September 13, 2009
It begins. On this fateful day in New York City, a 19-year-old Taylor was at the MTV Video Music Awards, accepting the Best Female Video award for unrequited love anthem 'You Belong with Me.' During her cute acceptance speech, Kanye jumped up on the stage and grabbed the mike, interrupting with the now-immortal words: "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all tisme!"
If you Google the words "sad kitten," you'll get a pretty good approximation of what Taylor's face looked like during this whole fiasco, while MTV's cameras cut to Beyonce herself looking horrified in the audience. Once Kanye had shrugged and handed the mic back to Taylor, her time was up.
Nobody was impressed. President Obama famously called Kanye "a jackass" over the incident. Even Katy Perry, now widely known as the subject of Swift's diss-track "Bad Blood," was not on board: "F*** you, Kanye. It's like you stepped on a kitten," she tweeted, which is pretty much as accurate as metaphors get.
Kanye was promptly kicked out, while Beyonce used her Video of the Year win later in the evening as an opportunity to bring Swift back on stage, and let her finish her speech. Because no matter how trying the circumstances, Beyonce remains a flawless human being.
September 15, 2009
A contrite Kanye appears on The Jay Leno Show, admitting "It was rude, period. I don't try to justify it, 'cause I was in the wrong. Dealing with the fact that I hurt someone or took anything away, you know, from a talented artist–or from anyone–because I only wanted to help people.
"My entire life, I've only wanted to do and give something that I felt was right and I immediately knew in this situation that it was wrong."
Meanwhile, Taylor addresses the incident on The View: "My overall thought process was something like: 'Wow, I can't believe I won, this is awesome, don't trip and fall, I'm gonna get to thank the fans, this is so cool. Oh, Kanye West is here. Cool haircut. What are you doing there?' And then, 'Ouch.' And then, 'I guess I'm not gonna get to thank the fans.'" She also confirms that Kanye has not reached out to her to apologize.
Following her appearance on The View, Kanye calls Taylor personally to apologize. "He was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology," she said.
September 4, 2010
Kanye apologizes publicly via the then-exciting-and-new social media platform of Twitter: "I'm sorry, Taylor," he wrote. "We're both artists, and the media and managers are trying to get between us. She deserves the apology more than anyone. Thank you [Twitter co-founders] Biz Stone and Evan Williams for creating a platform where we can communicate directly." During the heartfelt barrage of tweets, Kanye also reveals he's written a song for Taylor.
September 12, 2010
… But before we ever get to hear Kanye's song about Taylor, she releases one about him. At the 2010 VMAs, Taylor marks the one-year anniversary of the Kanye fiasco with a barefoot performance of her brand new song "Innocent," which includes the lyrics "Who you are is not what you did / You're still an innocent." While fairly vague, most critics take the lyrics as a tacit blend of forgiveness and revenge, with The New York Times dubbing the song "an extremely savvy insult masquerading as the high road."
Kanye backtracks on his apology in several separate interviews, claiming that interrupting Taylor was "selfless" and not arrogant on his part, because she didn't deserve to win the award. "Taylor never came to my defense at any interview," he complained, accusing Swift of exploiting the incident for publicity.
May 3, 2011
Taylor and Kanye have at least publicly buried the hatchet. On the red carpet at the Met Costume Institute Gala, "the two exchanged a studiedly casual, "down low" high five", but it's clear things are still strained.
October 25, 2012
A Rolling Stone profile reveals that Swift has a memento of the VMAs moment in her Nashville home: "Above the fireplace, which is emblazoned with a small heart, there's even a photo of the moment Kanye stormed her VMA stage (captioned, "Life is full of little interruptions," a phrase that's also in the liner notes of her last album), right next to what is presumably the actual award in question under glass."
June 11, 2013
Kanye all-but officially takes back his apology, telling The New York Times that he only apologized in the first place because he'd caved to peer pressure. "I don't have one regret," he says of the VMAs incident.
A new leaf has been seriously turned over. Not only are Taylor and Kanye super-pally backstage at the 2015 Grammys, but there are rumors of a collaboration, following Taylor's final transition out of country and into pop with 1989.
"She wants to get in the studio and we're definitely going to go in," Kanye tells Ryan Seacrest. "I don't have an elitism about music, I don't discriminate." A few days after the Grammys, the pair are seen grabbing dinner together at New York hotspot The Spotted Pig, adding grist to that rumor mill.
At the 2015 VMAs, six years after the little interruption that started it all, Taylor presents Kanye with the Video Vanguard Award, the most public confirmation yet of their newfound alliance.
Forget musical collaboration–Kanye and Taylor literally want to rule the world together. Or at least America. After Kanye announces his plans to run for President in 2020, Taylor volunteers as his running mate.
…Which would still make 2020 less wacky than the 2016 election.
February 11, 2016
Just when it's all going so well… Kanye debuts a new track by the name of "Famous," and its lyrics include the following: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous."
Yikes. Kanye claims that he sought Taylor's approval before the song's release : "I called Taylor and had a hour long convo with her about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings."
Taylor's camp immediately denies this in a statement, claiming that Kanye hadn't run the lyrics past Taylor, but had instead asked her to promote the song: "Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single "Famous" on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, "I made that bitch famous.'"
While Taylor herself stays silent, several members of her #squad leap to her defense, while her brother Austin posts a video in which he throws his Yeezys in the trash.
"Here we go again" indeed, Austin.
February 15, 2016
Another awards show, another landmark moment in the KanTay saga. After Taylor wins Album of the Year for 1989, she swipes back at Kanye in what can only be described as a perfect real-life subtweet.
"As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there—there are going to be people along the way who are going to try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," Swift said, naming absolutely no names.
"But if you just focus on the work and you don't let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you're 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 greatest feeling in the world."
Is the feud over? Not even close, says Chrissy Teigen: "I'll tell you, it's not over. This is going to go on. This is being waged."
June 16, 2016
…Yeah, that didn't take long. Just as Chrissy predicted, this feud will probably outlive all of us, especially now that it's evolved and mutated into a feud triangle.
Kim Kardashian West steps into the fray during a GQ interview in June, echoing Kanye's claim that Taylor had given her blessing to those "Famous" lyrics, and later backtracked in order to play the victim.
"She totally approved that," Kim says. "She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn't. I swear, my husband gets so much shit for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved."
And it doesn't stop there–Kim goes on to claim that the phone conversation in question, where Taylor approved the lyrics, had been recorded on camera.
"And then they sent an attorney's letter like 'Don't you dare do anything with that footage,' and asking us to destroy it."
We're gonna need to see those receipts, Kim.
June 25, 2016
Kanye being Kanye, the music video for "Famous" was always going to add more fuel to the feud fire, but nobody quite saw this coming.
The video begins with a shot of Kanye and Kim asleep in bed, and pans outwards to reveal a naked Taylor asleep on the other side of Kanye. Also snoozing nude in this bizarre fictional bed: Rihanna, Chris Brown, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, George W Bush, Anna Wintour, Ruby Rose, Ray J, and Bill Cosby. Taylor is noticeably positioned right next to Kanye, which becomes even creepier in light of the "might still have sex" lyric.
The celebrities were all confirmed to be lifelike waxworks rather than the real deal, but it remained unclear how many had agreed to their depictions in the video.
June 28, 2016
Although there's no response from the Swift camp, one of Taylor's many BFFs Lena Dunham leaps to her defense in a justifiably angry Facebook post, which slammed the video for its apparent legitimization of rape culture.
"Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they've been drugged and chucked aside at a rager?" Dunham writes. "I'm sure that Bill Cosby doll being in the bed alongside Donald Trump is some kind of statement… I don't have a hip, cool reaction, because seeing a woman I love like Taylor Swift (fuck that one hurt to look at, I couldn't look), a woman I admire like Rihanna or Anna, reduced to a pair of waxy breasts made by some special effects guy in the Valley, it makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this and may not understand that grainy roving camera as the stuff of snuff films."
Elsewhere, the question on everyone's lips was whether Taylor–or any of the celebrities in question–would grant Kanye's wish and sue over the video. Watch this space…
July 17, 2016
You know how we said we were gonna need to see those receipts? Kim brought the receipts.
July 2016 was already shaping up to be a less-than-stellar month for Taylor–her high-profile romance with Tom Hiddleston raised a lot of eyebrows, with many speculating that their attention-grabbing antics suggested a publicity stunt. And Taylor's ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris dragged her hard on Twitter after the revelation that she co-wrote his recent hit "This Is What You Came For," accusing her of "trying to make [him] look bad." But all that paled in comparison to the smackdown Kim Kardashian had in store for her.
Just as the 17 July episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians draws to a close, Kim releases several Snapchat videos which show the phone call between Kanye and Taylor, in which Taylor does indeed approve at least some of 'Famous'. You can read the full, astonishing transcript over here.
"I mean, it's like a compliment, kind of," Taylor is heard to say on the recording, which is stretching the definition of "compliment" a little further than we would have expected. The lyric she's approving of, specifically, is "I think me and Taylor might still have sex"–but the conversation goes deeper than that. There are some major gaps in the recording so you have to do a little work to piece together what's being said, but the key part comes about two-thirds of the way in.
"It doesn't matter if I sold 7 million of that album before you did that," Taylor says. "Which is what happened–you didn't know who I was before that. It's fine." Which sounds very much like she's responding to the idea that Kanye was including a line about how he "made her famous." Later on, there's this:
TS: You know, right after the song comes out I'm going to be on a Grammy red carpet and they're going to ask me about it and I'm going to be like, "He called me."
TS: …and awesome that you're so outspoken, and it's going to be like "Yeah she does, it made her famous." You know, so it's more provocative to say "might still have sex" because–
So. yup. She not only approved the "might still have sex" part, but the "made her famous" part. The Twitterverse duly implodes.
Taylor wastes no time in clapping back with an iPhone Notes statement she'd surely had prepped for months, pointing out that Kanye had lied by omission in never mentioning the "bitch" lyric, or playing her the song in full.
"You don't get to control someone's emotional response to being called 'that bitch' in front of the entire world," she wrote. "Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination."
At this point, we're just sitting back like...