Some musicians act like they don’t care about awards. Taylor Swift takes the opposite approach.
Once again, it has paid off.
At the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, Swift won album of the year for “Folklore,” which she released in July and which became the highest-selling album of 2020. This is the third time Swift has won the show’s most prestigious category (she won in 2010 for “Fearless” and 2016 for “1989”), making her the only female artist to achieve that accomplishment alongside Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra.
The moment “Folklore” won, the cameras zoomed in to capture Swift’s ecstatic reaction — and then they quickly panned away to a random ceiling shot of the venue. So either there was a technical malfunction or she exclaimed something that you’re not allowed to show on broadcast TV.
Onstage with her album collaborators, Swift thanked her boyfriend, actor Joe Alwyn, for being “the first person that I play every single song that I wrote.” She also gave a shout-out to “James, Inez and Betty,” Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’s three young daughters, and noted “their parents are the second and third people that I play every new song that I write.”
“But mostly we just want to thank the fans. You guys met us in this imaginary world that we created and we can’t tell you how honored we are forever by this,” said Swift, who also performed a medley of songs on a haunted-looking set that captured the album’s mystical aesthetic. “And thank you to the Recording Academy. We will never forget that you did this for us.”
Last year, the country-turned-pop megastar, freed from the pressures of writing bombastic hooks that would sound great in a sold-out stadium, threw herself into writing songs with a quieter, alternative, indie-pop vibe — which are sounds the Grammy voters enjoy. And while some artists actively distance themselves from the Grammys — the Weeknd was the latest artist to say he will no longer allow his music to even be submitted — or criticize the show as “rigged,” Swift has been a longtime believer in the show’s validation and how it reflects her success.
In 2015, she spoke openly about how upset she was when her album “Red” lost in the album of the year category the previous year. Presenter Alicia Keys revealed the winner was Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” and Swift heard the “r” sound and thought Keys was about to say “Red” — leading to an awkward moment where Swift and her team all gasped and then looked very disappointed. Swift said she went home after the show and cried, but used the disappointment to fuel motivation for her next album.
“You have a few options when you don’t win an award,” Swift said in an interview on the Grammys’ website. “You can say, ‘Maybe they’re right. Maybe I did not make the record of my career. Maybe I need to fix the problem, which was that I have not been making sonically cohesive albums. I need to really think about whether I’m listening to a scared record label and what that’s doing to the art I’m making.’ ”
Subtle shade to Big Machine (her Nashville label at the time) aside, Swift indeed doubled down on the “sonically cohesive” theme for her next record. Instead of a mix of country and pop like she had on “Red,” she deemed her next record, “1989,” her first official full-on pop album. And it worked: It won album of the year at the following year’s Grammys.”
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