Some musicians act like they don’t care about awards. Taylor Swift takes the opposite approach.
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.
Still, Swift had a similar disappointed reaction in 2018 when her next album, “Reputation,” failed to secure any nominations in the major categories. In her recent Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana,” Swift is seen hanging out on the couch the morning of the Grammy nominations, waiting for her publicist, Tree Paine, to call. Finally, the phone rings.
“I’ve just been running up and down stairs, moving things around, unpacking boxes, trying not to think about you calling me with Grammy nominations,” Swift says.
“Well, I’m trying to get the full list. Because right now, in the main, the big categories of album, record, song — you are not nominated,” Paine responds.
Swift pauses, with a blank expression on her face, and takes a few seconds to absorb this. “You know what? This is fine,” she says. “I just need to make a better record.”
“Well, ‘Reputation’ is a great record,” Paine argues.
“No,” Swift replies. “I'm making a better record.”
The documentary, which is also about Swift’s evolution to become more politically outspoken, features scenes of her recording her next album, “Lover.” She didn’t quite accomplish her goal: Grammy voters awarded it with only a song of the year nomination for the title track.
But all attention shifted once Swift released “Folklore” and its follow-up, “Evermore,” which showcases her brand-new sound. And Grammy voters appear to be big fans.
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