To honor Taylor Swift’s latest rerecording, we’re celebrating 1989 (Taylor’s Version) Week at The Daily Beast’s Obsessed. That means we’re throwing it back to 2014, to relive everything that Taylor—and the rest of pop culture—was up to.
It’s a big week around here, and The Daily Beast’s Obsessed is here to celebrate it. Oct. 27 marks the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version)—and we’re throwing it back to not just the album, but also the entirety of Taylor Swift’s 1989 era.
Go catch a seagull, rewatch the “Blank Space” music video, and join us, as we reminisce about not just Swift, but 2014, the year in which 1989 was originally released. What was going on in the culture more than nine years ago now, when Taylor Swift released this magical pop album about Harry Styles and Karlie Kloss?
A lot was going on, that’s what. The Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia, causing the usual fanfare and controversy that most Olympic Games do. We were all panicked over the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. Swift’s big hit “Style” was joined on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 list by Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and “Rude” by Magic!, an infamous one-hit wonder.
Just like 2023, during which both Swift and Beyoncé have made countless headlines for their mega-tours, the two musicians were all over the news in 2014. Just before 1989 landed on shelves, Jay Z, Bey, and Solange had a mysterious elevator fight at the Met Gala that we’re still talking about. Two months later, she dropped her surprise fifth album at a moment’s notice. The lesson we’ve learned: Keep all eyes on Swift and Bey at all times.
Around a billion other things happened—but below, enjoy Obsessed’s 14 favorite pop culture moments from 2014.
Taylor Swift Chops Off Her Hair
The list has to start here. When fans started speculating that Taylor Swift might announce 1989 (Taylor’s Version) earlier this year in August, they also suggested she might cut her hair off, too. Why? Because her 1989 era was all about the bob. Swift made the dramatic cut in 2014—going from sweeping waves to the chic shorter look—and she’s been growing it back out ever since. Even though she’s not trying to relive that hair era, she still recognizes it: She styled her mane in a fake bob for The Eras Tour movie premiere a few weeks ago. —Fletcher Peters
Unpredictable Trio Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande Blow Us Away with “Bang Bang”
“Bang Bang” is one of those ridiculous, fever-dream songs, and we constantly heard it on the radio in 2014—much like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle.” To the average (read: straight, male) listener, it’s not the sort of immediately profound or transcendent pop composition you’ll find 50 years from now in an American songbook or see on a Rolling Stone’s “greatest” list. However, it’s maintained a legacy on the internet for its innate campiness, including its bonkers lyrics (“She got a booty like a Cadillac, but I can send you into overdriveeeeee”), iconically bad single artwork, and chaotic live performances. That’s not to mention Nicki Minaj rudely (and hilariously) disputing Jessie J’s account of how it got made. Most importantly, though, it topped off a year where Ariana Grande and Minaj were cementing themselves as formidable pop stars and go-to collaborators. Pop music was truly never the same! —Kyndall Cunningham
The Sony Pictures Hack
What was a real pain in the tuchus for Hollywood is almost unfathomable now. Imagine any major studio experiencing a company-wide leak of this magnitude today; you can’t! But Sony’s pain was our gain—if only because all the emails that hackers posted online in November 2014 revealed some amazing quotes. I think about Jonah Hill calling a proposed 21 Jump Street/Men in Black crossover “clean and rad and powerful” every day. Channing Tatum’s all-caps freakout about the 22 Jump Street box office numbers was a gem. I loved reading all the petty gossip between execs about their biggest stars. And my family even spent Christmas watching Sony’s The Interview, which the studio pulled from theaters after the hackers revealed themselves to be North Koreans and threatened to bomb New York City—all because of this crappy comedy about James Franco and Seth Rogen meeting Kim Jong Un. It was a clean and rad and powerful and incredibly unreal moment in time that I’ll never forget. —Allegra Frank
Ellen’s Oscars Selfie
At the 2014 Academy Awards, host Ellen DeGeneres had one iPhone, Bradley Cooper’s long arm, and a dream. Her goal: to share a photo that would become the most-liked post on Twitter. In the pic, Jennifer Lawrence, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, and Lupita N’yongo (plus her brother) cuddle around DeGeneres. How pleasant! Did the post enter the Twitter post pantheon? Of course it did. Back then, getting the most-liked tweet was easy; you just had to include a bunch of famous people. Today, in the days of X, amassing likes is a harder feat, and it’s taken posts from folks like X owner Elon Musk, activist Greta Thunberg, and President Joe Biden to dwarf DeGeneres’ epic selfie. Oh, well. She still has 2 million likes, which is probably the biggest win she’ll get these days. Let’s do it again next year to celebrate 10 years. —FP
Stephen Colbert Leaves His ‘Stephen Colbert’ Personal Behind
In the final weeks of 2014, The Colbert Report aired its final episode as Stephen Colbert said goodbye to his conservative alter ego after nine years on the air. The episode contained plenty of biting satire, but it also ended with an unusually sentimental sing-along: “We’ll Meet Again” featuring everyone from Randy Newman and Charlie Rose to Katie Couric and Big Bird. Perhaps it was foreshadowing for the far-more sincere—and often less laugh-out-loud funny—version of Colbert that would go on to take over for David Letterman as host of The Late Show on CBS. —Matt Wilstein
Pharrell Wears a Big Hat
To be honest, much of 2014 is a Tumblr-filtered blur. But I do have one memory that stands clear in my mind: When Pharrell wore that big brown hat at the Grammys, it was a game-changer. A cultural shift. Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique, completely not ever been done before, unafraid to reference or not reference, put it in a blender, shit on it, vomit on it, eat it, give birth to it. At the time, the singer was riding high off the success of “Happy,” his first Hot 100 hit, and evidently, the festivities went to his head—literally. It wasn’t just the big, loud, “howdy-there” hat that made this sartorial choice so instantly unforgettable. It was also the rest of the ensemble—a red track jacket, white T-shirt, and dark-wash jeans that absolutely did not call for a big brown hat on top. And yet, Pharrell delivered, going above and beyond to give all of us one of the best memes of the year. We can only hope that, like Lenny Kravitz, who recently revitalized the meme about his giant blanket scarf, Pharrell one day brings back the ol’ chapeau for another night on the town. —Laura Bradley
Everyone, Including Taylor, Has a Feminist Awakening
The word on everyone’s lips in 2014 was “feminism,” with countless celebs declaring their loud, proud affiliation with the F-word (or, in some cases, completely botching the idea altogether; let’s not talk about that). It was such a big buzz term that Time embarrassingly included it on its “word banishment poll.”
“When did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party?” Time wrote (again, not a great look!). What was a great look was Emma Watson launching HeForShe, a campaign that calls on men to get on board with gender equality; 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize; and Beyoncé performing her Video Vanguard medley at the 2014 VMAs with the word “FEMINIST” boldly lighting up the stage. The feminism craze even reached our girl T. Swift, who for the first time, publicly called herself a feminist.
“As a teenager… what it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men,” Swift told The Guardian. “And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means.” Hallelujah, she gets it! —Madeline Roth
Gone Girl Brings Fun Back to Prestige Movies
David Fincher’s take on Gillian Flynn’s bestseller was an almost impossibly perfect adaptation. It embraced both the sinister and silly nature of the novel. Each shot was meticulously framed, each moment carefully calibrated to just the right tone of unsettling and hilarious. Rosamund Pike was a revelation, delivering one of the most deliciously transfixing performances of the decade—earning one of the Academy’s most “Hey, you actually got it right!” Oscar nominations. And the movie marked Ben Affleck’s return to leading-man status. All that, and you got to see his penis! —Kevin Fallon
Serial Changing the True Crime and Podcasting Game
Podcasts certainly were popular in 2014, to a certain extent. The Joe Rogan Experience was five years old by 2014, and I spent many hours in college listening to Comedy Bang Bang on buses, in the library, and tucked into my terrible twin-sized bed. But Serial, which premiered that October, was the first show that everyone seemed to be listening to at the same time—unheard of for audio programming. Sarah Koenig’s reporting on the mysterious 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, and whether convicted killer Adnan Syed was really the one who did it, was some of the most gripping dramatic content of the decade. Not only did it capture the tension and intrigue of the best visual true-crime content, but it did so through high-quality journalism and investigative work. Millions of us were beyond hooked, and Koenig and Syed’s voices became instantly recognizable; Mailchimp became a meme; becoming an armchair detective for a 20-year-old case became the thing du jour; and podcasts became appointment listening. —AF
Shailene Woodley Becomes The Next Jennifer Lawrence
2014 was the year Hollywood decided that Shailene Woodley was a movie star. Along with Brie Larson, she was a clear product of the Jennifer Lawrence Industrial Complex (i.e. girl-next-door types capable of playing Strong Female Characters, specifically from Y.A. novels.) Woodley had already proved that she could do more than play a whiny, pregnant teenager on ABC Family when she starred alongside George Clooney in 2011’s The Descendants. But the one-two punch of The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent in 2014 officially made her a worthy Hollywood “it” girl. —KC
Justin Theroux and the Gray Sweatpants
Because I don’t have the emotional fortitude to write seriously about how profound and important The Leftovers was to the year of pop culture in 2014/television as a whole/my life, let’s instead swing over (so to speak) to a more light-hearted legacy of the series: star Justin Theroux jogging in gray sweatpants in the pilot, apparently going commando. The scene—and the screenshots from it—went so viral and Theroux has been asked about it so much that I think he’s probably had to publicly talk about his member more often than your average porn star. He’s always had a good sense of humor about it. Have you seen those photos? We would too. —KF
“Blank Space” Music Video Drops
As of October 2023, Swift is more famous than she’s ever been in her or any of our lives, which is remarkable when you consider just how astronomically famous she was nine years ago when 1989 debuted. More specifically, when the “Blank Space” video dropped, my only response was shock and awe. The power of a pop star labeled “boy-crazy” throwing it right back in our faces with a wink, a tricked-out mansion, mascara flooding down her face and a clip of her throwing a burning men’s button-down off a balcony cannot be overstated, especially since she did it all in a way that was so…wholesome. She’s not bad; she’s just drawn that way. —Helen Holmes
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
I partook in the year’s ubiquitous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on a hot day in August. My friends and I giggled in one of our backyards, adding dramatic music over our slo-mo water dunks. It was one of the best days ever that year. Some might ask: What do ice buckets have to do with ALS? Well, pouring water over oneself has actually been a popular way to grab attention for charity in both Europe and the United States since 1999. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge may have been a little goofy, but the trend raised over $220 million worldwide to put toward research into the disease. Back then, our trends were wholesome and made a difference. Now we’re dancing on TikTok. (That’s not to say TikTok dances aren’t any fun.) —FP
Gay Icon, the Babadook, Is Born
In 2014, The Babadook hit theaters, the most annoying people you knew wouldn’t shut up about how brilliant they thought the horror film was, and, while we didn’t know it at the time, the rest would be queer history. —KF