Taylor Swift is occasionally stalked by creepy men who swim two miles to meet her, keeps a photo of Kanye West crashing her VMAs acceptance speech on her living room wall, and likes to board her private jet after shows for the sake of sleeping in her own bed. Such are among the bits of information and insight that populate Jody Rosen's nearly 6,000-word New York cover story on the "prim, rated G" songstress. "How, why, is Taylor Swift the world’s biggest pop star?" Rosen asks.
The answer—if you opt to play along and agree that she is the world's biggest pop star—naturally has something to do with the singer's confessional, starkly personal songcraft. Which, translated into normal-person terms, equals: she writes about boys, most of whom have broken her heart. And some of them don't even mind the awkward, breakup-inspired creative boost, Swift tells Rosen. Names wisely withheld, though it's probably Jake Gyllenhaal:
“I heard from the guy that most of Red is about,” Swift said. “He was like, ‘I just listened to the album, and that was a really bittersweet experience for me. It was like going through a photo album.’ That was nice."
Others aren't so warm to the idea of becoming Swift's muse. There was the other one, who sent her "ranting, crazy e-mails," the artist tells us, and of course, in 2012, the little squabble with John Mayer over "Dear John." That's not to mention "Better Than Revenge," a song inspired by being dumped by Joe Jonas. "It’s a lot more mature way of looking at a love that was wonderful until it was terrible, and both people got hurt from it," Swift says of the Gyllenhaal experience, "but one of those people happened to be a songwriter."
For Rosen, that power—coupled with her overwhelmingly female live audience—restores feminist agency to the singer in the face of critiques like Autostraddle's "Taylor Swift Is a Feminist Nightmare" (by way of Jezebel), which he mentions. Songwriting may highlight her vulnerability, but she wields it like a weapon: "I think allowing yourself to feel raw, real emotions in public is something I am never going to be afraid to do."
Anyway, guys taking Swift out on a single date need not worry about popping up in a song—she probably didn't love you:
"I only write songs about crazy love,” Swift said. “If I go on two dates with a guy and we don’t click, I’m not writing a song about that."
Same goes, presumably, for the stalkers swimming two miles to reach her estate in Rhode Island.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.