Taylor Swift:’ Sexy? Not on my radar’
Shes gone from ringletted country artist to feminist role model and the worlds most charming pop superstar. As she returns with her catchiest material yet, she talks awards-ceremony etiquette, autobiographical lyrics and why she puts nice before naughty
In Manhattans chi-chi Sant Ambroeus restaurant, the pair of smartly dressed women at the next table are making not-so-surreptitious eek faces at each other, having clocked that their neighbour for lunch is Taylor Swift. And thats nothing in comparison with the rucku gathering outside: wherever Taylor Swift dines, a swarm of fans and paparazzi soon sorts on the pavement.
This is normal life for the biggest force in pop right now, a global hotshot whose songs soundtrack lives, whose tours sell out stadia in seconds, and whose every facial expression generates thousands and thousands of tweets. Taylor Swift in 2014 is an extraordinary phenomenon. She began as a ringletted country vocalist, teenage sweetie of the American heartland, but between 2006 s eponymous first album and now shes become the kind of culturally titanic figure adored so much better by gnarly rock critics as teenage daughters, feminist intellectuals and, well, pretty much all of emotionally sentient humankind. Unlike Beyonc with her indomitable run-the-world warrior-queen stylings, or Nicki Minaj, with her cartoonified, amplified self and pantheon of alter ego, there is very little image-making going on with Taylor Swift, pop superstar. Instead, its her realness thats made her; as well as, of course, some clever selections and heavy dosages of charisma and songwriting talent. She is, as her friend the teenage media magnate Tavi Gevinson set it , nothing less than BFF to planet Earth. Which, for one thing, necessitates talking to planet Globe at a moderate volume.
When Im doing a concert, its not like, WHATS UP LONDONNNNN! I pretty much only speak at this level, she says. As a outcome, her stadium depicts have the confessional good feeling of mass sleepovers and she communicates with her vast audiences as if Im talking to them in the different regions of the dinner table.
Swift releases an album every two years without fail, which entails its time for a follow-up to 2012 s Red. We satisfy in the week before she announces new album 1989 and its lead single, Shake It Off, a breezy, uptempo number about ignoring the haters. She explains: In the last couple of years Ive had to come to terms with the facts of the case that anyone can say anything about me and call TMZ or Radar Online or something, and it will be an international headline. You can either go crazy and let it build you bitter and make you not trust people, and become really secluded or rebellious against the whole system. Or you can just shake it off and figure that as long as youre having more fun than anyone else, what does it matter what anyone else guess? Because Ive wanted this life since I was a kid.
Her cheery, stoical take over celebrity and tabloid intrusion has served her well. I am not gonna let them construct me miserable when I could be enjoying my life, she says. Thats why you ensure these artists become a tabloid regular and then become artistically and musically irrelevant, because they let[ gossipy websites] stifle them. Its not going to happen here.
For the Shake It Off video, she enlisted 100 fans as well as a loading of professional dancers: Ballet dancers, breakdancers, modern dance, twerkers and me, trying to keep up with them, sucking. She adds: I feel like dancing is sort of a metaphor for the route you live your life. You know how youre at a house party and theres a group of people over there just talking and rolling their eyes at everyone dancing? And you know which group is having more fun.
Dancing enthusiastically amid hauteur has become a Swift trademark; specifically, letting loose at awards ceremonies while everyone else remains seated and stiff. Shes been attending these demonstrates since she was a teen and, after eight years of these very stressful and competitive scenarios, sitting in the front row trying to figure out how youre supposed to act, she eventually realised that I can process this as a huge pressure cooker or I can simply look at it like I have a front-row seat to the coolest concert right now. Dancing to Justin Timberlake with Selena Gomez at last years VMAs was a particularly fine instance of the latter.
But her most famous awards-show moment remains Kanye Wests interruption at the 2009 MTV Awards. Such is Swifts global standing that the President himself called West a jackass and, five years on, the moment still hasnt quite died in the collective imagination. Or indeed, Swifts own: Last year, she dedicated her friend Ed Sheeran a jar of homemade jam with a handwritten label that said: Yo Ed Im really happy 4 u and Im gonna let u finish but this is the best JAM OF ALL TIME – T.
In short, the interruption merely amplified good feeling towards her. Less fortunate was her Grammys appearance the following year in which she wobbled her style through a duo with Stevie Nicks and subsequently suffered an online shellacking. At this years rite, she seemed determined to eclipse that with a rendition of the bruised All Too Well, a song allegedly inspired by its relation with Jake Gyllenhaal. Her performance was fierce and focused. When she finished, she turned from the piano and faced the audience with an intent gaze of defiance and held it for several seconds. The message was clear: no more the victim. Its this song, incidentally, that contains one of the lyrics shes most proud of: You call me up again simply to transgress me like a promise/ So casually cruel in the name of being honest. She pauses, pleased. I was like, Ill stand by that one.
All Too Well was taken from 2012 s Red, an album defined by widescreen, wind-machined renders of sorrow, which confirmed that country could finally be fallen from her tag of country-pop vocalist. But 1989, as she explains, is shorter on the jilted, sad, pining. Instead, its the stage after that, when you go out into the world and make a difference in your life on your own terms, make friends on your own terms, without[ literally] saying Cmon girls, we can do it on our own!
Read more: www.theguardian.com
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