The U.S. pop star follows other celebrities like Daniel Craig, Mariah Carey, and Pharrell Williams, who have helped Chinese internet giant Alibaba kick off the biggest online shopping event of the year.
How do you make the world’s biggest shopping holiday even bigger? By inviting the world’s highest-paid celebrity to open it.
Taylor Swift, who reportedly earns upwards of $185 million a year, delivered the latest hits from her album Lover to screaming fans in China on Sunday, one day ahead of the country’s biggest shopping event of the year.
The Grammy Award-winning artist performed three songs at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai to welcome Singles’ Day, an annual sale that generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue every year.
What is Singles’ Day?
Held on Nov. 11, Singles’ Day is considered the biggest consumer holiday in the world, dwarfing Black Friday and Boxing Day in terms of sales.
The holiday started as a joke in the 1990s among single university students who wanted to celebrate (or commiserate over) their relationship status. Students organized bachelor parties, which soon morphed into blind date parties.
Nov. 11 was chosen because the shorthand, 11/11, resembled four single sticks.
Singles’ Day took a commercial turn in 2009, when Alibaba, China’s biggest online shopping site, latched onto the university trend and held its first Singles’ Day sale as a promotional campaign. (Alibaba is the owner of Goldthread’s parent company, the South China Morning Post.)
The event has morphed into the world’s biggest shopping holiday, with other companies in China holding sales. Last year, consumers spent over $30 billion on Singles’ Day.
Alibaba has been throwing over-the-top, televised extravaganzas every year to open the sale. Past Singles’ Day shows have included Mariah Carey, Nicole Kidman, and Maria Sharapova.
In 2015, James Bond star Daniel Craig appeared onstage to play a reality show game with then-Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, and in 2017, Pharrell Williams performed a bizarre R&B duet with Chinese pop star Kris Wu, where he, among other things, suggested lonely souls could alleviate their sadness with shopping. (Watch it below.)
This year, the e-commerce giant invited Swift to perform. In her signature matte red lipstick and winged eyeliner, the pop star kicked off the show with the upbeat single “Me!,” dancing in metallic high-heel boots and silver bedazzled belted jacket.
Playing on a feather-decked piano, she next sang “Lover,” a romantic ballad that sold a million copies in mainland China within the first week of its release in August, before closing the show with “You Need to Calm Down.”
Later, Swift posted a photo of herself lying on a couch in her performance outfit on Instagram.
Swift is the world’s highest-paid celebrity, and she is especially popular in China, where she is known by her nickname Meimei 妹妹, or “little sister.” Fans in the 71,000-capacity crowd on Sunday could be heard screaming through her 30-minute performance, which was broadcast live on two Chinese television stations.
This is not the first time Swift has performed at a retail event. In July, the pop star was part of Amazon’s Prime Day, which may be the first (and only concert) to involve cheers of “free shipping.”
Sunday’s concert in Shanghai also featured a host of other top celebrities, including piano virtuoso Lang Lang, Japanese voice actress Kana Hanazawa, and Hong Kong pop singer G.E.M.
In the first 18 hours of Singles’ Day, sales have already surpassed last year’s record of $30.8 billion, with a whopping $31.6 billion.
Adapted from an article first published in the South China Morning Post.