo (Japan), and concluded in Melbourne (Australia). Taylor invited various special guests on tour with her, including singers and fashion models the media called her “squad” which received wide media coverage. “The 1989 World Tour” was the highest-grossing tour of 2015, earning over $250 million at the box office; in North America alone, it grossed $181.5 million, setting the record for highest-grossing US tour by a woman. Taylor late broke this record in 2018 with her “reputation Stadium Tour” and again in 2023 with “The Eras Tour“.
In June 2015, Taylor stated that she would also remove 1989 from Apple Music, criticizing the service for not offering royalties to artists during their free three-month trial period. After Apple Music announced that it would pay artists royalties during the free trial period, she agreed to leave 1989 on their service; she then featured in a series of commercials for the platform. Taylor only re-added her entire catalog on Spotify in June 2017. Nowadays, she is the most streamed woman in the platform’s history.
The album’s 1980s synth-pop production divided critics. In an enthusiastic review, The New York Times critic Jon Caramanica complimented Taylor’s avoidance of contemporary hip hop/R&B crossover trends, writing, “Ms. Swift is aiming somewhere even higher, a mode of timelessness that few true pop stars…even bother aspiring to.” Writing for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield characterized the record as “deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic”. Shane Kimberlin writing for musicOMH deemed Swift’s transition to pop on 1989 “not completely successful”, but praised her lyrics for incorporating “enough heart and personality”, which he found rare in the mainstream pop scene. Some rockist critics lamented that Taylor’s move from country to pop eroded her authenticity as a songwriter, particularly because of pop music’s “capitalist nature” as opposed to country music’s emphasis on authenticity.
1989 debuted atop the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.287 million copies, for the chart dated November 15, 2014. Taylor became the first artist to have three albums each sell one million copies within the first week, and 1989 was the first album released in 2014 to exceed one million copies. It topped the Billboard 200 for 11 non-consecutive weeks and spent the first full year after its release in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. By September 2020, the album had spent 300 weeks on the chart. 1989 exceeded sales of five million copies in US sales by July 2015, the fastest-selling album since 2004 up to that point. With 6.215 million copies sold by the end of 2019, the album was the third-best-selling album of the 2010s decade in the US.
The album reached No. 1 on the record charts of various European and Oceanic countries, including Australia, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland. In Canada, it was certified 6× Platinum and was the fifth-best-selling album of the 2010s. It was the fastest-selling album by a female artist of 2014 in the UK, where it earned a five-times Platinum certification from the British Phonographic Industry. 1989 also achieved great success in Asia. It became one of the best-selling digital albums in China, having sold one million units as of August 2019. It received a Platinum certification in Japan. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 1989 was the second-best-selling album of 2014 and third-best-selling of 2015. By 2017, the album had sold 10 million copies worldwide.
The album appeared on multiple publications’ year-end lists of 2014, ranking at No. 1 on the list by Billboard. Publications ranking it in their 2014 year-end lists included American Songwriter (No. 4), Time (No. 4), The Daily Telegraph (No. 5), The Music (No. 5), Drowned in Sound (No. 6), Complex (No. 8), Rolling Stone (No. 10), The Guardian (No. 12), The A.V. Club (No. 15), PopMatters (No. 15), Pitchfork (No. 31), and musicOMH (No. 32). In individual critics’ lists, 1989 was ranked by Jon Caramanica for The New York Times (No. 7), Ken Tucker for NPR (No. 3), and Brian Mansfield for USA Today (No. 1).
Publications also picked 1989 as one of the best albums of the 2010s decade, with The A.V. Club and Slant Magazine placing it in the Top 10 of their lists. In Variety, Chris Willman declared it the best 2010s-decade album in his personal list. According to Metacritic, it was the sixteenth most prominently acclaimed album on the decade-end lists. The Guardian featured the album at No. 89 on a 2019 list of the “100 Best Albums of the 21st Century”. 1989 placed at No. 393 on Rolling Stone‘s 2020 revision of their “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and No. 39 on Consequence‘s “The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
Impact and Legacy
Moreover, Taylor was also credited for reviving poptism, which asks music critics to approach pop with the same latitude they do ‘serious’ genres like rock, and audiences to mythologise its stars like they would Elliott Smith or David Bowie. The Guardian wrote that “poptimism really came of age in 2014, led by the unlikely figure of Taylor Swift. Making the transition out of Nashville, Swift’s latest album, 1989, is a poptimistic curve ball that ignores the dance-urban trend and replaces it with something more ambitious.” Taylor is simply an expert at putting her finger on the pulse and finding out what direction the collective culture is heading. For as much as she lyrically rebuffs those who think someone else’s “indie record is much cooler than [hers]”, she’s very much interested in capitalizing on the new, hip trend before it peaks. That’s why she gets credited for bringing back 80s inspired music to the mainstram. And that is why 1989 is the most awarded pop album in music history.
|Released||October 27, 2014|
|Length||48:41 (Standard Edition)|
|Label||Big Machine Records|
Mattman & Robin
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY