Swift, who made history for most wins at the award show with 28, was crowned artist of the decade and performed a medley of her biggest hits over the past 13 years.
Carole King introduced the singer and paid tribute to her songwriting skills. Then Swift appeared on stage wearing a shirt bearing the names of her first six albums, which are now owned by Braun and former label head Scott Borchetta — the source of a major scuffle in pop music, as Swift continues to fight to own the master recordings to her older albums.
She fittingly kicked off the show with her song “The Man,” a pop earworm about the double standard women face in the public eye, before taking off the shirt and transitioning to the classic ballad “Love Story.” A dark remix version of “I Knew You Were Trouble” off 2012′s “Red” was next as Swift, flanked by a group of shirtless male dancers, kicked the choreography into high gear.
The singer hopscotched her way through her musical history for the rest of the performance, serving up samples of hits including “Blank Space,” “Lover” and “Shake It Off” with an assist from Camila Cabello and Halsey.
In her speech, Swift thanked her fans for supporting her through the years.
“All anyone in this room wants is to create something that will last, whatever it is in life,” she said. “The fact that this is an award that celebrates a decade of hard work, art fun and memories ... all that matters to me is the memories that I have had with you the fans over the years.”
The road to the AMAs stage has been bumpy to say the least. Just days ago, there were questions about whether Swift would even be able to perform songs released prior to her most recent album, “Lover.”
Since June, the singer has been involved in a public battle with Braun, whom she has accused of “incessant, manipulative bullying” after he paid US$300 million ($399 million) to acquire her former record label Big Machine ― and, by extension, her entire catalog.
The singer described Braun’s acquisition of her masters as the “worst-case scenario” in a scathing open letter that garnered the support of fellow recording artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Halsey. Swift, who has since signed a new record deal with Republic Records and Universal Music Group, pledged to rerecord songs from her first six albums in retaliation.
The feud reignited last week when Swift went on social media once again to rally her fans against Braun, who also manages stars such as Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. She claimed he and Borchetta had blocked her from performing her past hits at the AMAs.
“The message being sent to me is very clear. Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished,” Swift wrote. “Please let Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun know how you feel about this.”
Swift ultimately got the green light to showcase songs from her back catalog after her former label announced it had “come to terms on a licensing agreement.”
Braun, who has been silent about his monthslong conflict with Swift, shared his own open letter on Friday, revealing he’s received “death threats” from fans and threatening calls to his home.
He called for an end to “toxic division” and asked Swift to meet with him in person to resolve their differences.
“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.”