Another year of rooting for the ‘Anti-Hero’ at the VMAs
This week in Swiftstory, Taylor Swift heads to the 40th MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Swift is nominated for eleven awards, including Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Video of the Year.
Taylor Swift has been a mainstay at the MTV VMAs since her first nomination in 2008 for Best New Artist (“Our Song”). However, the most memorable VMAs concerning Swift would have to be September 13, 2009 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Swift was nominated for only one award, Best Female Video, which MTV no longer includes as a category. Upon winning for “You Belong With Me,” Swift took the stage to accept her award and give a speech. It was at this moment that the rapper formerly known as Kanye West stormed the stage and grabbed the microphone out of Swift’s hand. His statement, “I’mma let you finish but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time,” would become famous and be included on both physical merchandise and social media posts. Beyoncé later won the biggest award of the night, Video of the Year for “Single Ladies,” and invited Swift back onstage to give a speech.
On 2010’s “Speak Now,” as well as 2023’s “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” Swift included a song about the incident titled “Innocent.” Swift at one point had a framed photo of the moment, captioned with “life is full of little interruptions” in her home. At the 2010 MTV VMAs, Swift performed “Innocent” with a small television on stage playing footage of the 2009 VMA incident prior to her performance. While Swift typically avoids explicitly confirming the people her songs are about, this 2010 performance leaves no question as to the muse for “Innocent.” The 2009 VMAs would alter Swift’s career as well as lay the groundwork for a contentious relationship between Swift and West until the 2016 “Famous” incident in July 2016 that would permanently end any friendship between the two.
At the 2015 MTV VMAs, Swift was nominated for 10 awards, tied with Kendrick Lamar for the most awards that night. The music video for Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” premiered prior to the ceremony. Taylor Swift would even present Kanye West with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, saying in her introduction speech, “I’mma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the best careers of all time.” West announced that he planned to run for president in 2020, something Swift teased after the show when she received flowers from the rapper, captioning a photo “#KanTay2020.”
Kim Kardashian (formerly West) leaked an edited video regarding West’s song “Famous” on July 17, 2016. In the following days, #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended worldwide. Swift would not attend the 2016 MTV VMAs.
Taylor Swift would make only one performance in the first half of 2017, Super Saturday Night in Houston on February 4 that year. On August 18, 2017, Swift wiped all her social media clean. Days later, she posted a snake video in three separate parts on August 21, 22, and 23. On August 23, she announced her next single, “Look What You Made Me Do” would be released the next day. Good Morning America aired a teaser of the music video on August 25, with the full music video to be premiered at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards two days later. The video, which garnered 43.2 million views in its first 24 hours, included allusions to the controversies Swift had thus far faced in her career. At the end of the video, Swift is seen holding a VMA, wearing the dress from the 2009 award show, saying “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative” – a fragment of her statement on the “Famous” incident that had been posted in 2016.
Taylor Swift opened the 2019 MTV VMAs with a mash-up of “You Need To Calm Down” and “Lover.” She was nominated for 12 awards in 2019, winning three, including Video Of The Year for “You Need To Calm Down.” When accepting the award for “You Need To Calm Down,” Swift was joined by drag queens that had been in the music video, a move that was criticized and mocked by numerous outlets after the show.
The 2020 MTV VMAs were held remotely, with Swift sending in an acceptance speech for Best Direction (“Lover.”) She was additionally nominated for four awards in 2021, but ultimately did not win any.
Most recently, at the 2022 MTV VMAs, Taylor Swift was nominated for five awards, including Video of the Year. All five nominations were for “All Too Well: The Short Film”, a video for 2022’s “Red (Taylor’s Version).” While accepting the award for Video of the Year, Swift was joined onstage by Dylan O’Brien (“Him” in the short film), Sadie Sink (“Her” in the short film), and Rina Yang (cinematographer for the short film). Fans had speculated that an announcement was coming from the moment Swift posted a TikTok in her dress for the show, but there was still widespread shock when she stepped up to the microphone and said, “I thought it might be a fun moment to tell you that my brand new album comes out October 21st, and I will tell you more at midnight.” Unbeknownst to fans, Swift also shared the name of the album in this announcement: “Midnights.”
In statistics, Taylor Swift has been nominated for a total of 47 Video Music Awards over the course of 15 years. She has won 14 of the awards she was nominated for. Swift has performed at five of the shows: “You Belong With Me” in 2009, “Innocent” in 2010, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in 2012, “Shake It Off” in 2014, and “You Need to Calm Down”/“Lover” in 2019. She is the only artist to have received Video of the Year three times, winning in 2015 for “Bad Blood [ft. Kendrick Lamar],” 2019 for “You Need to Calm Down,” and 2022 for “All Too Well: The Short Film.” If Swift were to win Video of the Year at the 2023 MTV VMAs, she would beat her own record for most wins. Swift won Best Female Video in 2009 (“You Belong With Me”), 2013 (“I Knew You Were Trouble”), and 2015 (“Blank Space”), but the Video Music Awards discontinued gendered video categories in 2017. Artist of the Year was introduced at the 2017 MTV VMAs, thus if Swift were to win in 2023, it would be her first time receiving the award.
Check back next week for a recap of these VMAs.