Ten years ago, at the 2009 MTV VMAs, Taylor Swift was interrupted by Kanye West in a moment that kicked off one of the most significant chapters in celebrity gossip history – and it’s a chapter that may not have reached its conclusion. A decade later, during her first main show broadcast win for “You Need To Calm Down”, it was Todrick Hall, who co-executive produced the video, who delivered the acceptance speech.
Four years ago, at the 2015 MTV VMAs, Taylor’s “Bad Blood” won Video of Year, and she arrived “en squad”, at the height of “squad season”, surrounded by her friends, many of them models, girl solidarity straight out of a catalogue promoting a song about a war between frenemies.
It is 2019 and the current Taylor drinks in the front row at the MTV VMAs, flanked by two queer black men, an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Twitter is trash a lot of the time. But Twitter can also bring out the very f-cking best. Like the tweet I’m about to show you below, which is not intended to start a fight, it’s simply appreciation for creativity. As I said to Duana when I sent this to her, I feel like giving up, because I will never, ever, ever be this clever.
Taylor Swift watched Pose once now she think she a house MUVA— aust (@austdem) August 27, 2019
As is always the case where Taylor is concerned, there will be praise and there will be criticism. There will be praise of the criticism. There will be criticism of the criticism. Taylor Swift has been a superstar now for exactly a decade (I know her career has been longer than that but she was still opening for other acts in 2008 so, really, when we talk about superstar status, we’re counting the time she’s spent at the very highest level) and we’re only just now getting some perspective about her evolution, the progression of her image, both in how fame has affected her and how she’s curated it. The analysis of the Taylor we saw last night, then, may change from today to another decade from now in how it fits into the totality of her mythology.
What we can say for now though is that the 2009 VMAs and the 2019 VMAs are bookends. Back then, she was the artist that MTV had anointed as their new golden girl whose stage was hijacked but who was given an opportunity, by the greatest entertainer of our time, to reclaim that spotlight, a spotlight that she hasn’t conceded since. Her supporters would say that she has expanded that spotlight to make space for others, returning to that stage as one of the most powerful names in the game to pay forward the opportunity and lean into her political awakening. How much bigger can that spotlight get and in ten years from now, who’ll be sharing it with her?
When it comes to straight up performing, I actually prefer when Taylor’s in the spotlight by herself. She opened the show with “You Need To Calm Down”, one of the weakest songs on the new album, Lover, before picking up her guitar and singing “Lover” live for the first time. It’s so much better when she’s with the guitar. She is so sexy when she’s playing guitar and I know it’s not the kind of spectacle song you open a broadcast with but the juxtaposition between the two is undeniable. Not that John Travolta could tell the difference.
By order Prem, this is the correct way to end this post.