How Taylor Swift's 1989 Became Everyone's Best Friend

The internet is celebrating the first birthday of Taylor's fifth studio album as if it was a real person

By Natalie Finn Oct 27, 2015 8:12 PMTags
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Happy birthday, Tayl-...! Oh wait, it's not Taylor Swift's birthday?

(Hmph, hardly. She's a Sagittarius, thank you very much.)

No, today is actually 1989's birthday. That's right, the Internet is partying like it's 1999 because 1989 turns 1 today.

"1989 came out 1 year ago today. It's been the best year of my life. I love you guys. #HappyBirthday1989," Swift tweeted this morning, acknowledging but hardly instigating the hullabaloo. Her post was accompanied by the newly viral version of the now-iconic, Polaroid-reviving 1989 cover, now featuring a birthday cupcake and a party horn.

So how did we get here? Not that the act of celebrating albums and paying tribute and homage to them isn't a practice as old as dirt (or old as turntables, anyway). Art stays alive by the way we remember it, be it every five years, 10 years, 50 years and, presumably in years to come unless the alien overlords say differently, the centenaries of "Hound Dog," Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Thriller and Nevermind will be marked. (Oh, but surely even the alien overlords will be Beatles fans.)

But how did it come about that we're celebrating 1989, one year after its release, as if it were a living, breathing, real person?

Well, perhaps because this particular set of 13 songs almost instantaneously became every listener's best friend upon arrival. Practically from the moment they met, so to speak.

Taylor Swift's previous four albums were all considered intimate forays into her soul, or at least her diary, so why did 1989, which in a simplistic way could be considered more of the same, leave such a deep impression?

For starters, 1989 cemented Taylor's crossover to all-pop after her emergence nine years ago as a country artist. If she had any semblance of a shell, she burst out of it with this LP.

From the second she introduced the album's first single, "Shake It Off," to the masses with a livestreamed dance party on Aug. 18, 2014, there was something different about the whole vibe, a freshness and fierceness that would ultimately come to define the album's entire young life to date, as well as her fans' response to it.

So we had "Shake It Off" to bounce around to for a few months, then the whole thing dropped on Oct. 27, 2014. And what a day it was.

We couldn't get to iTunes fast enough to get that business into our cloud, T.Swift albums being among those we still buy as a whole, to be listened to from start to finish before we put certain tunes into our latest on-repeat playlist.

And if that's how the average fan who's never actually reached out to Taylor Swift via tweet, email, letter, smoke signal, handmade gift or other super-fan method reacts to Day 1 of a new release, imagine how insta-bonded the Swifties felt.

1989 went on to sell 1.287 million copies that first week en route to becoming the best-selling album of 2014 after coming out when the year was practically over.

The frenzy only continued in 2015, meanwhile, the adoration overflowing every time a new single was released (we're at five now, all mega-hits) despite us knowing all the words by heart anyway.

Sure, there were the usual moments of mystery on the album, with tunes like "Style" and "Bad Blood" piquing the interest of those who prefer their Swift songs to come with a particular narrative along with the general one that magically makes nearly every Taylor tune applicable to our own lives.

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

1989 also transcended the music on the album, seemingly single-handedly spawning #squadgoals (well, nobody's perfect) and siring a cottage industry of mutual admiration societies as celeb after celeb swore allegiance to Taylor and she worshipped right back.

And this past year more than ever, from the viral video of Taylor's fans freaking out when she surprised them with personally delivered holiday presents (you know, the video of people crying that totally made you cry), to her decision to open up about her own mom's cancer battle, to her leaving Spotify Switfless and standing up to Apple Music (and winning), to her owning the VMAs, this has been the year of The Taylor.

Perhaps 1989 was just along for the ride on what proved to be Swift's most culture-dominating year yet. But actually its release heralded what would be her real debut as an adult artist, one who still has that girlish obsession with the guys and friends who've wronged her but who also embraced her own space ("Welcome to New York"), learned how to make fun of herself ("Blank Space"), flexed her muscle (the assemblage for the "Bad Blood" video, let alone all those concert cameos) and stayed true to her ripped-from-the-journal roots ("All You Had to Do Was Stay," "Wildest Dreams," et al).

1989 symbolized Taylor growing up and, since her millions of fans couldn't call or text her on the daily for updates and advice, the bonding and shared experience occurred through the album. So with that in mind...

Can you believe our girl is 1?