Though it’s been nearly three years since Taylor Swift released a new album, the country star-turned-pop songstress has remained a near-constant presence in headlines since her triumphant 1989 tour (in support of her massive, Grammy-winning LP of the same name) concluded in December 2015.
Earlier this week, Swift surprised fans by wiping her social media accounts clean and announcing a new album, Reputation, set to drop November 10th. As promised, late Thursday, she released feisty lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” a dance-pop song (co-written and produced by Jack Antonoff). With vengeful lyrics like “I don’t like your little games/ I don’t like your tilted stage,/ I don’t like you,” plus an effect that sounds as if she’s singing through a phone, the track seems to allude to her long, public feud with Kanye West.
Here, Rolling Stone takes a look back at all the developments regarding Swift – feuds reignited, high-profile romances and a lawsuit – in the months and years since she took an extended hiatus.
July 2015. Swift becomes embroiled in a feud with Nicki Minaj. When the MTV Video Music Award nominations were announced in July, Minaj took issue with what she felt was a glaring omission: her music video collaboration with Beyonce, for “Feeling Myself.”
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
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Without naming names, the female emcee shaded the MTV committee’s nominees for Video of the Year, which included Swift’s video for “Bad Blood,” Ed Sheeran’s video for “Thinking Out Loud,” Beyonce’s “7/11,” “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars and “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar. Minaj referenced “other” girls and “women with slim bodies”; Swift read into the subtweet and responded less than an hour later, interpreting Minaj’s comments as a direct attack on her. “@NICKIMINAJ I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot,” Swift tweeted.
Minaj reacted with confusion as to why Swift was calling her out, leading Swift to offer up a truce of sorts. While fans freaked out on social media, celebs and even fellow nominees jumped into the fray, with Mars and Sheeran engaging in a faux Twitter feud. Several heartfelt Twitter apologies later, however, everyone was ready to move on. Swift and Minaj clinched the truce by pulling off a surprise performance together (to “Bad Blood,” naturally) at the following month’s VMAs.
August 2015: Swift, Kanye West bury the hatchet – for now. Also at the 2015 VMAs, she presents her 2009 VMA-interruptor West with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. Her speech concluded, “All the other winners, I’m really happy for you, I’m going to let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time.” Turns out this beef was far from done, however.
February 2016: Kanye West reignites his on-again, off-again feud with Swift. Just as it seemed as though West and Swift were on solid footing once again following their infamous interaction at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, West dropped a new track titled “Famous” with lyrics that suggested things weren’t quite as fine as they may have appeared. The controversial single, after all, included the line: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous.”
Though West claimed that he had gotten Swift’s approval before moving forward with the song, Swift’s team denied any corroboration, and called West out as a misogynist for his bold lyrics. “Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric,” her camp countered in a statement. At the Grammys less than a week later, Swift took the opportunity during her acceptance speech for Album of the Year to hit back at West in the ultimate subtweet, encouraging young women not to let people “undercut” their “accomplishments” or “fame.”
The drama wasn’t over just yet. In June, West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, spoke up during an interview with GQ, backing up her husband’s insistence that Swift had approved the lyric. What’s more, she released a secret, Internet-destroying recording of West’s phone conversation with Swift the following month, leading Swift to post an Instagram note with her final word on the matter: She had never asked to be involved in this “narrative,” and had never wanted to be a part of it.
February 2016: Swift donates $250,000 to Kesha amid her headline-making court case against producer Dr. Luke. The singer joined a number of pop stars, including Lady Gaga, Grimes, Lily Allen and Kelly Clarkson, in offering their support for the “TiK ToK” singer. Demi Lovato also offered her two cents on the controversial court case, in which Kesha alleged that Dr. Luke was physically and psychologically abusive toward her. In addition to offering her thoughts to Kesha, Lovato also took a moment on Twitter to call on “self-proclaimed feminists” to “start speaking out or taking action for women’s rights.”
Fans speculated that Lovato’s biting words were directed toward Swift, but multiple sources close to the singer told Rolling Stone that there was no link between Lovato’s tweets and Swift’s generous donation.
June 2016: Swift and Calvin Harris break up after dating for a little over a year. While Swift was busy combatting Kimye fans on social media, her relationship with the Scottish DJ-producer was quietly fizzling out. In early June, media outlets confirmed that the pair had split, and seemingly on amicable terms. In typical Hollywood form, however, their relationship came under intense scrutiny, and in July, the simmering tension exploded after it was revealed that Swift co-wrote Harris and Rihanna’s summer hit “This Is What You Came For.” Harris took to Twitter to defend his part in the creation of the song, noting that he “wrote the music, produced the song, arranged it and cut the vocals.”
The frustrated DJ even went one step further, throwing an unprovoked jab at Swift and her ongoing feud with Katy Perry. “I know you’re off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC but I’m not that guy, sorry. I won’t allow it,” he tweeted at the time. In following weeks and months, he offered his apologies for overreacting, calling his tweets “completely the wrong instinct.”
June 2016: Swift connects with British actor Tom Hiddleston shortly after her breakup with Harris. The singer and the Thor star first met at the Met Gala in May with an impromptu dance-off that had fans speculating that there was more to the relationship than met the eye. The pair then engaged in a whirlwind 90-day romance that included trips to Rome, Nashville, Rhode Island and England, as well as such infamous PDA moments as Hiddleston’s “I Heart TS” tank top. The couple was anointed with a nickname, “Hiddleswift” – alas, the pair split three months later in September.
November 2016: Swift pens single for country music group Little Big Town. Though she didn’t release any new music under her name in 2016, she did get back to her country music roots with her song “Better Man,” which the members of Little Big Town revealed to be her brainchild during a press conference in November. “We didn’t want you to have any subtext there other than to hear the song,” band member Karen Fairchild said at the time, adding that Swift thought the decision not to name her as the songwriter as “the greatest honor.” “Better Man” was one of the first tracks off Little Big Town’s album The Breaker.
December 2016: Swift teams up with supermodel pal Gigi Hadid’s boyfriend Zayn Malik on surprise track for Fifty Shades Darker. The singers’ duet on “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” excited fans who were going through a Taylor Swift drought, and the smash single then gave way to a sexy music video in January.
February 2017: Swift performs her first (and perhaps only) concert of the year. The superstar returned to the stage at a pre-Super Bowl 51 bash (hosted by AT&T and DirectTV, which launched a channel in her honor) in Houston, Texas, performing “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” and “Better Man.” “I have to be really honest with you about something: As far as I know, I’m doing one show in 2017. And as far as I know, this is that one show,” she told the crowd.
May 2017: Katy Perry dredges up old drama with Swift with release of “Swish Swish.” Fans noted something fishy about Perry’s new single off her album Witness, notably that it seemed to attack Swift with its lyrics. In response to rumors that she was hitting back at Swift following 2014’s “Bad Blood,” Perry at first remained demure. “I think it’s a great anthem for people whenever someone’s trying to hold you down or bully you,” she told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. She eventually told James Corden that Swift “tried to assassinate my character.” (“Bad Blood” is widely believed to be about Perry, who has rumored to have poached several of Swift’s dancers from her 1989 tour). Sidenote: “Swish Swish” features a guest rap from Swift’s one-time nemesis Nicki Minaj.
June 2017: Swift makes her entire back catalogue available to all streaming services – at the very moment Perry releases Witness. The timing of the singer’s much-celebrated return to streaming services following a high-profile November 2014 dispute with Spotify raised plenty of eyebrows, but Swift’s team pegged the singer’s decision as a celebration of 1989 selling over 10 million albums worldwide. Fans on both sides interpreted the move as a way for Swift to jab at Perry.
Perry later simultaneously forgave Swift and apologized for her own words and actions during a weekend-long YouTube live stream session. “I love her and I want the best for her, and I think she’s a fantastic songwriter,” Perry said during a teary-eyed moment.
August 2017: Swift wins lawsuit against former Colorado radio DJ David Mueller. Returning to the public eye, she went to court over a 2013 incident in which she alleged Mueller touched her inappropriately during a backstage meet-and-greet photo-op. During the trial, Swift was brave and unrelenting in her testimony, telling the judge and the jury at one point that “he grabbed my ass underneath my skirt.” Swift won $1 in her countersuit against the DJ, who initiated the legal interaction back in 2015 when he sued the singer for what he said were false accusations that cost him his job.