A Celebration of Every Awesome Thing Taylor Swift Did This Past Year

While we were all baking banana bread and binging Tiger King, Taylor Swift was recording albums(!), gifting money like it was going out of style and refusing to keep her thoughts to herself.

By Sarah Grossbart Mar 14, 2021 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Beyonce & Taylor Swift Lead 2021 Grammy Nominations

If you were to make a list of your year's accomplishment that didn't include baking banana bread, finishing off the rest of Schitt's Creek and simply getting through it all relatively unscathed, did you even 2020? 

With the spring arrival of COVID-19, we all embraced the art of Hygge, got intimately familiar with Netflix's slate of programming from our couches and discovered the various ways to disinfect groceries. And while we were putting together makeshift Tiger King costumes and debating if we could even bother with the sourdough craze, Taylor Swift was baking cinnamon rolls, drinking wine and musing about the fact that there was "Not a lot going on at the moment." 

Which, of course, meant that she was putting the finishing touches on her 8th studio album, folklore

"Surprise," she wrote in the Insta announcement. "Tonight at midnight I'll be releasing my entire brand new album of songs I've poured all of my whims, dreams, fears, and musings into."

Fascinating Facts About Taylor Swift

And the unexpected 17-track July release wasn't the only major project Swift has undertaken since she partied like it was 2019 (as in, outside of her home, with other people around) to celebrate her 30th birthday last December. 

With contract restrictions lifted Nov. 1, the musician has been back in the studio busily re-recording her first five albums, the ones sold off in a $300 million deal that anyone reading this is presumably extremely well-versed in. Or, as Swift reiterated in a Nov. 22 post, "not a lot going on at the moment." 

We should have known then, really, that Dec. 10 would bring another Swift surprise, the 10-time Grammy winner releasing her ninth studio album, evermore, because, as she explained in her Insta reveal, "To put it plainly, we just couldn't stop writing songs."

A "sister record" to folklore, she intended it as a birthday gift to fans, a way to celebrate turning 31, an inverse of her lucky 13. 


Clearly the good juju has left the singer feeling extra generous. She's been paying off GoFundMe balances, dropping charity donations like she's Swiftie Claus and racking up an eye-popping six Grammy nods, folklore getting nods in all the major categories. Fairly standard Swift fare, TBH. All the while, she's been using the voice she first reclaimed with her 2018 call to vote and her LGBTQ+ anthem, "You Need to Calm Down," and then more recently in her refreshingly honest Miss Americana doc.

"I think when your public opinions on things are known, it makes me feel like my fans are able to know me more," she explained to People last year of her ongoing work to highlight discrimination. "It feels like what I believe in and what people know I believe in are aligned."

So as we wait to see if the pop sensation will score big at the Grammys Mar. 14 and just what tracks she might perform, we're getting the celebration started early by recognizing all the joy she's brought this year as we all tried to make our way out of the woods. Swifties, are you ...ready for it? 

Enjoyed a Golden night out.

Yes, we get that Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn would rather keep their love story private ("Knowing him and being in the relationship I am in now, I have definitely made decisions that have made my life feel more like a real life and less like just a storyline," she recently told Paul McCartney in a chat for Rolling Stone), but any time we get to see these two out in the wild, it's worthy of celebration. Of course, us mere mortals weren't able to hobnob at the Jan. 5, 2020 Golden Globes (where both Swift's Cats song and Alwyn's film Harriet were up for awards), but E! News did get the deets on their post-ceremony celebrations

Shook off every last hater.

Turns out her 2018 endorsement of Democratic Senate nominee Phil Bredesen was just the beginning of a new, outspoken Swift. After years of presenting a carefully cultivated image, the 10-time Grammy winner used her Jan. 31, 2020 release Taylor Swift: Miss Americana to open up about everything from the constant scrutiny of her appearance that led her to develop disordered eating habits to just how hard she worked to be a people pleaser, concealing her real feelings lest someone happen to not agree with them. 

Now, she shared in the Netflix doc, whether it's her liberal slant on politics or how she felt taking the stand to detail being groped by a radio DJ, she's done keeping it to herself. "I feel really good about not feeling muzzled anymore and it was my own doing," she said in the film. "There's nothing that feels better than this moment."

Delivered a new power anthem.

A searing indictment of the sexism that runs rampant, well, everywhere, Swift's second Lover single, "The Man," addressed the continued double standards in the music industry and beyond. And Swift wrote, directed and transformed herself into a frankly awful dude for the video's February 2020 release to show how if she was a man, then she'd be the man. Which, snaps all around for that messaging. 

Played COVID Santa Claus

Having already donated $1 million to the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund in response to the devastating tornadoes that rocked Nashville Mar. 3, 2020, Swift spent the rest of the spring spreading her considerable wealth around to help those financially devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether gifting $3,000 to a fan struggling to pay rent, sending a care package to a nurse on the front lines or helping a teen pay her way through college, the musician leaned hard into her largesse and we stan a generous queen.

Gifted us the sound of music.

As we were all climbing our walls due to stay-at-home orders, Swift joined other musicians intent on doing what they do best: Entertain us. During last April's One World: Together at Home concert special, raising upwards of $35 million for coronavirus relief efforts, she hit us in the feels with a just-try-not-to-cry rendition of Lover's "Soon You'll Get Better." And on May 17, she dropped her "Taylor Swift City of Lover Concert," using footage from her September 2019 show in Paris. 

For her final performance, she took part in June's "Dear Class of 2020" livestream on YouTube, telling graduates about how she received her high school diploma in the mail. "I guess one good lesson to come from it," she said, "is, expect the unexpected but celebrate anyway."

Took an unequivocal stand.

Muzzle firmly removed and her Miss Americana declaration to be "on the right side of history" in mind, Swift joined the chorus of voices this summer reminding Americans that #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others.

Calling on Tennessee politicians to remove monuments of "white supremacist newspaper editor" Edward Carmack and KKK grand wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest ("Taking down statues isn't going to fix centuries of systemic oppression, violence and hatred that Black people have had to endure but it might bring us one small step closer to making ALL Tennesseans and visitors to our state feel safe—not just the white ones"), she also urged her fans to fight discrimination at the ballot box.  

"Racial injustice has been ingrained deeply into local and state governments, and changes MUST be made there," she wrote in a June 9 tweet. "In order for policies to change, we need to elect people who will fight against police brutality and racism of any kind. #BlackLivesMatter."

Reminded everyone they shouldn't be mad when they can be GLAAD.

Taking part in Pride Live's Stonewall Day livestream event June 26, GLAAD Media's Vanguard Award recipient once again stressed the need to vote, pointing to the 2020 Census as a particular issue. "There were two choices for gender. There was male and female and that erasure was so upsetting to me, the erasure of transgender and nonbinary people," she reflected. "When you don't collect information on a group of people, that means that you have every excuse in the world not to support them. When you don't collect data on a community, that's a really, really brutal way of dismissing them."  

But she intends to use her immeasurably powerful platform to keep such issues at the forefront. "I just believe very firmly that everyone should be able to live out their love story without the fear of discrimination," Swift said while accepting the Icon Award at the Virgin Atlantic Attitude Awards in December, "and the way for that to happen is for us to continue to keep pushing governments to put protections in place for members of the LGBTQ community. And I promise to always advocate for that."

Dropped one of 2020's best surprise twists.

Forced to cancel her concerts and slow down for a stretch, the singer-songwriter suddenly found herself awash with creativity. The result: July's folklore, an alternative album she described as both "wistful and full of escapism" and "sad, beautiful, tragic," released just 11 months after her seventh disc, Lover

"In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness," she explained in an Instagram post of the disc only her team, family and boyfriend knew about. "Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory. I've told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve."

In late November—as her six Grammy nominations were announced—Swift came up with another surprise, dropping her new film folklore: the long pond studio sessions on Disney+ and allowing fans a glimpse of the intimate recording session she and Jack Antonoff held at Aaron Dessner's Long Pond studio in Hudson Valley, New York. 

Got out the vote—again.

In case you weren't already sobbing from the campaign video featuring her track "Only The Young," Swift got us one last time ahead of the Nov. 3, 2020 presidential election, taking to Twitter with a necessary reminder. "Allow me to be the one millionth person to remind you that tomorrow is your last chance to get your voice heard and to make your vote count," she said in the 30-second clip. "So if you haven't voted yet, please do." 

Made our wildest dreams come true.

Few things are more baller than nabbing a huge award but being unable to collect it because you're already on to your next big thing. Such was the case when Swift was named Artist of the Year at the American Music Awards for the sixth time (and third in a row!) Nov. 22. 

"This is a fan-voted award, which means so much to me. You guys have been beyond wonderful all the years of my career, but especially this one, when we've been so far apart, we haven't been able to see each other in concert, but I still feel really connected to you through the music," she said while accepting the trophy virtually. "The reason I'm not there tonight is I'm actually re-recording all of my old music, in the studio where we originally recorded it so it's been amazing, and I can't wait for you to hear it." 

Inadvertently started a major rumor.

When the musician released a re-recorded clip of her 2008 track "Love Story" for a Match ad dreamed up by pal Ryan Reynolds' production company, Swifties were certain she was singing, "Baby, just said yes." A slight, and yet monumental, tweak of the original lyric, it did seem like a fitting way for Easter egg-loving Swift to reveal that Alwyn, her boyfriend of four years, had proposed. 

Alas, it turns out that "say" and "said" sound super similar, as a source told E! News the verse wasn't changed. And when Swift's sit-down with Entertainment Weekly dropped days later, she was quoted referring to the British actor as her boyfriend

OMG, she did it again.

Just when we all thought her tongue-in-cheek "not a lot going on at the moment" was a nod to her work re-recording her masters...Swift went ahead and dropped her ninth album, evermore, Dec. 11, just five months after the eighth.

A companion piece to folklore, "I've never done this before," she shared. "In the past I've always treated albums as one-off eras and moved onto planning the next one after an album was released. There was something different with folklore. In making it, I felt less like I was departing and more like I was returning. I loved the escapism I found in these imaginary/not imaginary tales. I loved the ways you welcomed the dreamscapes and tragedies and epic tales of love lost and found into your lives. So I just kept writing them." 

Besides, she needed a way to celebrate the lucky 3-1. "You've all been so caring, supportive and thoughtful on my birthdays," she explained, "and so this time I thought I would give you something!" Taylor, you shouldn't have, but we're so glad you did. 

(This story was originally published on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 at 3 p.m. PT.)

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