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The moment marked the singer-songwriter’s first televised performance following the release of her seventh studio album, Lover, on Friday, as well as her first time back on the VMAs stage since her 2015 performance of “Bad Blood.”
The performance began with Swift, Todrick Hall and Dexter Mayfield sitting on lounge chairs as she sang the opening lines to “You Need to Calm Down.” The stage was set up similarly to the song’s music video, which took place at a colorful trailer park.
Dancers dressed in colorful ensembles moved around the stage before the drag queens featured in the music video appeared next to Swift as she sang the anti-hate anthem.
The first number concluded with the words “Equality Act” largely written behind the performers. Swift has been an advocate for the Equality Act and has urged her followers to sign a petition in its favor on social media. The House of Representatives passed legislation in May that protects those living in states where it’s legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to housing, employment and other services.
Swift then slowed down the performance to sing “Lover,” the third single and title track off of her most recent album. She put on a purple sequined jacket over her gold top and was handed an acoustic guitar before she made her way to the front of the stage. The other performers exited, leaving Swift front and center.
Many of the singer’s friends were shown singing along during the laid-back performance, including supermodel Gigi Hadid and “You Need to Calm Down” music video stars Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita.
Later on in the night, Swift won the award for video of the year where she called out the White House for failing to take initiative on the Equality Act. “I want to thank everyone that signed that petition because it now has half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House,” Swift said. She then looked at an imaginary watch on her wrist as she implied that the Trump administration should address the petition.
Swift was tied going into the VMAs with Ariana Grande as the most nominated artist of the night, up for 10 awards, including video of the year, song of the year, video for good, best pop, best direction, best editing and best art direction for “You Need to Calm Down” and best collaboration, best visual effects and best cinematography for “ME!” featuring Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie.
Swift released the music video for Lover‘s title track on Thursday.
The 2019 MTV VMAs were held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco served as the host of the ceremony, which was broadcast on MTV.
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