Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Optimus Prime and Megatron.
And Taylor Swift and Kanye West.
Feuds don’t get more colossal than the one between two of the biggest stars in music. (And the reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who was married to West for a time, has been involved too.) There has been a leaked tape, diss tracks and videos, and a naked wax figure. The latest salvo came in Swift’s interview with Time magazine after the publication chose her as Person of the Year.
The story has bubbled up even more as fans await the expected rerelease of Swift’s album “Reputation,” which was particularly focused on the dispute.
Here’s the decade-long story of how the feud has progressed.
Sept. 13, 2009
West interrupts Swift.
The incident that started it all. Swift, 19, goes onstage at Radio City Music Hall to accept the MTV Video Music Award for best female video for “You Belong With Me,” after defeating Beyoncé, among others.
She has barely said thank you when West, 32, bum rushes the stage, takes her microphone and declares: “I’m really happy for you; I’m going to let you finish. But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.”
As the crowd jeers, Swift, confused, does not finish her speech. When Beyoncé wins the video of the year award for “Single Ladies” later in the evening, she invites Swift onstage to rectify that.
West’s remarks quickly become the subject of memes, with one showing him interrupting the signing of the Declaration of Independence to declare that Magna Carta was better.
The New York Times said: “Mr. West remained the evening’s villain in absentia, and each mention of his name was jeered for all the subsequent categories in which he was nominated.”
West says he is ‘truly sorry.’
With public opinion sharply against him, West begins an apology tour, writing on social media: “That was Taylor’s moment, and I had no right in any way to take it from her. I am truly sorry.” West appeared on the first episode of Jay Leno’s new prime time talk show to apologize again.
Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson are among the performers who lined up to support Swift.
The drama reaches the White House, as President Barack Obama declares that West is “a jackass.”
The Times said: “The ladies of ‘The View’ acted as if Ms. Swift were recovering from a physical assault or the loss of a loved one.”
Swift strikes back in song.
Swift releases the single “Innocent” from her “Speak Now” album and acknowledges that it is about West.
It includes the lyric “Time turns flames to embers / You’ll have new Septembers / Every one of us has messed up, too / Minds change like the weather.” She performs it at the V.M.A.s a year after the original incident.
The Times said: “Choosing to tackle last year’s events head-on, Ms. Swift — a victim, but no naïf — performed a new song, ‘Innocent,’ directed at Mr. West, an extremely savvy insult masquerading as the high road.”
The hatchet is buried.
Time seems to heal the rift, and the V.M.A.s, where the dispute began, seems to be the place where it ends. Swift presents West with a lifetime achievement award and says, “Kanye defines what it is to be a creative force in music, fashion and, well, life.”
West soaks in a prolonged ovation, then gives a 10-minute acceptance speech that does not quite include an apology.
The Times said: “He floated through an extemporaneous speech covering the importance of the artist’s opinion, the cynicism of MTV, the tears of Justin Timberlake when he lost at the 2007 Grammys, and a joking announcement of a 2020 presidential run.”
West takes credit in ‘Famous’ for Swift’s fame.
Or maybe the feud isn’t over. A new song from West’s “The Life of Pablo” album, “Famous,” includes the lyric: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous.”
The sides trade accusations. After reports emerge that Swift had approved the song, a spokeswoman for Swift says she had cautioned West “about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message” and adds that “Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric.”
West says on Twitter, “First thing is, I’m an artist, and as an artist I will express how I feel with no censorship.” He claims that Swift once said West had made her famous.
Any subtlety in the lyrics of “Famous” vanishes in the video, which features naked wax figures depicting several celebrities in bed together, including Swift. West is positioned between the Swift figure and his wife, Kim Kardashian.
The Times said: “Kanye West and Taylor Swift just can’t quit each other.”
Swift’s Grammy speech includes a little extra.
Swift wins the Grammy Award for album of the year for “1989,” becoming the first woman to win the award twice. “To all the young women out there,” she says in her acceptance speech, “there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.”
“If you just focus on the work,” she says, “and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you are going, you’ll look around, and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there, and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”
The Times said: “Instead of a warm and cuddly speech, she used the stage to address a fresh wound.”
A recording enters the narrative.
Kardashian releases several video clips of a phone conversation between West and Swift in which he appears to get her support for the provocative lyrics in “Famous.”
Swift issues a statement saying that she had not approved the song and that West had not played her the final version. “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009,” she says.
The Times said: “Both sides have opted for public escalation over private reconciliation.”
Swift strikes back in song, again.
Swift releases the video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” which takes subtle and not-so-subtle shots at numerous enemies, including West and Kardashian, Swift’s ex Calvin Harris, and a radio D.J. who groped her.
It is followed in November by the album “Reputation,” which takes as a main theme the ups and downs of her public persona.
In the song “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” she sings: “It was so nice being friends again / There I was giving you a second chance / But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand.”
The Times said: “She announces that the old Taylor is dead — that’s true in several ways, most notably in the way she leans in to the drama she once tried to dodge.”
A longer recording and a new perspective.
A longer recording of the call between West and Swift emerges, painting a more complex picture. West recites some of the lyrics to “Famous” to Swift. But he also quotes the line as “What if I said I made you famous?” without using the insulting word that ultimately appeared in the song. Many see the longer recording as vindication for Swift’s version of events.
“I was telling the truth the whole time about that call (you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated),” Swift wrote on social media.
A year later, Kardashian files for divorce from West.
Time’s person of the year hasn’t forgotten.
Time magazine selects swift as its person of the year. In an interview with the magazine, her first in years, she shows she hasn’t forgotten: “You have a fully manufactured frame job, in an illegally recorded phone call, which Kim Kardashian edited and then put out to say to everyone that I was a liar.”
“That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before. I moved to a foreign country. I didn’t leave a rental house for a year. I was afraid to get on phone calls. I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I went down really, really hard.”