The last time Taylor Swift sang at the ACM Awards, she was still basically a country singer. The year was 2013 — year after Swift released Red, the last of her albums that even nodded in the direction of country. At that year’s ceremonies, she joined Tim McGraw and Keith Urban to sing backup on McGraw’s single “Highway Don’t Care.” The two previous years, the Academy of Country Music gave Swift its Entertainer Of The Year award. But then Swift stopped making country music. Instead, she completed her transition into globally dominant pop stardom. So it’s a big deal that Swift was back at the ACM Awards last year.
A couple of months ago, Swift released her blockbuster quarantine album folklore. It’s not a country record, but it’s the closest thing she’s done to country since Red. Country stations have picked up on it, playing Swift’s song “Betty” enough to get it into the top 10 of Billboard’s country charts. And at last night’s ACM Awards — which were originally supposed to take place in April, but which were delayed for the quarantine — Swift made her triumphant return, playing “Betty” live for the first time.
Swift performed “Betty,” accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, at Nashville’s Grande Ole Opry House. This wasn’t a solo-acoustic performance; there was a harmonica and maybe a harmonium in the mix, too, but the other musicians weren’t onstage. Instead, all we saw was Swift, backlit and glittery and looking cool as hell. Without moving from one position, she gave “Betty” a fairly theatrical read, conveying a lot through facial expression. She also made a lyrical change, taking out the non-TV-appropriate “go fuck myself” bit and replacing it with “would you tell me to go straight to hell?” Watch her performance below.
folklore is out now on Republic Records.