Grammys flashback: A look back at Taylor Swift’s original ‘1989’ era

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With the release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” one can’t help but be transported back to the original “1989” era. One of the biggest album rollouts in recent history, Taylor Swift’s full transition to pop music in 2014 left a lasting impact on the music sphere and, most importantly, on her career. At the Grammys, the album and its songs contended for two straight years and showed the world just how powerful Swift is.

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“1989’s” first trip to the Grammys was with its lead single, “Shake It Off.” The song was released on August 19, 2014, less than a month and a half before that year’s eligibility deadline. Sometimes releasing so late in the season can be a disadvantage if voters haven’t had time to appreciate your song; earlier releases have more time to fully impact the culture and influence the industry. In Swift’s case, this wasn’t an issue. “Shake It Off” was a massive hit from the get-go, debuting at number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 and spending four non-consecutive weeks there. The track was also highly popular on radio, where it debuted at number-12 on the pop airplay chart a mere week after its release.

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“Shake it Off” was nominated for three Grammys in 2015: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. Getting those three nominations was quite impressive, especially as “Shake It Off” was never considered a masterpiece of songwriting. Still, it got the era off to a good start, even if it eventually lost Record and Song of the Year to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” and Best Pop Solo to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.”

Swift eventually released “1989” on October 27, 2014, making it eligible for the Grammys that would be handed out in 2016. The album greatly exceeded its sales expectations of 600,000 copies to achieve an actual figure over 1.2 million copies in its first week. But the album wasn’t just a landmark moment in Swift’s career. It was also impactful for the music industry as a whole. Before “1989” many music experts were concerned for the industry, which had seen a sharp sales decline. “1989” proved that music wasn’t dead, it just needed the right artist to shake things up. The album was also well-reviewed by critics, although it’s been acclaimed more retroactively than it was at the time. The album’s singles “Blank Space,” “Style,” “Wildest Dreams,” “Out of the Woods” and “New Romantics” all became hits, with the first three peaking in the top 10 of the Hot 100 and “Blank Space” spending seven weeks at number-one.

SEETaylor Swift’s ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ launches with stellar reviews: It’s ‘an impeccable remake of her best album’

Swift was invested in “1989” doing well at the Grammys. She previously won Album of the Year for “Fearless”; at the time no woman had ever won that award twice, and only a few male artists had done so, so “1989” was her shot at making history, and she made sure she hit all the right campaign spots along the way. Besides many TV performances, Swift had a personal Q&A session with Grammy voters and hosted a listening party for some at a Grammy Pro event. In reality, “1989” probably didn’t need much campaigning; it was a massive pop hit from a Grammy favorite. But having that extra push meant Swift was easily considered the frontrunner.

She wasn’t devoid of competition, though. In fact, that was one of the most competitive years in recent history, so much so that everyone nominated for Album of the Year — Kendrick Lamar (“To Pimp A Butterfly”), Alabama Shakes (“Sound and Color”), Chris Stapleton (“Traveller”), and The Weeknd (“Beauty Behind the Madness”) — all ended up winning multiple Grammys. Lamar won five, Alabama Shakes and Stapleton took three apiece, and The Weeknd claimed two. Swift herself ended the night with three trophies: Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Music Video (“Bad Blood”).

“1989” made a substantial impact as one of the quintessential pop albums of the century. At the Grammys, the album will go down as the second Album of the Year winner for the only woman ever to win three of those; she went on to win yet again for “Folklore” in 2021. Swift could win a fourth in 2024 for “Midnights.” And who knows: maybe “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” could be her fifth in 2025.

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