“One of my favorite things about female writers, about writers in general, about people who take what happens to them and they process it and put it out into the world,” she told the crowd in between songs, “is if you write, you can turn your lessons into your legacy. I’m just really happy to get to do this.”
Swift recounted when, in 2010, she made TIME’s list of the world’s most influential people and heaped praise on fellow artist Khalid, who was also named on this year’s TIME 100 list and performed earlier in the night. “The first time I was ever on this magnificent list was almost 10 years ago,” she told guests. “I performed in Khalid’s spot. And I’m a huge Khalid fan. If you haven’t listened to his new album Free Spirit, that’s a real loss. That’s a real missed opportunity.”
Swift and Khalid follow on the heels of Jennifer Lopez and Shawn Mendes, who performed at last year’s gala. In a tribute published in the TIME 100 issue, Mendes said of Swift: “Taylor makes the job of creating music for millions of people look easy. It all comes from her — her belief in magic and love, and her ability to be as honest and raw as possible. She’s the master of putting the perfect amount of thought into not overthinking, and that’s why her music connects so well.”
Taylor was the unofficial "social director" at the gala, notes TIME's Ashley Hoffman, as she posed for selfies with Khalid, Glenn Close and Trevor Noah, and caught up for a chat with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke.
Watch snippets of Taylor Swift’s performance below.