Home » Albums » 1989


October 27, 2014

This article is about the album. For the 2023 re-recording, see 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
1989 is Taylor’s fifth studio album. It was released on October 27th, 2014 as her first official pop album. She named the record after her birth year as a symbolic rebirth of her artistry. 1989 appeared on several publications’ lists of the best albums of the 2010s and was featured in Rolling Stone‘s 2020 revision of their “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” In addition, it is the most awarded pop album in music history.
Taylor listened to a lot of late 80s pop while creating 1989. She was influenced by some of her favorite pop acts from that decade, including Annie Lennox, Phil Collins and Like a Prayer-era Madonna:

«I really loved the chances they were taking, how bold it was. It was apparently a time of limitless potential. The idea of you could do what you want, be what you want. The idea of endless possibilities was kind of a theme in the last two years of my life.»

Taylor explained that, in terms of lyrics, she was inspired by the process of self-discovery. The songs on 1989 are still mainly concerned with love and relationships, but they put an emphasis on the complexities of both. It’s a fully-realized fantasy of self-reliance, confidence, and ensuing pleasure, where Taylor ceases to dramatize failed relationships and instead decides to celebrate the moment.
Table of Contents


1989 represents a departure from the country music of Taylor’s previous albums. Up until the release of her fourth studio album, RED, in October 2012, she had been strictly known as a country artist. But with that record she slowly started incorporating various pop and rock styles into her music, transcending the country sound that made her a star. The collaborations with renowned Swedish pop producers Max Martin and Shellback — including the international hit singles “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” — introduced straightforward pop hooks and new genres including dubstep to her repertoire. Still, Taylor and her label, Big Machine, promoted RED as a country album; a decision which sparked a media debate over her status as a country artist, to which she replied in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, “I leave the genre labeling to other people.”

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

The first song Taylor wrote for 1989 was “This Love“, which she created in October 2012, around the time RED was released. Nathan Chapman, her longtime collaborator since the beginning of her career, co-produced the track. She then took a break from writing while preparing for her “The RED Tour“. In the meantime, she made the decision to depart from her signature country-pop sound, convinced that “if you chase two rabbits, you lose them both”. She was “six months deep in the songwriting process” when she told Billboard in November 2013: “There are probably seven or eight [songs] that I know I want on the record. It’s already evolved into a new sound, and that’s all I wanted.” Greatly inspired by 1980s synth-pop of artists such as Peter Gabriel and Annie Lennox, she decided to make a synth-pop record that would convey her thoughts unburdened by heavy instrumentation. She viewed the 1980s as an experimental period that embraced “endless possibilities”:

«It [the 1980s] was a very experimental time in pop music. People realized songs didn't have to be this standard drums-guitar-bass-whatever. We can make a song with synths and a drum pad. We can do group vocals the entire song. We can do so many different things. And I think what you saw happening with music was also happening in our culture, where people were just wearing whatever crazy colors they wanted to, because why not? There just seemed to be this energy about endless opportunities, endless possibilities, endless ways you could live your life. And so with this record, I thought, 'There are no rules to this. I don't need to use the same musicians I've used, or the same band, or the same producers, or the same formula. I can make whatever record I want.'»

During the promotion for 1989, Taylor said that she “woke up every single day not wanting, but needing to make a new style of music than I’d ever made before”. To ensure a smooth transition to pop, she once again recruited Max Martin and Shellback as major collaborators. Speaking to the Associated Press in October 2013, she described them as “absolute dream collaborators” because they took her ideas in a different direction, which challenged her as a songwriter. Scott Borchetta, president of Taylor’s then-label Big Machine, was initially skeptical of her vision and tried to persuade her to record a few country songs for the record – infamously, he wanted her to add fiddles to “Shake It Off.” Eventually, he gave in and agreed that Big Machine would not promote the new album to country radio. Martin and Shellback would go on to produce seven of the thirteen tracks on the album’s standard edition. Taylor named Martin as co-executive producer because he also recorded and produced her vocals on tracks on which he was uncredited. This solidified her idea of a coherent record rather than a mere “collection of songs”.

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

Taylor worked on the album for two years. In an interview with the Recording Academy in 2014, she said that she likes to give herself time to evolve, change, and challenge herself to try new things: “I tend to write for the entire two-year-process but usually the things I write in the first six to eight months get thrown out. Not because they weren’t great songs, but because they don’t fit my idea of what the new album should be.” She added:

«When people say that they like one of my albums, like when people told me that RED was their favorite album I'd done, I didn't take that as, 'So, I should make that again'. I took that as, 'Great, awesome, now I wanna make them like this new album just as much if not more than the last album.' But I want them to like it for different reasons.»

Eventually, 13 tracks made it to the standard edition of 1989; the deluxe edition includes six additional tracks (three original songs and three voice memos). Although the album’s production was a dramatic change from that on Taylor’s previous country repertoire, her distinctive storytelling ability, nurtured by her country background, remained intact in her songwriting. The songs still primarily focus on her recurring themes of the emotions and reflections resulting from past romantic relationships. However, 1989 showcased a maturity in her perspectives: the album was Taylor’s first not to villainize ex-lovers, but to instead express “wistful and nostalgic” viewpoints on broken romance. She explained her shift in attitude to NPR in 2015:

«In the past, I've written mostly about heartbreak or pain that was caused by someone else and felt by me. On this album, I'm writing about more complex relationships, where the blame is kind of split 50–50 ... even if you find the right situation relationship-wise, it's always going to be a daily struggle to make it work.»

The album’s liner notes, which include a one-sentence hidden message for each of the 13 songs, collectively tell a story of a girl’s tangled relationship. Ultimately, she finds that, “She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything.”
Taylor Swift for 1989 (Sarah Barlow, 2014)

1989 Era

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.

Read More »


In order to create a cohesive sound for the album, Taylor worked with a much smaller group of people on 1989 than she did on RED, even though she was proud of that record too. During a presentation for Grammy Pro in October 2015, she explained:

«I wanted it to be a sonically cohesive album, and it ended up really being the first I’ve done since Fearless. I also wanted the songs to sound exactly how the emotions felt. I know that’s pretty vague, so I really didn’t know where it was going to go, but I knew that I wanted to work with the collaborators I had such crazy electricity with on RED, like Max Martin. I wanted to do some things that sounded nothing like what we had done before.»

The sound of 1989 is characterized by heavy synthesizers, programmed drums and processed backing vocals. The sonic inspiration for the album harkens back to the sounds of late 80s pop. Taylor loved how experimental artists were being during that time, how they were taking so many risks. She told the Recording Academy in 2014: “You look back to that time in pop music, and in pop culture, and in fashion…everyone seemed to be kind of bugging the system. And so I was very inpsired with this album. […] You kind of hear flickers and hints of 80s synth pop in there. And that’s because I love the way that people were living their lives.”

Title Significance

The idea to name the album 1989 eventually came to Taylor in a dream she had on January 27, 2014, the night after RED lost the award for “Album of the Year” at the Grammys. In an interview later that year, she explained:

«It was the night of the Grammys this year. […] I remember going home and playing a lot of the new music I had recorded for some of my backup singers and one of my best friends. We were all sitting in the kitchen and I was playing them all this music, and they were just saying, ‘You know, this is very eighties. It’s very clear to us that this is so eighties.’ We were just talking and talking about how it’s kind of a rebirth in a new genre, how that’s a big, bold step. Kind of starting a part of your career over. When they left that night, I just had this very clear moment of, ‘It’s gotta be called 1989.’»

Taylor named 1989 after her birth year, which corroborates the influence of 1980s synth-pop. She described the title as a symbolic rebirth of her image and artistry, severing ties with the country stylings of her previous albums.


As creative director for the album’s packaging, Taylor included pictures taken by Sarah Barlow with a Polaroid instant camera—a photographic method popular in the 1980s. The cover is a Polaroid portrait of Taylor’s face cut off at the eyes, which she said would bring about a sense of mystery: “I didn’t want people to know the emotional DNA of this album. I didn’t want them to see a smiling picture on the cover and think this was a happy album, or see a sad-looking facial expression and think, oh, this is another breakup record.” She is wearing red lipstick and a sweatshirt embroidered with flying seagulls. Her initials are written with black marker on the bottom left, and the title 1989 on the bottom right.

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

Taylor held a live stream via Yahoo! sponsored by ABC News on August 18, where she announced 1989 and released the lead single “Shake It Off”. There, she famously announced 1989 as her first “documented, official pop” album. To bolster sales, she and Big Machine implemented an extensive marketing plan. As she had been associated with an authentic, “girl next door” persona through her country songs, her venture to “artificial, manufactured” pop required intricate maneuvering to retain her sense of authenticity. She used social media, Tumblr especially, extensively to communicate with her fan base on a nearly daily baiss. Her posts showcased her personal life, making fans feel engaged with her authentic self and thus cemented their support while attracting a new fan base besides her already large one. She also promoted the album through product endorsements with Subway, Keds, and Diet Coke.

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“.

Streaming Dispute

On November 3, 2014, Taylor removed her entire catalog from Spotify, the largest on-demand streaming service at the time, arguing that their ad-supported free service undermined the platform’s premium service, which provides higher royalties for songwriters. She had previously written an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in July 2014, expressing her concerns over the decline of the album as an economic entity following the rise of free, on-demand streaming. Big Machine and Taylor kept 1989 only on paid subscription-required platforms such as Rhapsody and Beats Music. This move prompted an industry-wide debate on the impact of streaming on declining record sales during the digital era.

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.
Taylor Swift on the The 1989 World Tour (2015)

The 1989 World Tour

The 1989 World Tour 2015 “The 1989 World Tour” was Taylor’s fourth concert tour, in support of her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). It began on May 5, 2015, in Tokyo, and concluded on December 12, 2015, in Melbourne, the day before Taylor’s 26th birthday.

Read More »

Critical Reception

1989 received generally positive reviews from contemporary critics. Most reviewers highlighted Taylor’s mature perception of love and heartbreak. The A.V. Club‘s Marah Eakin praised her shift from overtly romantic struggles to more positive themes of accepting and celebrating the moment. Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph commended the album’s “[sharp] observation and emotional engagement” that contrasted with lyrics found in “commercialised pop”. Alexis Petridis of The Guardian lauded Taylor’s artistic control that resulted in a “perfectly attuned” 1980s-styled synth-pop authenticity.

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.

Commercial Performance

1989 was released amidst a decline in record sales brought about by the emergence of digital download and streaming platforms. Taylor’s two previous studio albums, Speak Now (2010) and RED (2012), each sold over one million copies within one week, establishing her as one of the best-selling album artists in the digital era. Given the music industry’s climate, and Taylor’s decision to eschew her characteristic country roots that had cultivated a sizable fan base, the sales performance of 1989 was subject to considerable speculation among industry experts. One week before its release, Rolling Stone reported that US retailers predicted the album would sell from 600,000 to 750,000 copies in its debut week. Which was a massive underestimation.

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.


1989 ist the most awarded pop album in history. Taylor won a total of 158 awards for the record, including “Favorite Pop/Rock Album” at the 2015 American Music Awards, “Artist of the Year” at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, and “Album of the Year” at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Awards. At the 58th Grammy Awards in 2016, the album won “Album of the Year” and “Best Pop Vocal Album”. That night, Taylor became the first female solo artist to win “Album of the Year” twice—her first win was for Fearless (2008) in 2010.

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

Nowadays, 1989 is hailed as the perfect pop album and era. Taylor managed to achieve critical acclaim, huge commercial success, an enormous tour gross as well as unprecedented award recognition combined. In 2019, Rolling Stone wrote: “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.”

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.
General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
ReleasedOctober 27, 2014
GenreSynth Pop
Length48:41 (Standard Edition)
LabelBig Machine Records
ProducersMax Martin
Taylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
Nathan Chapman
Imogen Heap
Mattman & Robin
Ali Payami
Ryan Tedder
Noel Zancanella
RED (2012)1989 (2014)reputation (2017)
Album Certification
Album Artwork
Hidden Messages
Journal Entries
Highest Honor
1989 Era

1989 Era

(Taylor's Version)

1989 Songs

The 1989 World Tour

1989 World Tour Live

Taylor's Discography