The singer-songwriter, who was being feted as the Artist of the Decade at the annual fan-voted music awards, headlined the evening with a decades-spanning performance of some of her biggest hits.
To start her set, she enlisted help from a group of young girls to sing her song “The Man,” off of her newest album Lover. She followed this up with her hits “Love Story,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and “Blank Space.” She brought out famous friends Camila Cabello and Halsey to sing her song “Shake It Off.” Swift’s parents Andrea and Scott could be seen tearfully singing along and watching from the audience. To close out the set, she slowed things down to sing her swoon-worthy single, “Lover,” during which professional dancers Craig Hall and Misty Copeland performed next to her.
The performance, which was first announced in October, was called into question Nov. 14, when Swift took to her social media channels to accuse Big Machine Label Group founder Scott Borchetta and new business partner Scooter Braun of “exercising tyrannical control” over her old music, which was released under Big Machine. (Her latest album, Lover, was the first of her records to be released under her new deal at Republic Records and Universal Music Group, and is the first album for which she owns the masters).
According to Swift, Borchetta and Braun said she was not allowed to perform her old songs on television “because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.” The singer claimed that Borchetta told her team that she could use her old music if she agreed to “not re-record copycat versions of [her] songs next year” and “to stop talking about him and Scooter Braun.” Admitting that she didn’t “know what else to do,” she encouraged her fans to reach out to the duo and let them know how they felt.
In a lengthy statement of its own, Big Machine denied Swift’s claims. The label later announced that it had “agreed to grant all licenses of their artists’ performances” on various platforms. The drama continued Friday, when Braun posted a statement to his Instagram saying that he wished to find a resolution to their conflict because his family had received death threats. Representatives for Swift did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.
Swift didn’t directly address the brouhaha, but upon accepting her award for Favorite Album — Pop/Rock on Sunday, she shared her love for her new label, saying, “I really love my record label Universal and Republic. Monte Lipman, Lucian Grainge, thank you for allowing me to make whatever music I want to make.”
Upon accepting her award for Artist of the Decade, Swift joked, “That performance was even more fun than I hoped it would be.” She said that Carole King, who presented the award to her, was an inspiration for her career.
She spent the rest of her speech toasting her fans. “All any of the artists or anyone in this room wants is to create something that will last, whatever it is in life,” she said. “All that matters to me is the memories that I’ve had with you, the fans, over the years. May it continue.”
To cap off the evening, Swift took home the Artist of the Year award. During her speech she said, “The last year of my life has had some of the most amazing and some of the hardest things I’ve gone through.”
She continued, “This industry is really weird because… like your stock is either up or down and people either like you or they don’t.” Calling this year “complicated,” she thanked the fans once again for being there for her “over the last 15 years of me doing this.”
With her wins tonight, Swift becomes the artist with the most AMA wins of all time, beating Michael Jackson, who previously held the record with 24 wins.
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