Music News

The Year in Music: Cottagecore queen Taylor Swift does the most, saves 2020

Beth Garrabrant

No matter how productive you were in quarantine in 2020, Taylor Swift‘s got you beat.

While Taylor started 2020 by losing the Golden Globe for “Beautiful Ghosts,” her song from the much-maligned movie CATS, she bounced back with the late January release of the critically acclaimed documentary Miss Americana, which highlighted her decision to finally use her platform to speak out about important issues.

Taylor’s song “Only the Young,” from the documentary, championed the power of young people to change the world.  She allowed it to be used in a “Get Out the Vote” ad, and spent months urging her fans to vote.  And whereas before, she’d been “terrified” to talk about politics, in 2020, Taylor proudly announced exactly for whom was planning to vote.

She also used Twitter to criticize President Donald Trump, praise the Supreme Court for ruling in favor of protecting gay and transgender people from workplace discrimination, and call for statues of “racist historical figures” to be taken down, among other issues.

But Taylor, ever the overachiever, didn’t just use her free time for politics.  She released not one but two surprise albums in 2020 — folklore and its “sister,” evermore — both of which were critically acclaimed and found her pushing musical boundaries as never before. 

Not only did Taylor unexpectedly collaborate on the projects with alt-rockers The National and Bon Iver — as well as her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn — on both records, but for the first time, she wrote songs about characters and situations that sprung from her imagination or from movies, rather than from her own life. 

In addition, Taylor dropped the F-bomb for the first time in song, and even penned a tune from the point of view of a 17-year-old boy.  That song, “Betty,” saw her return to the top 40 of the country chart for the first time in seven years.

The reward for all this was blockbuster sales and broken records. folklore, which came out in July, was the first album released in 2020 to sell a million copies, and it’s since sold more than two million copies overall. 

folklore debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, the same week its lead single, “cardigan,” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. That made Taylor the first artist in history to enter both charts at number one simultaneously.  folklore went on to spend eight weeks at number one and earned her five Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year.

But Taylor wasn’t done yet. She hit fans with a one-two punch: The November 25 Disney+ release of the film folklore: the long pond sessions, and then the December 11 release of her second surprise album, evermore, and its lead single and video, “willow.”

evermore became Taylor’s eighth album release to top the Billboard 200, and also took the top spot on several other charts, including the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart and Top Alternative Albums Chart.  In the meantime, “willow” debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, making Taylor the first artist to debut at number one on both of those charts simultaneously, twice.

Amidst all this, in November, Taylor began re-recording her old albums in her ongoing bid to prevent her nemesis, Scooter Braun, from making money off of her original master recordings.  While Braun sold those recordings to Shamrock Holdings without telling her, his deal still allowed him to profit from them.  We heard the first re-recording, “Love Story,” in Taylor’s pal Ryan Reynolds‘ commercial for Match.

Among the awards Taylor won in 2020: Best Director at the MTV VMAs for “The Man,” Billboard‘s Female Artist of the Year, the Apple Music Award for Songwriter of the Year, and Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards — the latter for the sixth time.

By Andrea Dresdale
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