Prolific Hall of Fame songwriter Carole King introduced Swift, saying, “This past decade has been incredible for this brilliant artist and the best is yet to come.” Swift then took the stage dressed as Tom Cruise in Risky Business, her white button-up shirt emblazoned with the titles of her albums. With “Fearless” plastered across her back, a troupe of kid-dancers wearing the same outfit joined her onstage.
Swift then stripped down to a golden one-piece to perform “Love Story,” followed by an exuberant take on “I Knew You Were Trouble,” off of 2012’s Red. “Blank Space” from 1989 came next, complete with dancing men in suits and ties prancing in front of a screen showing electronic rain. Very Singing in the Rain.
The singer-songwriter then brought Halsey and Camila Cabello onstage to bust out “Shake It Off” — a partial echo of her Reputation tour with Halsey replacing Charli XCX. She finished up the medley with “Lover,” playing a massive peach piano in a diaphanous pink cape alongside renowned ballet dancers Misty Copeland and Craig Hall.
The lead-up to Swift’s performance was marred by a fresh flare-up in her ongoing feud with her old label, Big Machine, its founder Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, who acquired Big Machine over the summer and took control of the masters for her first six albums.
Earlier this month, Swift took to social media to claim that Borchetta and Braun had told her she wasn’t allowed to perform her music on the American Music Awards (or use her old materials in a Netflix documentary) “because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year.” Swift has said she plans to re-record her first six albums next year in order to regain control of her songs.
Big Machine Label Group released a statement saying, “At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or back her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere.” A rep for Swift, however, countered, saying Borchetta flatly denied the request for the AMAs and that Big Machine “never actually deny either claim” Swift made in her post.
Things took an even stranger turn Monday, when Big Machine shared a statement saying they had reached a licensing agreement with the producers of the American Music Awards, Dick Clark Productions, that would allow Swift to perform her old songs at the show. Dick Clark Productions, however, then released their own statement denying they were involved. “Any final agreement on this matter needs to be made directly with Taylor Swift’s management team,” DCP said. “We have no further comment.”