2014: The Year in Taylor Swift - Rolling Stone
Home Culture Culture Lists

2014: The Year in Taylor Swift

The performances, music videos and news stories that made a platinum year

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

It seems any year that Taylor Swift releases a new album becomes Taylor Swift's year. Since her 2006 debut, she's dropped an LP every other autumn, capping off the year with a new entry in her public diary, a young person falling in and out of love with herself and others. At 16, we met a girl in love with Tim McGraw's music and love itself, marking the beginning of a national obsession with Swift —strengthened by 2012's Red and reaffirmed with this year's 1989.

In 2014, she shifted the narrative. As hard as people tried to focus on who the lyrics were about, Swift provided a reminder that she's the protagonist in these stories. She became an artist and a renegade who took some risky turns in her love life that she transformed into successful leaps in her music. It was a year of power moves for Swift, in which she backed herself with a rotating but loyal girl gang. If the "best people in life are free," as she sighs at the end of the chorus on her track "New Romantics," then the new, enlightened, unrestrained Swift is one of the greatest out there. Here's a look at her last 12 months.

Taylor Swift

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Michael Tran/Getty Images

January 26th: Taylor Swift Fails to Win Grammy, Still Wins at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards

Taylor Swift's massive album campaign began with a reminder of her last one. As she prepared to wrap up the world tour for 2012's Red, Swift performed at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony and stole the night without taking home a single trophy. Sitting in front of a piano, she belted the brilliant, heart-wrenching ballad "All Too Well," one of that album's best showcases of her storytelling abilities, and gave us the hair flips that shook the world while shredding the keys. It was a strong finish to an album cycle that had highlighted more pop-friendly tunes like "We Are Never Getting Back Together" (three weeks at Number One) and "I Knew You Were Trouble," serving as a gentle reminder of the multitudes both Taylor Swift and her music contain.

Taylor Swift

SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: Taylor Swift performs at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on June 12, 2014 in Singapore, Singapore. (Photo by Nicky Loh/TAS/Getty Images for TAS)

Nicky Loh/Getty Images

June 12th: The Record-Breaking ‘Red’ World Tour Finally Winds Down

Swift had the highest grossing tour of 2013, raking in $110 million during the North American leg. Earlier this year, she traveled across Europe and Asia for the final stretch and ended the worldwide trek in Shanghai in June. Even with canceling the May stop in Thailand over political unrest, Swift's numbers still helped her break records as the top grossing single tour by a country artist of all time. It served as a final mark on the genre that built her as she prepped for the more experimental phase of her career.

Taylor Swift, Shake It Off


August 18th: Taylor Swift Shakes It Off With Mark Romanek

With "Shake It Off," the brand new pop-centric Taylor Swift was revealed. Alongside the dance-y, breezy tune, Swift also unveiled 1989's title, album cover, release date and Eighties inspiration. The song came with a clip directed by the legendary Mark Romanek who had stepped away from the music video world for nine years (though he did collaborate with Jay Z on the performance-art film "Picasso Baby" in 2013). In the video, an awkward Swift, portraying the everywoman, finds herself surrounded by a variety of much better dancers, including ballerinas and breakdancers — though the twerking portions raised questions of black appropriation, and Earl Sweatshirt responded on Twitter

Taylor Swift

INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Recording artist Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards held at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

August 24th: Taylor Swift Goes Full Pop at the VMAs

A week after dropping "Shake it Off," Swift appeared at the VMAs, where she channeled a modern "Material Girl" while being backed by a gaggle of suit-clad men. Rolling Stone wrote: "Taylor Swift, the pop artist, had an official coming-out party…shedding any threads to country music with a stunning, OCD performance that recalls decades of pop video."

Taylor Swift Rolling Stone Cover

September 8th: The Gossip Mill Gets Ahold of Taylor Swift’s ‘Rolling Stone’ Cover

In her September Rolling Stone cover story, Swift revealed the tales behind tracks like "Out of the Woods" and "Bad Blood" well before everyone had a chance to take a listen and do their own guessing. "Out of the Woods," co-written by fun. and Bleachers' Jack Antonoff, was immediately placed into the pantheon of new tracks connected to her brief affair with One Direction's Harry Styles, having drawn inspiration from a snowmobile accident with an ex. "Bad Blood," however, turned out be the track with the juiciest gossip. It was inspired by a falling out with a fellow (and unnamed) pop star who had "tried to sabotage an entire arena tour," as Swift put it. In what appeared to confirm immediate speculation, Katy Perry tweeted, "Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing…" the day after the article dropped. 

Taylor Swift


September 25th: Taylor Swift Gets a Crash Course in Memes

Sure, she released one of 2014's biggest albums, but Taylor's takeover of her official Tumblr may have been her year's crowning achievement. In September, she unveiled her burgeoning addiction with some minor confusion as to how everything works, but it didn't take much time for her to become fluent in the world of her fandom, having caught up on some of the most important memes and GIFs of her career. The highlight of this was when Swift stepped out in a shirt that read "no its becky" in reference to a well-circulated meme featuring a photo of a young Swift accompanied by the story of a girl named "Becky" who snorted marijuana then died. Swift kept the jokes coming, posting a reworking of her album cover featuring a photo of herself in the shirt. 

Taylor Swift

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 27: Taylor Swift performs during her 1989 Secret Session with iHeartRadio on October 27, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/TAS/Getty Images for TAS)

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

October 27th: ‘1989’ released

After weeks of song teasing and media domination, Taylor Swift's 1989 was finally released on October 27. Receiving plenty of critical acclaim, 1989 was a fantastic quarter-life album and includes everything from an ode to her new city ("Welcome to New York") to the last laugh at every rumor or insult catapulted at her in the nearly 10 years she's been in the public eye ("Blank Space"). It's an album about being reckless and learning from both joys and mistakes. The trial and error tales on the album mimic the musical direction, in which Swift has fully abandoned the twinges of country that have slowly dissipated in her sound in favor of synths and light nods towards Eighties pop.


October 27th: Taylor Swift Named NYC Tourism Ambassador

On the same day as 1989’s release, Swift dropped another big career move: She became New York City’s Global Welcome Ambassador. The announcement of the Pennyslvania-born, Nashville-raised singer becoming the new face of NYC was met with nearly as much controversy as the “Shake It Off’ video — some of it associated with her quote “bodegas are our friends” from the promotional videos. Either way, the year-long campaign ties in nicely with 1989‘s opening track, the synth-y and bright eyed “Welcome to New York,” which is looking to reach “Empire State of Mind” levels of play counts.

Taylor Swift, Blank Space


November 10th: “Blank Space” Hits YouTube

The release of her "Blank Space" video definitely helped make 1989's first month an even bigger one. In what may be one of her best clips ever, the singer takes on her celebrity and every "crazy girl" rumor that's been tossed at her since the beginning of her time as a public figure. In the video, a more sinister and seductive Taylor Swift than we've ever seen embarks on a tumultuous relationship with model Sean O'Pry, which includes flower-throwing and blood-filled cake stabbing. Directed by Joseph Kahn (Britney Spears' "Toxic," Enrique Iglesias' "Hero"), the video was accompanied by an interactive app which allowed fans to collect exclusive photos and explore the elaborate mansion where the video was set.

Taylor Swift

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 09: Taylor Swift performs at the 45th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 9, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/FilmMagic)

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

November 3rd: Taylor Swift Says No to Spotify

Making good on her word from her WSJ op-ed, Swift refused to give away her music for free and abruptly removed her songs from the streaming service Spotify. She later called Spotify a "grand experiment" she was unwilling to take part in, believing artists should be paid fairly for their creations. Spotify founder Daniel Ek did not take the matter lightly, claiming that Swift and her label Big Machine had made $6 million per year from the service, though Big Machine's president Scott Borchetta disputed the number, claiming only $500,000 had been pocketed by Swift the prior year from domestic streaming. In the following weeks, fellow country star Jason Aldean and labelmates Justin Moore and Brantley Gilbert also pulled their new albums.

Taylor Swift

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

November 5th: ‘1989’ Goes Platinum

A change seemed to do her good: 1989 became the first and only album to receive a platinum certification in 2014, having done so in its first week alone.

Taylor Swift at the AMAs

Swift at the AMAs

Christopher Polk/AMA2014/Getty Images for DCP

November 23rd: Taylor Swift Wins the Dick Clark Award for Excellence at the AMAs

Swift opened the American Music Awards with one of her more elaborate awards show performances. Performing "Blank Space," she murdered her many on-stage boyfriends and set roses on fire. In an acceptance speech for the inaugural Dick Clark Award for Excellence she stuck to her choice to pull 1989 from Spotify: "To the fans who went out and bought over a million copies of my last three albums, what you did by going out and investing in music and albums is you're saying that you believe in the same thing that I believe in…[You believe] that music is valuable and that music should be consumed in albums and albums should be consumed as art and appreciated."

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift/Instagram

December 13th: Taylor Swift Parties Like She’s 25

Swift would capped off her year with a massive celebration of her 25th birthday. In her TriBeca apartment, she hosted a gaggle of celebrities, including Karlie Kloss, the Haim sisters, Sam Smith, Justin Timberlake, Jay Z and Beyoncé.

Taylor Swift

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

December 31st: Taylor Swift Welcomes 2015 From New York

We can only imagine how Taylor Swift will celebrate 2015, a year promising her next big tour. To cap off 2014, she will partake in the classic pop-star ritual of appearing at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve in Times Square tonight.

In This Article: Best of 2014, Taylor Swift

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.