“I’m doing better than I ever was” is the single greatest line I could ask for as a fan of Taylor Swift and her music. This is not because it shows particular songwriting prowess (for that, one should turn to the epics All Too Well, Enchanted, Dear John, Last Kiss or Getaway Car to name a few) but more for the meaning it represents.
Taylor Swift’s reclaiming of her personal narrative and road to happiness has been dissected in many a thinkpiece but to me, it can be explained in just 11 simple words
“There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation.”
This clear-cut statement dictates that the art will be the main focus as the normal media interactions of previous promo eras are eschewed in favour of curated and deliberate choices; to share specific details that allow the narrative to be shaped on Taylor’s terms. The media is sometimes wonderfully befuddled by this; they seem unable to realise their own hand in these circumstances, if they had not burnt her at the stake, she wouldn’t have had to rise from the ashes like the most spectacular of phoenixes…
Twice now, in lieu of the long-form profiles expected when high profile magazines opt to have you as their cover star, Taylor has flipped the script. Earlier this year, she submitted a highly personal poem to Vogue, titled “The Trick To Holding On” which when you look closely, is actually far more personal than any longform profile could ever hope to get (not to mention its accompanying transformative photoshoot which offers more visual clues into Swift’s attitude, raw and vulnerable yet only to those she knows she can trust.
Last night, she did it again this time adopting the role of the interviewer in a powerful and fascinating conversation with legendary muse and photographer, Patti Boyd. This is a power move, that speaks volumes. Swift is done offering details of her life to people who will just twist them anyway, no longer pandering to a dynamic where she was the pinnacle of a takedown culture, that infects anyone with a social media account whether they’re the perpetrator or victim. It’s no accident that the only relatively personal interview she has given in this album cycle was in regards to her powerful and blistering testimony in her landmark sexual assault case. Even this was a subversion of the deferentially polite persona we’d come to expect, there were no niceties here and why should there be? If someone stuck their hand up my skirt, I’d be taking no prisoners either.
I found it interesting scrolling through social media this morning at the number of people who seemed confused and caught off guard by Taylor’s decision and interest in interviewing Pattie. To me, however, the logic was clear. Patti Boyd, first as the wife of George Harrison at the height of Beatlemania, (also the muse behind his major contribution to the band, timeless love song “Something” and then later the wife of Eric Clapton – she ALSO inspired “Layla” represents an intersection of publicity, art and mystery that Taylor seems to be striving for.
Patti Boyd and many of the other famous individuals Taylor mentions in this interview; Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull have a kinship with Swift for they too lived through storms of intense media scrutiny and speculation, mercifully for them, this was in the absence of social media and yet even though at one time, it must have felt as though the world knew everything about them, somehow they stail maintain an intoxicating and tantalising air of mystery. Perhaps it’s because their every move could not be documented with ease or because by the time newspapers were published, their lives might have moved on. Whatever the reason, they struck a balance Taylor seems keen to recreate.
Mick and Marianne in 1969.
Her astute knowledge of creative tour de forces who came before her and her unique understanding of the artist and muse dynamic (she has been both) inform her innate sense of storytelling and perceptions of fame. Among the plethora of icons mentioned earlier, people such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Audrey Hepburn, James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell to name a few are also influences. Some survived the eye of the storm and still call the big stage home, a longevity that she herself could enjoy whilst others have to quote Taylor herself, “chosen the Rose Garden over Madison Square,” an outcome which seems more likely given the things we know Taylor values.
However, although her Instagram feed no longer reads like the most personal of photo albums, it is now slick, selective and sophisticated, I think it would be a grave mistake to assume she will ever stop songwriting and sharing details of her life as she chooses, even if they are framed by other artist’s voices, because to her songwriting seems synonymous with breathing.
Although she has vowed media silence, some may argue that Taylor Swift has shared more details than ever before. Her behind the scenes songwriting series, poems, playlists, cat photos and dedication to her fans indicate an attention to detail and titanic creative focus that is unparalleled.
She has said that Reputation marks her most “cathartic release yet and now that it’s out in the world, she can go back to ‘normal’ songwriting. Whatever that looks like in the future, I hope the intimacy of letting the art speak for itself, the strength of her rewriting her personal narrative and the air of tantalising mystery that now surrounds Taylor Swift because we no longer see her every move remains the same.
Long, may Titan Taylor rule her world.