Anticipation was high for Taylor Swift's Artist of the Decade performance at the 2019 American Music Awards on Sunday night, but the singer kept it drama-free for the moment that was always meant to just be a celebration of her career.
Following a high-octane video package touting Swift's remarkable accomplishments, Carole King introduced Swift's performance, which was comprised of a medley of her decade of hits.
The singer opened the medley with "The Man," which is a non-single from her latest album, "Lover," but one that takes on the double-standard in the music industry about how men and women are expected to act. The choice to open her performance with the song was a telling one, considering that her ability to even perform her older hits was allegedly threatened by Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta.
While singing the song, Swift wore an oversized white dress shirt adorned with the names of her albums painted in black. Also tellingly, "Fearless" was written in big letters on the top of the shirt's backside, which was focused on by the camera before she slinked out of the shirt to continue into her career-defining hits.
The message? She's not afraid to speak her mind and do what she sees as right.
She then sang "Love Story," "I Knew You Were Trouble," "Blank Space" and "Shake It Off," during which she was joined by Halsey and Camila Cabello. She finished the performance by playing the piano while singing "Lover," during which lauded dancers Misty Copeland and Craig Hall delivered an emotional dance routine.
During her acceptance speech for Artist of the Decade following the performance, Swift thanked her guest performers before paying tribute to Carole King.
"I just remembered that when I fell in love with music, it was right around the time I realized how marvelous it was that artists could transcend so many different phases and changes in peoples lives," she said, speaking directly to King. "You taught me that that's a possibility."
She then launched into her gratitude for the award, which celebrated "a decade of hard work."
"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've had. With you guys, with you the fans, over the years," she said. "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," she ended. "I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for everything."
With her Artist of the Decade Award, as well as wins for Artist of the Year and Favorite Album - Pop/Rock for "Lover," among others, Swift became the most-awarded artist in the history of the American Music Awards, with 29 awards, surpassing Michael Jackson's total of 24.