Taylor Swift returned to the 2019 Video Music Awards Monday – nearly 10 years to the day since Kanye West’s controversial stage-crashing onstage moment – with a performance that celebrated her new album “Lover” by giving its title track an onstage debut.
Under a huge rainbow, backed by a diverse cast of dancers, Swift started at the middle of her second single “You Need to Calm Down,” getting to her “shade never made anybody less gay” line right away, before donning a blazer and guitar and walking down the catwalk to perform her “Lover” title track.
The performance was a fitting encapsulation of Swift’s “Lover” promo cycle, big and flashy with her first two singles (“ME!” and “You Need to Calm Down”) and the more subdued, songwriter-oriented feel of “The Archer” and “Lover,” all of which were released before her new album finally dropped on Aug. 23.
USA TODAY praised Swift’s new album and “how openly Swift revels in her youth” on the 18-track collection of largely joyful songs.
Swift stepped out on the VMAs red carpet in head-to-toe Versace, modeling a colorful blazer dress over a pink sequined leotard, paired with thigh-high black boots.
Review: Taylor Swift is a kid again on ‘Lover,’ a big, messy embrace of a new album
‘You Need to Calm Down’ wins big
Later in the show, Swift took home the Video for Good award for “You Need to Calm Down,” taking the stage with a crew of colorfully-clad associates as her video co-star Todrick Hall gave the speech.
“I grew up in the small town of Plainview, Texas, and my entire life, all I wanted to be was Ariel from The Little Mermaid,” Todrick said with Swift at his side, according to MTV. “I put a red towel on my head and tied my legs together and jumped in a pool, almost drowned — and after that, people started to tell me the things I could not do and could not accomplish in the world.”
Swift’s single also won video of the year. Again surrounded by her video co-stars, Swift reminded viewers “this is a fan-voted award.”
“So you voting for this video means that you want a world where we’re all treated equally under the law, regardless of who we love, regardless of how we identify,” she said.
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Swift also shouted out her petition for the Equality Act at the end of the video, “which now has half a million signatures, which is five times the amount it would need to warrant a response from the White House.”
“My cast lived their lives so authentically, thank you for being the example you are, I love you so much. Thank you to MTV for lifting up this point in this video,” she finished.