| Nekesa Mumbi Moody |
NEW YORK (AP) – It’ll be hard for Taylor Swift top this as a birthday gift: A birthday serenade from none other than the Queen of Soul.
Aretha Franklin arguably had the best performance of the afternoon as the legend gave an impromptu performance of “Happy Birthday” to Taylor Swift, Billboard’s new “Woman of the Year”, at their annual Women in Music event on Friday. Swift swooned as Franklin sang and the pair embraced afterward and she was given a birthday cake.
Technically Swift doesn’t turn 25 until Saturday but she was able to celebrate early with the honour; she was one of several women celebrated at the event, which featured some of the biggest names in music, including a surprise appearance by Beyonce.
Billboard’s Women in Music awards honours the top women in the industry, from executives to artists like Franklin, who received the appropriately named “Icon” award.
Swift was named the top woman in music after her record-breaking year, in which her “1989” album debuted at No 1 and sold more than one million copies – her third straight album to accomplish such a feat, setting a record. She also had chart-toppers with “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” and recently saw the former song get nominated for record of the year at the Grammys.
Swift used her acceptance speech to underscore her decision this fall to remove all her music from the streaming site Spotify on the grounds that it doesn’t equitably reimburse artists for the use of its material.
“I really believe we in the music industry can work together to find a way to bond technology with integrity and just really hope we can teach the younger generation the value of investment in music rather than the ephemeral consumption of it,” Swift said.
Most of the other honorees spoke about the honor in a more personal nature. Idina Menzel, whose voice powered the “Frozen” soundtrack into the top-selling album of the year, spoke about reaching the apex of her career after some lean years, despite early success on Broadway.