Taylor Swift passes Michael Jackson as most awarded singer at the AMAs

Lyndsey Parker
Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music

Taylor Swift now has more American Music Awards than anyone else in pop history.

Swift was already the American Music Awards’ most-decorated female artist, a record she set at last year’s ceremony, surpassing Whitney Houston. This Sunday, after Lover — Swift’s first album since leaving the Big Machine Label Group — picked up an AMAs trophy for Best Pop/Rock Album, Swift became the most-awarded recording artist in AMAs history, beating the previous record of 24 wins set by Michael Jackson.

In the lead-up to the 2019 American Music Awards, Taylor Swift, recipient of the AMAs’ first-ever Artist of the Decade honour, feuded on social media with Big Machine label head Scott Borchetta and his new partner Scooter Braun, claiming that they were trying to stop her from performing a career-spanning medley of her hits at this year’s ceremony.

While everyone from Halsey and Selena Gomez to Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez jumped to Swift’s defence, Borchetta and Braun both denied Swift’s allegations in official statements — with Braun even complaining that Swift’s rallying of her millions of devotees on social media had resulted in his family receiving death threats.

Taylor Swift accepts the award for artist of the decade at the American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

So, when Swift finally accepted her career-achievement award at Los Angeles’s Microsoft Theater on Sunday, everyone was wondering what sort of statement she would make, and if more drama would ensue.

But other than opening her performance with a surely-not-coincidental snippet of the pointed Lover track “The Man” (key lyrics: “I'm so sick of running as fast as I can/Wondering if I'd get there quicker if I was a man/And I'm so sick of them coming at me again/'Cause if I was a man/Then I'd be the man”), and a line in her acceptance speech about only wanting to “create something that will last,” Swift avoided the Borchetta/Braun controversy.

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Instead, she kept it neutral and classy with a performance that began with an introduction by her role model Carole King and climaxed with a beautiful ballet routine by Misty Copeland and Craig Hall. 

“Over the years, I've known some great songwriters, and I've also known some great singers and performers. It's rare to see all those talents in one person, but that defines Taylor Swift,” said King.

“She is one of the only modern pop artists whose name appears as the sole songwriter in her song credits. Her lyrics resonate across the generations. Her songs touch everyone. And her impact around the world is extraordinary. The past decade has been incredible for this brilliant artist. And the best is yet to come.”

Starting her medley in a white smock shirt stencilled with her album titles before revealing her fringed gold bodysuit with a flourish, Swift breezed through four Big Machine-era catalog hits: “Love Story” (from 2008’s Fearless), a deconstructed electro remake of “I Knew You Were Trouble” (from 2012’s Red), and 1989’s “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off,” the latter accompanied by her cheerleading gal pals Camila Cabello and Halsey.

But the real highlight came when Swift donned a gauzy pink cape and sat at her gilt piano for the dreamy, Mazzy Star-like waltz “Lover,” while Copeland and Hall executed a breathtaking couple’s dance.

Swift made no mention of the previous weeks’ brouhaha in her gracious acceptance speech, instead devoting most of her podium time to praising King.

“My parents are here tonight,” Swift told King, as the cameras panned to Swift’s teary-eyed mother, Andrea. “And you know, they would listen to Tapestry and all your records in high school, then they took them with them and packed them up to college with them.

Taylor Swift, winner of the artist of the decade award, performs a medley at the American Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“When they met and got their own house, they took those records with them, and played those records for me and my brother. When I found that music, it was right around the time I realised how marvellous it was that an artist could transcend so many different changes and phases in lives. So, you taught me that that was a possibility.”

Swift continued: “I guess what I'm trying to say is that all any of the artists, or really anyone in this room, wants is to create something that will last. Whatever it is in life. And the fact that this is an award that celebrates a decade of hard work and of art and of fun and memories, all that matters to me is the memories that I have had with you guys — with you, the fans — over the years.

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“Guys, we've had fun, incredible, exhilarating, extraordinary times together. And may it continue. Thank you for being the reason why I am on this stage, from the very first day of my career until tonight. I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for everything. Thank you, AMAs. Just thank you. I'm so lucky to get to do this.”

Swift alluded to her troubles a bit more in a speech later in the night, when she accepted the award for Artist of the Year. “I really don't have anything articulate to say. Just the fact that the last year of my life has had some of the most amazing times and also some of the just hardest things I've gone through in my life,” she said. 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 24: Taylor Swift attends the 2019 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/AMA2019/Getty Images for dcp)

“And not a lot of them are things that haven't been public. And I wanted to thank you so much for being the thing that has been a constant in my life. Like, this industry is really weird. ... You feel like your stock is up or down, or people like you or they don't, or you're feeling bad about yourself. But the people that hang in there for you are the ones that you will never forget. ... I don't know what I'm talking about, other than the fact that this year for me has been a lot — a lot of good, a lot of really complicated. And so on behalf of my family and me, thank you so much for being there. And for caring.”