What Taylor Swift returning to the ACM Awards could mean


Taylor Swift – Photo by David Alexander Elder via Flickr

Tiffany Czech and Tiffany Czech

For the first half of her career, Taylor Swift dominated country music. Her first four country albums reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart. Songs like “Teardrops On My Guitar,” “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me” have become staples in country playlists. Once 2014 and her fifth album, “1989,” rolled around, Swift had gone full pop, besides the occasional country feature.

Now in 2020, it is possible that Swift is heading back to the country spotlight. On Sept. 16, she returned to Nashville to perform at the Academy of Country Music Awards for the first time in seven years. The last time she took the stage at the show was back in 2013 for a performance of “Red.” Her song of choice this year was “Betty,” a notable country-style selection from her July album, “folklore.” The announcement of her performance may have people wondering if she has plans to further return to her country roots.

When her most recent album came out, the comparisons to her previous country work began. Some fans felt that the teenage love theme present in many of the songs resembled songs on “Fearless,” while others noticed some fairytale stories reminiscent of what can be heard on “Speak Now.”

The album is her most stripped-down album in years. Her past three albums have largely consisted of up-tempo pop music, so it’s no wonder fans are making these comparisons. Even on her pop records, though, one can find songs that remind them of an earlier album. For example, on “1989,” the self-written “This Love” loses large-scale pop production and relies heavily on Swift’s lyrics. The same can be said for “Call It What You Want,”  found on “reputation,” and “Soon You’ll Get Better” found on “Lover,” which features country group The Chicks.

It isn’t only her own discography that shows Swift’s consistent connection with country music. All while releasing some of pop music’s biggest songs, she has continued working with some of country’s biggest stars. In 2017, Little Big Town released the Swift-penned “Better Man.” The next year, Swift appeared on the Sugarland track “Babe,” which she also co-wrote. In 2019, she even appeared and performed at the iconic Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, which is the same place she performed at as an unsigned artist about 15 years ago. This list goes on.

Taylor’s performance at the ACM awards may have shocked some viewers, but she has continued on in the country music scene even as her own music has conformed to pop radio. It is fair to say that she has no intention of avoiding the sound that started it all for her. If this performance and her latest album are any indication, it isn’t completely out of line to suggest that one can expect to continue seeing Taylor Swift appear in Music City.