Last year, Taylor Swift gave an interview to Rolling Stone ahead of the release of her now mega-popular fifth album 1989. In it, she did her Taylor Swift thing, talking about the new sound the album has, her transition from country music starlet to pop queen, and of course, she answered questions about who her songs are purportedly about.
Swift has been fielding these kinds of questions since the very beginning of her career. Her confessional, diary-style of songwriting includes a lot of detail about past relationships, prompting endless media speculation about the subjects of her hit songs.
Perhaps that’s all understandable, but the media attention surrounding Swift has always been tinted with sexism: that she’s a shrew, she’s a man-eater, she dates too much, she shouldn’t be writing about past relationships, she’s just a jealous, backstabbing ex. So what did Swift do when she’d had enough?
The song in question is the notorious ‘Bad Blood,’ an anthem that calls out a former friend/lover who did something so terrible that their relationship was irreparably ruined. You know the words: “Cause baby now we got bad blood/You know we used to be mad love/So take a look what you’ve done/Cause baby now we got bad blood.”
In Rolling Stone, she explained, in vague-ish terms, the origin of the song. Her comments immediately pointed to Katy Perry, speculation that has since become fact.
“For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not. She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?'”
“She did something so horrible. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’ And it wasn’t even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational – you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It’s awkward, and I don’t like it.”
The evidence pointed to Katy Perry, who hired a group of Swift’s backup dancers during her Red world tour in 2012. The evidence mounted when Perry tweeted, “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…” only a day after the Rolling Stone article appeared.
And then, of course, came the music video for ‘Bad Blood,’ which featured Swift’s longtime best friend Selena Gomez starring as the villain, wearing what looked to so many like a Katy Perry-style bobbed wig. Everyone’s sneakiest suspicions were confirmed: the song was about Perry, and maybe Swift isn’t as innocent and woman-supporting as she claims to be.
Katy definitely thinks so. During the Swift/Minaj “spat,” Perry Tweeted another cryptic comment (littered with misspellings and typos) that echoed her previous sentiment, that Taylor isn’t as nice as she seems:
Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman…
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) July 22, 2015
Clearly, Katy and Taylor have no love for each other. But NEW comments Swift made recently to GQ make it seem like the singer is backpedaling; at least, her song isn’t exactly what everyone thinks it is. She mentioned that her previous comments were so vague that she doesn’t understand why anyone thinks it’s about a specific person (which is clearly a fib) and she also hinted that she was sparing the feelings of an old ex and his family.
Here’s what Swift said to GQ:
You’re in a Rolling Stone interview, and the writer says, “Who is that song about? That sounds like a really intense moment from your life.” And you sit there, and you know you’re on good terms with your ex-boyfriend, and you don’t want him — or his family — to think you’re firing shots at him. So you say, “That was about losing a friend.” And that’s basically all you say. But then people cryptically tweet about what you meant. I never said anything that would point a finger in the specific direction of one specific person, and I can sleep at night knowing that. I knew the song would be assigned to a person, and the easiest mark was someone who I didn’t want to be labeled with this song. It was not a song about heartbreak. It was about the loss of friendship.
The bit where Swift says “that’s basically all you say” is clearly an oversimplification. Her comments did point almost unequivocally to Perry. But Swift’s meaning was not so clear: that her songs don’t have to be about a specific person at all. It doesn’t matter who it’s about; the song is about many things, or nothing.
Clearly, Swift is trolling us here.
She knows better than anyone how much the media feeds on her every move, every comment, every story. She knows that whatever she says will be misunderstood or blown out of proportion. She knows that no matter what she says, she’ll catch heat for writing about an ex. So last year, she deflected the heat off an ex and onto a former friend.
But now, now that she’s definitely been criticized for allegedly “taking down” a woman, Swift is backpedaling, making it seem like the media had it wrong: that the song is actually about something else but she didn’t want to admit it, for the sake of a former flame.
By changing her comments, Swift is deftly frustrating the maneuvers of the media that write stories almost solely on who the song is about and not what the song is about.
It doesn’t matter, Swift is saying. And truly, the song is vague enough that the content of it points no fingers at anyone, and avoids any romantic, failed-relationship language. It could be about a friend. It could be about an ex. It doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that the media cares more about Swift’s personal life than her art.