In Taylor Swift's new Rolling Stone interview, she not only discusses her new album Lover but also her tumultuous headlines from the past three years. From the infamous Kanye West phone call to her highly public dispute with her former label's boss Scott Borchetta, and to her oft-criticized apolitical past, she's suddenly willing to go on the record about a bunch of stuff that's puzzled fans for years.
With Swift addressing the many negative and very public headlines in her career, she's clearly reckoning with her public and private selves, and how they might conflict. On one hand she doesn't like the public perception that she just writes songs about her exes, but on the other she leans into that perception for marketing purposes, as astutely pointed out by the interviewer. So who is she really?
There's no easy answer to that, but here are five things we did learn.
She still sees Kanye as an enemy
Taylor Swift's public career can be divided into pre- Kanye phone call and post- Kanye phone call. The infamous fallout from that incident shaped both the content and reception of her last album, Reputation. Memorably, in the music video for "Look What You Made Me Do," she picks up a phone and states, "The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Because she's dead!" As Taylor states in the Rolling Stone interview, that line was a direct nod to the "how all of this started, a stupid phone call I shouldn't have picked up."
Though the phone call doesn't have much of a presence in Lover, Taylor elaborates on the lead-up to it and says there was a backstory the public wasn't privy to. Swift states that in private, Kanye would be nice and sweet, but in public, he would "[want] to look cool, get up in front of everyone and talk shit." She cites the 2015 VMAs as an example: in a private phone call, Kanye said, "'I really, really would like for you to present this Vanguard Award to me, this would mean so much to me,'" and when receiving the award, Kanye instead said "'You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award 'cause it got them more ratings?'"
The phone call recording was the straw that broke the camel's back, and she was essentially, "...done with this. If you want to be on bad terms, let's be on bad terms, but just be real about it.'"
She points to Drake as another example of someone who was (allegedly) backstabbed by Kanye West. She states, "He gravely affected the trajectory of Drake's family and their lives. It's the same thing. Getting close to you, earning your trust, detonating you." Kanye West has claimed no involvement in Pusha-T knowing of Drake's child and has apologized to Drake through tweets.
She believes Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun teamed up against her
Earlier this year, when Big Machine Records was bought by Scooter Braun's Ithaca holdings, Taylor Swift publicly voiced her unhappiness that her old masters were going to be owned by her archnemesis. (Memorably, other celebrities took sides and allegiances were made very clear.) Taylor stated in the interview that what "happened with [Scott Borchetta] was a redefinition of betrayal for me, just because it felt like it was family," and she thought that he viewed her as "the daughter he never had." She goes on to say:
"And this was utterly shocking. These are two very rich, very powerful men, using $300 million of other people's money to purchase, like, the most feminine body of work. And then they're standing in a wood-panel bar doing a tacky photo shoot, raising a glass of scotch to themselves. Because they pulled one over on me and got this done so sneakily that I didn't even see it coming. And I couldn't say anything about it."
She’s a Democrat, but she hates Democrat infighting
Swift has been infamous for her historically apolitical stances. She's been criticized for keeping quiet about politics and for not speaking up when white supremacists chose her as a poster child for their cause. Swift also notably never made a formal endorsement for Trump or Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a decision which she was heavily criticized for.
In this interview, she makes clear that she finds white supremacy repulsive, and that she is now "obsessed" with politics, whereas before, she "was living in this sort of political ambivalence, because the person I voted for had always won." In contrast to the 2016 elections, she states that she is fully invested in the 2020 elections and how she can help.
As the interviewer points out, politics are present on a track in Lover, "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince." Taylor states that she had written it after the midterm elections and chose a high school as a metaphorical location for politics to exist, and that she thinks "a lot of people in our political landscape are just feeling like we need to huddle up under the bleachers and figure out a plan to make things better."
She does have a few criticisms of the Democratic party though. "We need to stop dissecting why someone's on our side or if they're on our side in the right way or if they phrased it correctly," she says. "We need to not have the right kind of Democrat and the wrong kind of Democrat. We need to just be like, 'You're a Democrat? Sick. Get in the car. We're going to the mall.'"
Taylor relates to Daenerys’ storyline on "Game of Thrones"
"I specifically really related to Daenerys' storyline because for me it portrayed that it is a lot easier for a woman to attain power than to maintain it," Swift said of the Mother of Dragon's epic fall from grace.
She sees "Lover" as her most indie-ish album
At first listen, Lover seems to be a return to Swift's singer-songwriter roots. Swift too acknowledges that she "[doesn't] think [she's] ever leaned into the old version of myself more creatively than I have on this album, where it's very, very autobiographical."
However, she agrees with the reporter that Lover is one of her most "indie-ish" albums. She says "[she] felt like [she] sort of gave myself permission to revisit older themes that [she] used to write about, maybe look at them with fresh eyes. And to revisit older instruments — older in terms of when I used to use them." Swift imagines Lover as "completely just a barn wood floor and some ripped curtains flowing in the breeze, and fields of flowers and, you know, velvet."
The power pop chords on Lover aren't exactly the work of an independent artist, but all this introspection kind of is. Our new indie queen!
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