Taylor Swift has made her mark on music history by releasing some of the most personal and introspective songs of the past century, but the singer still has a lot that’s been left unsaid. In the new cover story for Rolling Stone, Swift opens up about why she’s feeling healthier than ever, her dismay over her unintentional involvement in the 2016 election and what really happened with Kanye West.
Swift has endured her share of ups and downs over her almost 15-year career, going from the top of the charts to an artist that the media and the public felt they could criticize at will. Amazingly, Swift has not only survived but thrived, adding that some of her darkest professional eras gave way to her best personal moments.
“It’s weird, because in some of the worst times of my career, and reputation, dare I say, I had some of the most beautiful times—in my quiet life that I chose to have,” she told Rolling Stone. “And I had some of the most incredible memories with the friends I now knew cared about me, even if everyone hated me. The bad stuff was really significant and damaging. But the good stuff will endure. The good lessons—you realize that you can’t just show your life to people.”
Around 2016, the unrelenting criticism aimed at Swift made the singer feel like walking away from the music industry for good, with her admitting she felt like the situation was “pretty hopeless” and resulted in her writing “a lot of really aggressively bitter poems constantly.” At least she was able to work out some of her feelings through the page, one of the upsides of being an artist.
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Taylor Swift returns to Rolling Stone’s cover in our new issue, giving one of the most revealing interviews of her career. Click the link in our bio to read the story in full, where she tells Brian Hiatt her side of the last three years, from the backstory of that infamous phone call to her musical evolution and much, much more. “People had so much fun hating me, and they didn’t really need very many reasons to do it,” she says. “I felt like the situation was pretty hopeless.” Photograph by @erikmadiganheck
Swift also said that while she can take constructive criticism, even becoming friends with Lorde and Hayley Kiyoko after they publicly chastised her image before meeting her, she admitted she’s had to develop stricter boundaries over the years, including sharing less of her personal life and deciding to “live a quiet life.”
“[A] quiet personal life invites no discussion, dissection, and debate. I didn’t realize I was inviting people to feel they had the right to sort of play my life like a video game.”
Kanye vs Taylor 2.0
That life became much less quiet during the 2015 MTV VMAs where Swift reunited with Kanye West after their disastrous 2009 exchange, and presented him with the Video Vanguard Award. Swift revealed that it was West, not MTV, who approached her about introducing him and that once they were onstage, he showed a different, manipulative side.
“I realized he is so two-faced,” she said. “That he wants to be nice to me behind the scenes, but then he wants to look cool, get up in front of everyone and talk s**t. And I was so upset. And I was like, ‘You know what? I really don’t want us to be on bad terms again. So whatever, I’m just going to move past this.’ So when he gets on the phone with me, and I was so touched that he would be respectful and, like, tell me about this one line in the song.”
The song in question is “Famous” and includes a few barbs directed at Taylor that spiraled into a full-on scandal after the infamous phone call between Swift and Kanye, that was recorded without her knowledge, was later released by Kim Kardashian and had people taking sides. Taylor, however, said that the bad blood didn’t emerge from this one transgression.
“The world didn’t understand the context and the events that led up to it. Because nothing ever just happens like that without some lead-up. Some events took place to cause me to be pissed off when he called me a b***ch. That was not just a singular event. Basically, I got really sick of the dynamic between he and I. And that wasn’t just based on what happened on that phone call and with that song—it was kind of a chain reaction of things.”
Of course this isn’t the first time Taylor has opened up about the fallout from that phone call being released. She spoke to Vogue last month about coming back from being cancelled by Kim Kardashian and how she’s tried to reclaim the snake emoji that’s been used against her.
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Though she said feeling regret is a daily ritual for her at this point, she specially mentioned that she was disappointed in herself for not getting over her “political ambivalence” sooner. Following the 2016 election and Swift’s decision not to endorse a candidate, the blue-eyed, blonde singer’s silence was spun by the Republican party (not to mention a white-supremacist website) as a vote for their causes, something the pop star was unaware of at the time. She’s since become a vocal Democratic ally and is hyper-focused on the 2020 election.
“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. 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.’