Every Guitar-String Scar On Her Hand: Inside Taylor Swift’s Glittery VMAs Opening

By Carson Mlnarik

In the latter half of the evening at Newark’s Prudential Center on Saturday, August 24, Taylor Swift takes a few steps forward, then a few steps back. She gently slings an acoustic guitar over her shoulder after shrugging into a sparkly purple suit jacket. She’s taking slow, strong strides from center stage along a luminous 70-foot catwalk toward the front edge where her mic stand rests. It’s a timed walk she has to nail before the song begins. Can she make it?

The Lover singer is in the middle of rehearsals for her 2019 VMAs performance, which she’ll begin with a vibrant recreation of “You Need to Calm Down” backed by characters from its colorful video and a rainbow mountainscape on a ginormous 36-by-164 foot screen. Then she’ll grab that guitar and jacket for her new single “Lover” amid a pastel flower bed rendered via the stage’s 897 video LED tiles. Swift has to accomplish all this in just a few beats.

Oh yeah, and she’s opening the show. In two days. But no pressure.

The performance is already the bow on top of a busy release week for her seventh album. She arrived in Newark on Saturday evening after a pit stop in Chelsea, where she took photos with fans who waited hours in line for her Stella McCartney pop-up shop. Back here onstage, her dancers and drag-queen friends, including A’keria C. Davenport and her doppelgänger Jade Jolie, do a few runs without Swift as the crew solidifies angles and camera paths. Their routines are polished by the time Taylor hits the stage in full costume and unmistakable red lipstick. In true Taylor form, she’s thorough in her

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