Taylor Swift covers the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. This is basically a takeover. Taylor is a huge get for EW. They’ve dedicated several features in addition to the cover story to Swift content. And it’s a proper magazine interview – not an essay she’s written about herself, not another celebrity interviewing her, it’s conventional, it’s a departure from her “no comment” pose during the reputation era or, rather, a return to how it was before the reputation era. But there is a new angle to this media strategy that might be worth unpacking and no, I’m not talking about the clues and eggs and the game of crumbs that she’s been leaving for her fans. For more on that, hit up Buzzfeed.
What’s more interesting to me is…why Entertainment Weekly? Why not Vanity Fair? Why not Rolling Stone? Why this particular publication? A few reasons, I think. First, EW generally – not always but generally – avoids gossip. EW is where you go when you want exclusive photos from the set of a new movie, where directors talk about how they went from script to screen. The magazine leans towards technical, not personal, and when it is personal, it’s mostly related to how the personal informed something technical. And that’s true of this interview with Taylor. In a Vanity Fair or a Rolling Stone profile, for example, even Vogue and ELLE, even if a celebrity doesn’t mention their wife or husband or boyfriend, partner, lover, best friend, enemy, whatever, the writer will include a paragraph or two of background on the subject’s relationships, and look for insight into those relationships from the conversation. That’s not what’s happening here with Taylor and EW. So far, I haven’t seen any indication of Joe Alwyn coming up at all. Or Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
That said, Taylor isn’t a novice. And she knows what to say to create a story and, right now, the story is Game of Thrones, as she tells EW that she’s obsessed with the show, that some of the songs on reputation were inspired by the show, that she studies and better understands the human condition because of the show. And that is by design too. Because Entertainment Weekly is one of the leading publications for Game of Thrones coverage. Early on, before Season 1 even started, EW was devoting pages and pages of content to the series, with exclusive photos from production and cast and crew interviews. I’m pretty sure I first heard about Game of Thrones (because I didn’t and don’t read the books) in Entertainment Weekly, hard copy. Since then, through its 8 seasons, EW has had exclusive access to what’s become the biggest show on television, invited to on-set visits, and providing post-episode interviews with major cast members. EW is a Game of Thrones destination. And Taylor Swift just made herself a part of that and made Game of Thrones a part of her new album narrative. Game of Thrones + Taylor Swift headlines are all over the internet today. People are discussing whether she’s Daenerys, Cersei, or Sansa (she wishes). That link has been made – and, well, you might not like it, but she made it, that was the plan. In that sense, given that that was her objective, it’s good work. And that’s the “new angle” I was referring to in the first paragraph of this post. It’s new because you weren’t expecting it. Over the last few weeks, as she’s been building towards the release of TS7, few of us would have thought that Game of Thrones would be part of her publicity, although now, like all good work, the pieces are coming together. She Instagrammed about Game of Thrones on Easter Sunday. The meme that happened after she and Emilia Clarke hung out at the TIME 100 gala. The timing of all of this to begin with – during the series’ final run of episodes.
That said, critics of Taylor Swift, especially lately, have pointed out that she is an opportunistic imitator. #Mayochella was the most recent example. As I said after Taylor’s Billboard Music Awards performance, it’s not that Beyoncé or Taylor invented the marching band, it’s that Beychella and then Homecoming was such a cultural moment, it was understandable that comparisons were being drawn. The enduring image of Beyoncé right now is college aesthetic, specifically Historically Black Colleges and Universities aesthetic. Taylor introducing her first live performance for her new song with a marching band seemed… too close?
To be fair to Taylor, artists inspire each other all the time. But where does inspiration stop and imitation begin? And how many conveniences add up to a conspiracy? Because if we’re talking about Game of Thrones, Taylor tells Entertainment Weekly that she joined the party late, in 2016, and somehow managed to avoid spoilers. You know what happened in 2016?
Beyoncé shouted out the Khaleesi at the CFDA Fashion Awards. The year before, Jay-Z apparently bought the Khaleesi’s dragon eggs for Beyoncé. Coincidence or conspiracy?
It’s a popular show. Everyone can enjoy it. It doesn’t have to “belong” to anyone, right? Well. As already noted, the way Taylor is playing it right now, Game of Thrones + Taylor Swift is the new linkage. The final two week countdown to the conclusion of the series is going to, in some way, coincide with her fans’ anticipation of the album title, upcoming releases, videos, and more. It’s the crossover event no one saw coming.