Taylor Swift was named Woman of the Decade during this year’s 2019 Women in Music Event on Thursday night — which was also, appropriately enough, the eve of her 30th birthday. Describing that past 10 years as a “…magnificent, happy-free, confused, sometimes lonely but mostly golden decade,” Swift talked about how her career has been shaped by critics, her ongoing fight for artists to retain control of their own music, and the future of female members of the music industry.
Swift was presented with the award by actor and activist Jameela Jamil, with newcomer Billie Eilish named Billboard’s Woman of the Year, an honour that Swift has received twice. Swift opened her speech by saying that being named the Woman of the Decade means she’s ‘seen a lot.’
“I saw that people love to explain away a woman’s success in the music industry, and I saw something in me change due to this realization. This was the decade when I became a mirror for my detractors. Whatever they decided I couldn’t do is exactly what I did….Whatever they criticized about me became material for musical satires or inspirational anthems, and the best lyrical examples I can think of are songs like ‘Mean,’ ‘Shake It Off,’ and ‘Blank Space.’ Basically if people had something to say about me, I usually said something back in my own way.”
Swift said she worked tirelessly to perfect her vocals, improve her performance stamina, and wrote her third studio album Speak Now on her own to prove to all the critics that she was enough. “I didn’t know then that soon enough people would decide on something else I wasn’t quite doing right, and then the circle would keep going on and on and rolling along and I would keep accommodating, over-correcting, in an effort to appease my critics,” said Swift, who noted the years she spent single because headlines said she dated too much.
“In the last 10 years I have watched as women in this industry are criticized and measured up to each other and picked at for their bodies, their romantic lives, their fashion. Have you ever heard someone say about a male artist, I really like his songs but I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about him I don’t like? No,” said Swift, adding “That criticism is reserved for us!”
Swift praised Lana Del Rey as an artist who continued making art despite the intense criticism she received early in her career. Swift also listed off some of her favourite new artists whom she believes are changing the face and sound of music, adding that women aren’t given the luxury of coasting but must continue to push harder than their male counterparts. “I see that fire in the newer faces in our music industry whose work I absolutely love,” said Swift, who listed off Lizzo, Rosalia, Hayley Kiyoko, King Princess, Camila Cabello, Halsey, Megan Thee Stallion, Princess Nokia, Nina Nesbitt, Sigrid, Normani, H.E.R., Maggie Rogers, Becky G, Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, Billie Eilish and more.
Calling herself the ‘resident loud person,’ Swift said the latest shift in the music industry is one that has affected her personally, specifically “…the unregulated world of private equity coming in and buying up our music as if it is real estate. As if it’s an app or a shoe line.”
Speaking candidly about Scooter Braun buying Swift’s former label and gaining control over her music discography, Swift said she was denied the chance to purchase her music and was never consulted by the investors who helped Braun make the deal. Swift also said that Braun has never contacted her or her team to discuss the sale. Swift didn’t hold back in her feelings towards Braun, adding “And let me just say that the definition of the toxic male privilege in our industry is people saying, ‘But he’s always been nice to me,’ when I’m raising valid concerns about artists and their rights to own their music. And of course he’s nice to you. If you’re in this room, you have something he needs.”
Announcing that she won’t go willingly, Swift found the silver lining in her new situation, which is the support she’s received from other female artists. “The most amazing thing was to discover that it would be the women in our industry who would have my back and show me the most vocal support at one of the most difficult times, and I will never ever forget it. Like, ever.”