Taylor Swift kickstarted her performance by making a statement on her past albums amid record label feud

By Brianne Tracy and Tomás Mier
November 24, 2019 10:45 PM
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Taylor Swift brought down the house with an epic performance of her hits at the 2019 American Music Awards.

During the awards show on Sunday, the superstar — who was also honored as the artist of the decade — sang a medley of some of the biggest songs of her career.

She started the performance with the female-empowerment anthem “The Man” from her newest album Lover while sporting a white button-down shirt with the names of her past albums (except for Lover) written across it. The prison-like font of the titles — all of which are owned by her former label, Big Machine — led some fans to believe that the garment was a nod to her feud with Scooter Braun and Scott Borchetta.

Taylor Swift at the 2019 AMAs.
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Halsey, Camila Cabello and Taylor Swift
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Taylor Swift
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

After ripping the white top off, Swift began by singing “Love Story” from Fearless in a sparkly golden leotard, brandishing a microphone reading “Lover.” Swift followed the track with renditions of Red‘s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and 1989‘s “Blank Space.”

Swift’s parents Andrea and Scott adorably sang along to her performance alongside Swift’s close friend Selena Gomez, who fangirled from the audience.

Taylor Swift
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Halsey and Camila Cabello then joined the songstress for a rendition of “Shake It Off” — reminiscent of Swift’s Reputation tour when Charli XCX and Cabello would join her on stage to perform the track each night.

Swift, 29, then slowed it down to end her performance with a beautiful, acoustic rendition of “Lover” while wearing a long pink cape, playing the track on a grand piano. Ballet icon Misty Copeland surprised the crowd, dancing to the track on stage.

Earlier that night, Swift broke the record for winning the most AMAs, beating out Michael Jackson when she was awarded favorite pop/rock album for Lover.

Taylor Swift performing “Lover”
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Swift’s performance comes amid her ongoing public feud with her former label Big Machine Label Group and Braun (who acquired the label earlier this year).

While Swift and Braun, 38, have been at odds ever since he purchased BMLG and her back catalog, their issues once again surfaced with a vengeance last week after the singer shared a message on Tumblr accusing Braun and the CEO of BMLG, Scott Borchetta, of blocking her from performing her pre-Lover hits (which were recorded while under contract with BMLG) at the AMAs.

“I’ve been planning to perform a medley of my hits throughout the decade on the show. Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun have now said that I’m not allowed to perform my old songs on television because they claim that would be re-recording my music before I’m allowed to next year,” she wrote.

Check out PEOPLE’s full AMAs coverage to get the latest news on one of music’s biggest nights.

Taylor Swift; Scooter Braun
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Rob Latour/Shutterstock

The singer also revealed she has been working with Netflix on a documentary about her “life for the past few years,” but that Borchetta and Braun — who purchased BMLG for $300 million earlier this year — have “declined the use of my older music or performance footage for this project.”

According to Swift, Borchetta tried to negotiate and offered to let her perform and use her music if she agreed not to re-record “copycat versions” of her old songs and “stop talking about him and Scooter Braun.”

However, the superstar reiterated her criticism of the business partners and urged her fans for help.

“The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished,” wrote Swift. “Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.”

Hours later, BMLG responded in a statement on their website and denied Swift’s allegations, accusing the star of “false information.”

“As Taylor Swift’s partner for over a decade, we were shocked to see her Tumblr statements yesterday based on false information. At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special,” the statement read. “In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate.”

The label went on to claim that they had “worked diligently” to try and have a conversation with Swift, concluding with, “To date, not one of the invitations to speak with us and work through this has been accepted.”

A spokesperson for Swift responded with another statement, reiterating that “Scott Borchetta, CEO and founder of Big Machine Label Group, flatly denied the request for both American Music Awards and Netflix,” and alleged BMLG owes the singer “$7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years.”

Taylor Swift
Christopher Polk/Variety/Shutterstock

Then on Monday, BMLG announced to PEOPLE in a statement that Swift was cleared to perform her early hits at the AMAs, saying, “Recording artists do not need label approval for live performances on television or any other live media. Record label approval is only needed for contracted artists’ audio and visual recordings and in determining how those works are distributed.”

Braun — who manages stars including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grandebroke his silence on his dispute with Swift during the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce State of the Entertainment Industry Conference on Thursday. Later, he shared a lengthy message on Instagram revealing he has been receiving “death threats” amid the drama.

“Since your public statement last week there have been numerous death threats directed at my family,” he began. “This morning I spoke out publicly for the first time saying I wouldn’t participate in a social media war. However, I came home tonight to find my wife had received a phone call threatening the safety of our children, as well as other threats seen above.”

RELATED VIDEO: Scooter Braun Pleads with Taylor Swift to Find ‘Resolution’ to Feud After Receiving Death Threats

Braun later claimed that his attempts to contact Swift over the past six months “have all been rejected.”

“While some on your team and many of our mutual friends have tried to get you to the table, all have had no luck,” he wrote. “It almost feels as if you have no interest in ever resolving the conflict. At this point with safety becoming a concern I have no choice other than to publicly ask for us to come together and try to find a resolution. I have tried repeatedly through your representatives to achieve a solution but unfortunately, here we are. The game of telephone isn’t working.”

“I will make myself available whenever works for you,” he concluded. “Many have told me that a meeting will never happen as this is not about the truth or resolution but instead a narrative for you. I am hopeful that is not the case. I’m right here, ready to speak directly and respectfully. But if you would prefer to make large public statements while refusing to work towards resolving things amicably then I just pray that nobody gets seriously hurt in the process. I continue to wish you the best and hope we can resolve this.”

A rep for Swift has not yet responded to request for comment.

The 2019 American Music Awards are broadcasting live on ABC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 24 at 8:00 p.m. EST.