Swift released her fourth studio album, Red, on October 22, 2012. The album marked a change in Swift's musical style with the experimentation of heartland rock, dubstep and dance-pop. Red was a commercial success and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 1.21 million copies. This was the highest opening sales in a decade and ultimately made Swift the first woman to have two albums sell more than a million copies in their first week. To promote the album Swift embarked on the North American leg of her Red Tour, which ran from March to September 2013. The tour visited arenas and stadiums in North America, New Zealand, Australia, England, Germany and Asia. In the Red era, Swift's romantic life became the subject of intense media scrutiny. Gawker remarked that Swift had dated "every man in the universe." The New York Times asserted that her "dating history has begun to stir what feels like the beginning of a backlash" and questioned whether Swift was in the midst of a "quarter-life crisis." During both the Red Tour and media scrutiny, Swift began work on 1989.
Following the release of her fourth studio album, Red, and its corresponding tour, Swift was "six months deep in the songwriting process." In November 2013, the singer told Billboard: "There are probably seven or eight [songs] that I know I want on the record. It's already evolved into a new sound, and that's all I wanted." During the promotion for the album, Swift said that she "woke up every single day not wanting, but needing to make a new style of music than I'd ever made before". Swift explained in a January 2015 interview that she was "very proud" that she made a pop album because she "wanted to", and "there was no-one else influencing" her. Recording sessions for the album took place at Conway Studios in Los Angeles, Jungle City Studios in New York, Lamby's House Studios in Brooklyn, MXM Studios in Stockholm, Sweden; Pain In The Art Studio in Nashville, Studio Elevator Nobody in Göteborg, Sweden and The Hideaway Studio.
In February 2014, Swift confirmed she was again working with Martin and Shellback, with whom she had collaborated for the writing of three songs on Red. This time, they were writing "a lot more than three songs together." Swift's friend Jack Antonoff, with whom Swift had previously collaborated, and Ryan Tedder also worked on the album. Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced the songs "Out of the Woods", "I Wish You Would" and "You Are in Love", with the third track only appearing on the United States Target, Target Canada, and international deluxe version. The band Fine Young Cannibals was identified as an influence, by both Swift and Antonoff; the latter explained in September 2014:
The moment when we shifted from friendship into working together was when we were talking about the snare drum on Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy" ... Taylor [Swift] brought it up first, and I was like, "Holy shit, you're not going to believe this: I just sampled that snare in a track." I played her one second of it on my iPhone, and she was like, "Send me that track."
The track that Antonoff recorded on his iPhone eventually became "I Wish You Would", while Swift believes that the Fine Young Cannibals song is "timeless". Tedder co-wrote and co-produced two songs with Swift—"I Know Places" and "Welcome to New York"—after she contacted Tedder through a smartphone voice memo. The pair scheduled studio time on the day after Tedder received the memo and recorded "I Know Places".
In September 2014, Swift told Rolling Stone that one of the songs on the album was taken "straight from the pages of my journal"; although the name of the song is unknown, Swift mentioned "Out of the Woods" as part of her interview response. In regard to "Out of the Woods", Antonoff said: "Part of it reads like a diary, and parts of it read like something 100,000 people should be screaming all together. It's got these very big lines that everybody can relate to, which are given weight by her being really honest about personal things." "Out of the Woods" marked the first time that Swift had written a song over an existing track—Antonoff sent an early version of the song to Swift, who then added vocals and lyrics within a 30-minute time frame.
Swift first announced the album on August 18, 2014. She described it as her "first documented, official pop album", stating that she was inspired by late 1980s pop during the recording period. Musically, 1989 is a synthpop and dance-pop album that features more electronic production than her previous releases. The album contains drum programming and synthesizers provided by Martin, and the production is backed by a pulsating bass (Yamaha DX7), processed backing vocals, and guitars, the latter of which provide "texture", as described by Jem Aswad of Billboard, who states that "an acoustic [guitar] is audible on just one song."
Swift described 1989 as the most "sonically cohesive" studio album she has ever made. In an interview with Kiss FM (UK), Swift confirmed that the title was inspired by the music developed in her birth year, 1989, which she had re-discovered. In September, Swift told Rolling Stone magazine that Martin, New York City, her journal, Fine Young Cannibals and a sense of experimentation were the key influences underpinning the album. In relation to experimentation, Swift elaborated on the music of the 1980s:
It [the 1980s] was a very experimental time in pop music ... People realized songs didn't have to be this standard drums-guitar-bass-whatever. We can make a song with synths and a drum pad. We can do group vocals the entire song. We can do so many different things. And I think what you saw happening with music was also happening in our culture, where people were just wearing whatever crazy colors they wanted to, because why not? There just seemed to be this energy about endless opportunities, endless possibilities, endless ways you could live your life. And so with this record, I thought, "There are no rules to this. I don't need to use the same musicians I've used, or the same band, or the same producers, or the same formula. I can make whatever record I want."
Musically, 1989 was influenced by some of Swift's favorite 1980s pop acts, including Annie Lennox, Phil Collins and "'Like a Prayer'-era Madonna". The songwriter explained in an October 2014 television interview that, in terms of lyrics, she was inspired by the process of self-discovery that occurred during the two years prior to the release of 1989. Her songwriting was described as "unmistakably Swift", by Aswad, who noted Swift's "polysyllabic melodies and playful/-provocative lyrics". However, Aswad noted that Martin and other key collaborators helped Swift's lyrics become more "seasoned and subtle ... than in the past." The album's lyrical content, in accordance with Swift's signature style, is concerned with love and relationships, with an emphasis placed upon the complexities of both. Swift said her lyrical inspiration behind 1989 was John Hughes films.
The opening synthpop track "Welcome to New York" is Swift's tribute to the city that she relocated to in 2014, prior to the album release date. Lyrically, the song sees Swift supporting equality for the LGBT community. "Blank Space" is a minimalist electropop song. Many critics compared the song, which parodies Swift's recent exposure in the media—she was portrayed as "an overly attached man-eater who dates for songwriting material"—to the music of fellow pop artist Lorde. "Style" has been described as a pop rock, electropop, post-disco, and funk-pop song. NME wrote, "so '80s-indebted with its thick piano-house and uplifting 'Take me home' coda, echoes the retro-modern atmosphere conjured by the slinky cool of Electric Youth and Blood Orange.
"Out of the Woods" is a synthpop song, and the first song for which Swift wrote lyrics to a pre-existing track. Martin produced Swift's vocals for the song. Featuring heavy synths and percussion, Antonoff described that the song is given an arrangement that combines both 1980s and modern elements. A Yamaha DX7 is used for the 1980s-tinged sounds apparent on most parts of the song, but they are countered with the Minimoog Voyager during the chorus sections. "All You Had to Do Was Stay" was inspired by a dream of Swift's rather than a real-life romance. Swift recalled: "I was trying to talk to someone important ... And that's all that would come out of my mouth. I woke up so weirded out!" "Shake It Off" is an uptempo pop song with a sound that is in stark contrast to Swift's previous releases, and consists of a central saxophone line. Jason Lipshutz from Billboard compared the song's melody to that of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' song "Thrift Shop" (2013). Lyrically, the song is dedicated to Swift's detractors. Swift explained that, "I've learned a pretty tough lesson that people can say whatever they want about us at any time, and we cannot control that. The only thing we can control is our reaction to that."
"I Wish You Would" is another song that Swift wrote with Antonoff. Like "Out of the Woods", the song was written to a track Antonoff sampled and lyrically describes a boy who "[drives] past an ex-girlfriend's house and he thinks she hates him but she's still in love with him." The electropop song "Bad Blood" was written about an unnamed female musical artist; Swift says the artist attempted to sabotage one of her concert tours by hiring people who worked for her. "Wildest Dreams" is the ninth song in the album. The song features a recording of Swift's own heartbeat which serves as the beat of the song. "How You Get the Girl" was described by Swift as an "instruction manual for men". She told Us Weekly, "It's written for a guy who has broken up with his girlfriend, then wants her back after six months," and added, "but it's not going to be as simple as sending a text like, 'Sup? Miss you.'" "This Love" was originally a poem Swift wrote in late 2013 which evolved into the song. "I Know Places" features imagery of foxes representing Swift and her lover being pursued by "hunters", the media. Swift has once said her spirit animal is a fox for the same reason. "Clean" describes Swift ridding herself of a metaphorical addiction; it is interpreted as the singer casting off relationships in favor of self-enlightenment.
The deluxe version of the album, available in Target stores in the US and through iTunes distribution internationally, features the following three additional tracks: "Wonderland", "You Are in Love", and "New Romantics", plus three voice memos describing the production of "Blank Space", "I Wish You Would", and "I Know Places". As with Swift's previous albums, each song on the standard album is accompanied by a short "secret message", encoded in capitalized or decapitalized letters within the album's lyric book. In 1989, the secret messages, each corresponding to a track on the album, form a thirteen-sentence story:
We begin our story in New York. There once was a girl known by everyone and no one. Her heart belonged to someone who couldn't stay. They loved each other recklessly. They paid the price. She danced to forget him. He drove past her street each night. She made friends and enemies. He only saw her in his dreams. Then one day he came back. Timing is a funny thing. And everyone was watching. She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything.
"Wonderland" makes frequent allusions to the novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and is known for a "bass drop" in the first chorus. It was released as a promotional single in the US on February 17, 2015; the other two bonus tracks are also planned to become singles. "You Are In Love" describes a happy, if surreal, relationship. "New Romantics" is the final song on the deluxe album; its name references the New Romanticism movement. Thematically, the song resembles "Shake It Off", as it addresses popular criticism of Swift and her fans.
On August 18, 2014, Swift premiered the album's lead single, "Shake It Off", which was cowritten with Martin and Shellback, and produced by Martin and Shellback. The music video, directed by Mark Romanek, was also premiered during the live stream. It features professional dancers, Swift, and several fans picked from Instagram, Twitter, and fan letters she received. The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and remained for four weeks.
On October 21, 2014, Swift accidentally released the track "Track 3", under the album's name, due to an iTunes glitch. The track, which consisted of 8 seconds of white noise, topped the Canadian iTunes chart. It was subsequently removed.
Swift's second single from 1989, "Blank Space", appeared on the Mainstream Top 40, Rhythmic Top 40, and Hot AC radio on November 10. The music video for the song was leaked on the same day by Yahoo!, after which time Swift released the video on Vevo—Yahoo! pulled their version offline after Swift's prompt response. "Blank Space" went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed for seven weeks, making Swift's longest chart-leader to date.
"Style" was released as the third single from 1989 on February 9, 2015 according to the Big Machine sister/affiliate label Republic Records, which used the term "impacts" to signify the Hot AC release. The music video for the track was released on February 13, 2015, featuring Swift in the woods and having various flashbacks about her and her boyfriend, played by Dominic Sherwood. "Style" peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.
Both the fourth single "Bad Blood" and its music video were released on May 17, 2015, with the latter premiering at the opening of the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. The music video features many of Swift's friends including Karlie Kloss, Lena Dunham and Selena Gomez, while the single is actually a remix collaboration with hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar, who also appears in the video. The music video also includes Lily Aldridge, Zendaya, Hayley Williams, Gigi Hadid, Ellie Goulding, Hailee Steinfeld, Jessica Alba, Serayah, Martha Hunt, Ellen Pompeo, Mariska Hargitay, Cara Delevingne and Cindy Crawford, all of whom chose their individual character’s name and persona. "Bad Blood" peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
"Wildest Dreams" was released as the fifth single from 1989. A slight remix of the song officially impacted Adult Contemporary radio on August 31, 2015 and Mainstream radio on September 1, 2015. The music video for the song premiered at the 2015 MTV VMA's on August 30, 2015, and was directed by Joseph Kahn. "Wildest Dreams" peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
In December 2015, Billboard magazine reported that "Out of the Woods" would serve as the sixth official single. The accompanying music video premiered on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest on ABC on December 31, 2015. It was released to radio on February 5, 2016. "Out of the Woods" peaked at number 18 on the Hot 100 after being released as a promotional single in 2014.
"New Romantics" was released to contemporary hit radio on February 23, 2016 as the seventh and final single from the album. The music video was uploaded to Vevo and YouTube on April 13, 2016, and features various clips from The 1989 World Tour. "New Romantics" is the lowest peaking single from 1989, peaking at number 46 on the Hot 100 in April 2016.
Swift began teasing an announcement in August 2014. On August 4, she posted a video on Instagram in which she pushes the number 18 in an elevator. On August 6, she tweeted an image of the time "5:00", and the next day a screenshot from a Yahoo! homepage. She then unveiled the album cover, a Polaroid picture with "T. S. 1989" written underneath.
The first single from the album, "Shake It Off", was revealed during a worldwide live video stream hosted by Swift in partnership with Yahoo! on August 18—Swift said during the stream that she was told it was the first-ever global stream of its kind. A live studio audience was also present, as Swift spoke about 1989 and the two-year writing and recording process. An audio stream of the album was made available in on the same date as the worldwide video stream, and consumers could pre-order 1989 after the stream was taken down. As part of the 1989 promotional campaign the next month, Swift invited fans to secret album-listening sessions, called the "1989 Secret Sessions", at her houses in New York, Nashville, Los Angeles and Rhode Island, as well as in her hotel room in London. Swift conceived of the idea and the L.A. session was held on September 22.
The album was released on October 27, 2014 in the US, with a standard 13-track edition released to retailers and digital download sites, while a deluxe edition, including three extra songs and three voice memos, was released exclusively by Target in the United States and Canada. In Germany and the United Kingdom, the album was also released to wide retail and digital download—both were the standard 13-track edition—while the deluxe edition was released on the same day. However, the album leaked online a few days before its official release. In line with the album's visual theme, and to boost CD sales, Big Machine decided to include 13 of 65 collectible printed "polaroids" with every physical copy of 1989. Scott Borchetta, the record label's founder, claims that the idea came from Swift and her team. The ploy reportedly boosted Polaroid Corporation's ailing sales.
In order to promote the album, Swift released "Out of the Woods" as a countdown single from the album on October 14, 2014. The following week, "Welcome to New York" was released as the second countdown single on October 20, 2014. On October 28, Starbucks announced "This Love" as their Pick of the Week, offering a free iTunes download to customers.
On February 17, 2015, Swift announced that the deluxe edition songs of 1989, which were released to Target and internationally last October, will be making its way to the Apple retailer, one song at a time. "Wonderland" was released on the same day, via iTunes Stores, as a digital download single from the deluxe edition of the album. "You Are in Love" and "New Romantics" joined the track on the platform on February 24, 2015 and March 4, 2015, respectively.
The album's supporting tour, The 1989 World Tour, began on May 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. The first stage of the tour visited Europe and North America, before ending in Australia in December 2015. Australian artist Vance Joy supported Swift during the North American, European and Australian dates, while Shawn Mendes appeared at select North American shows. Singer-songwriter James Bay was announced as the opening act for the German and Dutch dates in mid-January 2015, while Californian band HAIM was announced as an opening act for select US shows on February 1, 2015. The tour was also famous for Swift's surprise guests including Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Lorde, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Roberts, Fetty Wap, Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake, OMI, Wiz Khalifa, Steven Tyler, Keith Urban, Mick Jagger, Miranda Lambert and many more, on most dates of the North America shows.
1989 received mostly positive reviews from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, it received an average score of 76, based on 29 reviews. Writing for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield wrote, "Deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic, 1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing she's ever tried before." In The Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick said, "The immediate impression is slick; candyfloss cheerleading, full of American fizz." Alexis Petridis from The Guardian says the album "deals in undeniable melodies and huge, perfectly turned choruses and nagging hooks. Its sound is a lovingly done reboot of the kind of late 80s MTV pop-rock exemplified by Jane Wiedlin's Rush Hour." Jon Caramanica from The New York Times remarked that Swift was "making pop with almost no contemporary references" and "aiming somewhere even higher, a mode of timelessness that few true pop stars even bother aspiring to."
Mikael Wood was less enthusiastic in his review for the Los Angeles Times, calling 1989 "a deeply catchy, sleekly-produced pop record with the slightly juiceless quality of an authorized biography, a would-be tell-all bleached of the detailed insight [Swift]'s trained us to expect from her." Writing for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine accused Swift of being aloof in celebrating temporal pop subjects on what he felt was an attempt to record "a sparkling soundtrack to an aspirational lifestyle".
1989 was included in several year-end lists. Rolling Stone ranked the album at number ten on their Best of 2015 list, saying "America's sweetheart has been writing perfect pop tunes since the day she hit Nashville." Jon Caramanica of The New York Times ranked 1989 at number seven on his top ten albums list. Caramanica praised her country to pop transition, saying "This album’s biggest accomplishment is that in shifting from making the sort of music no one had really made before to making the sort of music many have made, Ms. Swift retained her self." It was the best album of the year for Billboard, commenting "Many artists have attempted the sea change that Swift accomplished on 1989, but few have rendered that vision as successfully." Pitchfork Media placed the album 31 on its year-end list. Time staff ranked the album at number four on their "Top 10 Best Albums" of 2014, concluding "Country’s premiere princess is now pop’s heir apparent." For Complex it was the eighth best album of 2014, stating "This is Swift the risk-taker, the new arrival who's brought with her a suitcase, a willingness to experiment, and a bit of confidence to do it her way."
1989 received awards in the 2014 Billboard Music Awards and "Bad Blood" won Video of the Year at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards with "Blank Space" also winning Best Female Video. An app, American Express Unstaged: Taylor Swift Experience, was released alongside the "Blank Space" video as a 360° experience. The app won the Emmy for Original Interactive Program at the 2015 ceremony, giving Swift her first Emmy Award. 1989 won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 58th Grammy Awards, making Swift the first female artist to win twice with her own works. The album also won Best Pop Vocal Album, while "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space" were both nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. 1989 also won Album of the Year at the 3rd iHeartRadio Music Awards.
Predictions for the first week sales of 1989 in United States were continuously revised upwards, starting from 750,000 copies to 1.3 million. The album eventually sold 1,287,000 copies during the first week of release in the US, debuting atop the Billboard 200 chart. Additional copies were sold for US$0.99 through a Microsoft promotion but were not included in the total due to a Nielsen SoundScan policy of not including sales priced under $3.99 within the first four weeks of a release. The album's performance broke Swift's own personal sales record, and became the 19th album to sell over one million copies in a single week since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. It was the seventh-highest sales week in history, and the highest sales week since 2002, when Eminem's The Eminem Show sold 1.3 million units. Swift also became the first artist to release three albums that sold one million or more copies within a single week.
The album remained at the top spot of the Billboard 200 during the second and third week of release, surpassing 2 million copies sold. In its fourth week, the album was replaced by One Direction's Four, but returned to number one again for the fourth time in its fifth week. The album sold 200,000 or more copies in each of the 10 successive weeks after release, a feat last achieved by Usher's Confessions in 2004. 1989 eventually sold over 3,660,000 copies in 2014 and was the best-selling album in the US that year, ahead of Coldplay's Ghost Stories (745,000 copies).
During the week ending January 18, 2015, the album sales surpassed 4 million copies. 1989 is the first album to sell four million copies in the US since the week ending February 23, 2014, when Red crossed the four-million mark. By early February 2015, in its 15th week of release, 1989 had topped the US chart for eleven non-consecutive weeks, establishing Swift as the female artist with the second-highest number of total weeks, with 35 weeks, in the number-one Billboard position for all of her albums—Whitney Houston's record total of 46 weeks at number one remained intact. It spent a total of 24 consecutive weeks inside the top five of the Billboard 200, making it one of the nine albums to spend their first 24 weeks in the top five since 1963. On March 13, 2015, Billboard announced that 1989 had outsold both of her previous two albums in the US after 19 weeks of release. On October 27, 2015, the album became the fifth album to spend its first year of release in the top 10 of the Billboard 200. It remained in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 until its 54th week of release. By early 2017, 1989 has sold more than six million copies in the US.
In Canada, the album debuted at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling 107,000 copies. In its second week, the album remained at number one with sales of 37,000, bringing its two-week sales total to 144,000 copies. It went on to become Canada's best-selling album of the year, having sold 314,000 copies. In the UK, 1989 sold 90,000 in its first week and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart. It became her second number-one album in the UK, following Red (2012), and was the fastest-selling female solo album in 2014. To date, the album has sold 1.03 million copies in the UK. According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, 1989 sold 6 million copies in 2014 and 3.5 million copies in 2015, meaning that the album sold a total of 9.5 million copies during both years.
Notes^a signifies a vocal producer
^b signifies an additional producer
Credits are adapted from liner notes of 1989.