What a f-cking year it’s been for Taylor Swift. It’s just been triumph after triumph after triumph, and now, a week before her birthday, another stomping victory: TIME has just named her their Person of the Year. Which means a cover a story and the most in-depth interview she’s given in a long time FULL of quotes and brimming with gossip and, of course, Easter eggs for her fans. It’s an exhilarating read – so first, let’s give credit to the writer, Sam Lansky, who is rumoured to have been the ghostwriter behind Britney Spears’s The Woman in Me. Which is why this piece, the construction and the conceit of it, is its own independent star, worthy of being included on any list of the Best Celebrity Profiles.
You know why? It all comes together at the end, as Sam considers what he has just experienced, having spent so much time, on multiple occasions, with the Person of the Year, in order to document her celebrity at its current zenith (allowing that it’s very possible for her to reach yet another zenith at some point) that he very well may have just been inadvertently playing a part that was scripted by her. That the script he’s just delivered in the form of this TIME profile is full of observations that may have been staged for him to observe by the Great Storyteller herself, Taylor Swift. That, perhaps, he might be writing a story that she already had foretold.
It's a brilliant way to present this to the audience. Because, of course, Taylor Swift isn’t just any popstar. Taylor Swift is a generational superstar – and you don’t get to this level without having a hand in the creation of your own mythology. Madonna did it. Beyoncé is doing it. And now Taylor, too. She always was, the difference now is that she’s closer to admitting it. Or at least not denying it.
Here then is the key quote from the TIME piece, these are the words that should shape the context around which you read everything else:
“This is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been. Ultimately, we can convolute it all we want, or try to overcomplicate it, but there’s only one question.” Here, she adopts a booming voice. “Are you not entertained?”
And there it is. There, finally, is how she figured out the code to her own matrix: you control the narrative by not trying so hard to control it. The show is all that matters.
And did she ever put on a f-cking show this year, on stage, off stage, and for this interview. As a student of pop culture, I am levitating from delight over what she’s giving us here. Which includes, but is not limited to:
Taylor talks about how she transitioned from country to pop – and admits that it was both calculated and creative, a strategic move that did not compromise her artistry. Because it can be both. She talks about the decision to release her concert film without going through the studios. She talks about the decision to re-record her catalogue. There’s enough detail here to establish her boss credentials. It’s not so detailed that she’s giving away her trade secrets – and balancing that, in and of itself, is another testament to her genius. To give the appearance of candour when, in reality, what she was willing to share was computed and measured to precision. That takes a level of preparation, FOR AN INTERVIEW, that few are capable of. Because you have to be in it, and present, but also outside of it. And this goes back to the heart of what Sam writes about at the end of the essay: she is the gamemaster, at once playing the game while also having built it.
Then we get to the Grudge Porn, because she is willing to talk about her enemies. If she’s willing to talk about them it means she’s ready to talk about them, it means she PLANNED to talk about them. That would be both Kim Kardashian and Scooter Braun. And we’re all familiar with what happened but now? Where in the past Taylor’s victim position was one dimensional, now that she’s on the other side of it, and standing on the highest mountain that she painstakingly rebuilt on all her triumphs, a billion dollars worth of triumphs, there’s some gloat to her grudging now. Taylor can gloat now…and she does.
“Nothing is permanent. So I’m very careful to be grateful every second that I get to be doing this at this level, because I’ve had it taken away from me before. There is one thing I’ve learned: My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art.” She considers. “But I’ve also learned there’s no point in actively trying to quote unquote defeat your enemies,” she says. “Trash takes itself out every single time.”
I mean, I don’t believe her when she says she’s not actively trying to defeat her enemies because Taylor is never as motivated as she is when the fight is on her front lawn, which is the mark of many champions (they hate to lose more than they like to win) and she’s full of sh-t when she says, several times, that she was cancelled and almost lost her career, LOL. But as Sam Lansky points out, that’s the story that she’s committed to, it’s the story upon which other stories are layered. It’s part of the self legend she’s been spinning about herself. And now she’s been able to add a new chapter to it – the “cancellation” preceded a comeback. And it’s the comeback that’s giving her the gloat.
As for the Sports Porn, well, it’s one of the parts that made me laugh. We’re talking about sports, obviously, because she is dating an athlete. He plays the most popular sport in the United States. You wouldn’t know it the way she casually mentions it though. The way “football” comes out of Taylor’s mouth it’s like it’s like it’s a casual Goop recommendation, hahahaha.
“Football is awesome, it turns out.”
And then maybe a cheeky little jab at the people who watch it religiously.
“I’m just there to support Travis. I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads, and Chads.”
Ah, yes. Enter Travis.
I believe this is the first time we’ve heard her say his name? Or read her say his name? That too feels like a blessing – like she’s speaking him into his existence.
Love Porn. Gossip Serve. Taylor knows we’ve been waiting, and even though he was just on a cover of a magazine recently, SHE would be the one who eventually tells us how it began:
“This all started when Travis very adorably put me on blast on his podcast, which I thought was metal as hell,” she says. “We started hanging out right after that. So we actually had a significant amount of time that no one knew, which I’m grateful for, because we got to get to know each other. By the time I went to that first game, we were a couple. I think some people think that they saw our first date at that game? We would never be psychotic enough to hard launch a first date.” The larger point, for her, is that there’s nothing to hide. “When you say a relationship is public, that means I’m going to see him do what he loves, we’re showing up for each other, other people are there and we don’t care,” she says. “The opposite of that is you have to go to an extreme amount of effort to make sure no one knows that you’re seeing someone. And we’re just proud of each other.”
To go back to the storytelling then, she was always going to be the one taking lead on how and when the story is told. And she saved it for when TIME Magazine named her Person of the Year. Yet another in a series of mic drops.
Also attached - Taylor out for dinner last night in New York.
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