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Taylor Swift didn’t think ‘Anti-Hero’ would be a No. 1 hit, but it just won big at the VMAs

Swift’s producer, Jack Antonoff, said she didn’t think it would top the charts because it was ‘strange and personal’

SHARE Taylor Swift didn’t think ‘Anti-Hero’ would be a No. 1 hit, but it just won big at the VMAs
Taylor Swift accepts the award for video of the year for “Anti-Hero” during the MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Taylor Swift accepts the award for video of the year for “Anti-Hero” during the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Charles Sykes, Invision/Associated Press

Now with more VMAs than Madonna, Taylor Swift went home with nine awards after her song “Anti-Hero” won big.

Swift’s sweep also makes her the artist with the second-most MTV Video Music Awards, or VMAs, ever, per Today. Beyonce, who is on her “Renaissance” tour, holds the record for the most VMAs.

“It’s really felt like the adventure of a lifetime this past year. I cannot believe that it was a year ago at the VMAs that I announced the ‘Midnights’ album. All I have to say tonight is thank you,” Swift said in her acceptance speech for the video of the year award, per USA Today.

The “Mastermind” singer was wearing a black dress from Versace, which some think was a nod to “Reputation” — one of the albums left for Swift to rerecord. As Swifties know, she loves to use Easter eggs to announce albums.

Here’s a look at the song that fueled Swift’s big night.

Why is ‘Anti-Hero’ so popular?

“Anti-Hero” became Swift’s best-performing single ever after spending eight weeks at the top of the charts, Forbes reported. It was her ninth No. 1 song on the charts, but became the one that stayed at the top the longest.

It also passed 1 billion streams on Spotify, according to Billboard. Three of her other songs have also passed that marker: “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off” and “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever.”

Before the song’s release, Swift’s producer, Jack Antonoff, said he remembered Swift saying she did not think the track would reach No. 1 due to the “strange and personal” nature of the lyrics, per Billboard.

In an Instagram video, Swift said it was one of her favorite songs that she’s ever written. “I don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before,” she said. “... This song is a real guided tour throughout all the things I tend to hate about myself.”

The personal, synth-pop song received positive reviews from critics. Brittany Spanos wrote for Rolling Stone that “Anti-Hero” was a stand-out song with a “‘Blank Space’-level burn of both herself and her critics.” Variety’s Chris Willman said the song has “the quirky little vocal you only get out of someone who’s been at this game long enough to become a master of tragicomic dramaturgy as a singer as well as songwriter.”

How is ‘Anti-Hero’ a personal song?

The song starts out, “I have this thing where I get older but just never wiser / Midnights become my afternoons / When my depression works the graveyard shift / All of the people I’ve ghosted stand there in the room.”

Then, “Anti-Hero” lists several insecurities Swift has with the chorus saying “It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me (I’m the problem, it’s me) / At tea time, everybody agrees / I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror / It must be exhausting always rooting for the anti-hero.”

Some of her insecurities include body image, perception by others and abandonment.

What is the ‘Anti-Hero’ music video controversy?

Though the song hit the radio and stayed at the top of the charts for weeks, the “Anti-Hero” music video caused some controversy.

During the song, Swift stepped onto a scale that said “fat” instead of a number as she also stood next to herself while shaking her head. This moment in the video was a nod to Swift’s struggles with body image and eating disorders, which she made public in her documentary “Miss Americana.”

Some critics said this moment of the music video was “fatphobic,” according to BBC. Those who defended Swift, like Sunny Hostin from “The View,” said critics “missed the point” of this moment in the video. “She was describing a personal experience, and quite frankly, it’s a personal experience a lot of women experience.”

Swift edited the video and rereleased it after criticism.

What VMAs did Taylor Swift win?

Swift is tied for most wins in one night at the VMAs, after she won nine of the 11 categories she was nominated for, according to NBC News. Here’s a look at the awards she won.

  • Video of the year for “Anti-Hero.”
  • Artist of the year.
  • Album of the year for “Midnights.”
  • Best show of the summer.
  • Song of the year for “Anti-Hero.”
  • Best pop for “Anti-Hero.”
  • Best direction for “Anti-Hero.”
  • Best cinematography for “Anti-Hero.”
  • Best visual effects for “Anti-Hero.”