When Taylor Swift announced that she was barred from performing the majority of her catalog at the 2019 AMAs, fans and haters set themselves on high alert for the pop star’s appearance at the ceremony.
Swift was honored with the Artist of the Decade Award and had planned to perform a medley of her greatest hits from her first eponymous album, released in 2006, to her seventh studio album, Lover, out earlier this year. However, according to Swift, Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun—the Big Machine Label Group founder and her former manager, with whom she is engaged in an exhaustive legal feud concerning the master recordings of her music—prevented her from doing so because that music is owned by Big Machine. She also said she had been banned from including the tunes in an upcoming Netflix documentary about her life.
After imploring her fans to tell Borchetta and Braun to back off, and after the saga continued to play out via social media and tabloids, it was widely assumed that Swift would make some sort of statement onstage. And so she did on Sunday night, performing in a prison-uniform-esque white top emblazoned with the names of the six albums in question—Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. The message: Swift, apparently, is now an inmate of the music industry.
When she accepted her award for Artist of the Decade, she had freed herself from incarceration—at least sartorially—and changed into a pink and gold gown. She also won the Artist of the Year Award. “The last year of my life has had some of the most amazing times and also some of just the hardest things I’ve gone through in my life, and not a lot of them are things that haven’t been public,” she said while accepting the Artist of the Year AMA, hinting at her feud but never directly addressing it. “Like, this industry is really weird, where sometimes people who do what we do feel like—and I’m sure as some of you feel like this too with your lives—like you feel like your stock is either up or down and people either like you or they don’t or you’re feeling bad about yourself. But the people who hang in there for you are the ones that you will never forget—and the fans who have hung in there for 15 years of me doing this.”