Taylor Swift, promoting her new album 1989, is back on the cover of Rolling Stone, this time looking both pretty and very damp. The cover story — a tale of Swift's journey from pop-country artist to full-on pop star written by Josh Eells — covers all the typical Swift bases: Music, relationships, feminism and scones. Here are the article's 10 Swiftiest Taylor Swift moments:
"So my brother comes home the other day," Taylor Swift says, "and he goes, 'Oh, my God – I just saw a guy walking down the street with a cat on his head.'"
As an ardent fan of ready-made metaphors, as well as of cats, Swift was excited by this. "My first reaction was, 'Did you take a picture?'" she says. "And then I thought about it. Half of my brain was going, 'We should be able to take a picture if we want to. That guy is asking for it – he's got a cat on his head!' But the other half was going, 'What if he just wants to walk around with a cat on his head, and not have his picture taken all day?'"
Take this from a fellow New York resident who has seen the man with a cat on his head many times. He is asking for it. I know this because he charges money for you to take a picture of him. It's literally his income.
"I feel like watching my dating life has become a bit of a national pastime," Swift says. "And I'm just not comfortable providing that kind of entertainment anymore. I don't like seeing slide shows of guys I've apparently dated. I don't like giving comedians the opportunity to make jokes about me at awards shows. I don't like it when headlines read 'Careful, Bro, She'll Write a Song About You,' because it trivializes my work. And most of all, I don't like how all these factors add up to build the pressure so high in a new relationship that it gets snuffed out before it even has a chance to start. And so," she says, "I just don't date."
Well, like Cat-Head with his cat (that he puts on his head), Swift has made her romantic relationships a key part of her personal brand. But also like Cat-Head, she has the right to move on from all that. Cat-Head can take the cat off his head and Taylor Swift, while continuing to sing love songs, can stop encouraging people to guess who the song is about. Who she dates and how she dates them is really none of our business — that is until she wants it to be our business and, to be fair to the gossip-mongering public, she has wanted exactly that in the past, probably because it help sells records.
But whatever — she's not into that anymore and if she's ready to move past that coy "guess who" thing, so should we.
8. By the way, the whole new album is about One Direction's Harry Styles.
Swift won't say much about her relationship with Styles, other than that they're now friends. But talking to her, it seems clear that many of the songs on 1989 that are about a guy are about him. There's "I Wish You Would," about an ex who bought a house two blocks from hers (whom she implies was Styles). And "All You Had to Do Was Stay," about a guy who was never willing to commit (ditto). Then there's the song that sets a new high-water mark for Swiftian faux secrecy – a sexy Miami Vice-sounding throwback about a guy with slicked-back hair and a white T-shirt and a girl in a tight little skirt that is called – no joke – "Style." (She allows herself a satisfied grin. "We should have just called it 'I'm Not Even Sorry.'")
7. As of now, though, she's enjoying being single and relating to lonely whales. Good for her!
"Have you heard of the Loneliest Whale? There's this whale – I think Adrian Grenier is making a documentary about it. It swims through the ocean, and it has a call unlike any other whale's. So it doesn't have anyone to swim with. And everybody feels so sorry for this whale – but what if this whale is having a great time?"
6. And Taylor Swift, the loneliest little whale of pop music, is indeed having a good time! She's formed a very large group of lady friends with whom she dresses up in 19th century nightgowns.
Swift leads the way into one of her four guest bedrooms. "This is where Karlie usually stays," she says – meaning supermodel Karlie Kloss, one of her new BFFs, whom she met nine months ago at the Victoria's Secret fashion show. There's a basket of Kloss's favorite Whole Foods treats next to the bed, and multiple photos of her on the walls. Against another wall, there's a rack full of white nightgowns. "This is a thing me and Lena have," says Swift – meaning Lena Dunham, another recent friend. "We wear them during the day and look like pioneer women, fresh off the Oregon Trail."
As a recent New York transplant in her mid-twenties, Swift says Girls is like her Sex and the City. "I could label all my girlfriends as Shoshannas, Jessas, Marnies or Hannahs," she says. And which would she be? "I've thought about this a lot," she says. A pause. "I'm Shoshanna."
Of course she's a Shoshanna. (I've also put a lot of thought into this: I am Hannah's downstairs neighbor's dead turtle.)
"When your number-one priority is getting a boyfriend, you're more inclined to see a beautiful girl and think, 'Oh, she's gonna get that hot guy I wish I was dating,'" she says. "But when you're not boyfriend-shopping, you're able to step back and see other girls who are killing it and think, 'God, I want to be around her.'" As an example, she cites her pal Lorde, whom she calls Ella. "It's like this blazing bonfire," Swift says. "You can either be afraid of it because it's so powerful and strong, or you can go stand near it, because it's fun and it makes you brighter."
Aw, that's nice! (Sincerely!)
Earlier in her career, Swift deflected questions about feminism because she didn't want to alienate male fans. But these days, she's proud to identify herself as a feminist. To her, all feminism means is wanting women to have the same opportunities as men. "I don't see how you could oppose that." Dunham says Swift has always been a feminist whether she called herself one or not: "She runs her own company, she's creating music that connects to other women instead of creating a sexual persona for the male gaze, and no one is in control of her. If that's not feminism, what is?"
As Eells points out, Swift has not always been so eager to identify as a feminist. A cynic might attribute her change of heart to the fact that feminism happens to be very on trend right now, but maybe Swift's just getting older and figuring stuff out as she goes along. I mean, as a teenager, I used to tell people OUT LOUD that Sublime's 40oz. to Freedom was the best album ever, but then I got older and learned that I was unequivocally wrong. You live, you learn! Swift learned that she's a feminist. I learned that I have bad taste in music.
We must allow for growth and change.
Swift's focus on sisterhood cuts both ways, because when another woman crosses her, she's equally fierce about hitting back. The angriest song on 1989 is called "Bad Blood," and it's about another female artist Swift declines to name. "For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not," she says. "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?'" Then last year, the other star crossed a line. "She did something so horrible," Swift says. "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."
WHO IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? MILEY? JULIETTE BARNES? WHO???
In front of her, two bodyguards clear a path. Behind her, another bodyguard carries a bag of scones.
This is the most Taylor Swift sentence ever committed to paper.
BONUS: Tay is very concerned about privacy.
"Don't even get me started on wiretaps," Swift says seriously. "It's not a good thing for me to talk about socially. I freak out." As for who might bug a Van Nuys production office on the off chance that Swift is inside: "The janitor," she says, as if naming one candidate among hundreds. "The janitor who's being paid by TMZ. This is gonna sound like I'm a crazy person – but we don't even know. I have to stop myself from thinking about how many aspects of technology I don't understand."
Swift pauses, as if weighing just how paranoid she's comfortable with sounding. Then she plows ahead. "Like speakers," she says. "Speakers put sound out . . . so can't they take sound in? Or" – she holds up her cellphone – "they can turn this on, right? I'm just saying. We don't even know."
"Like, I don't take my clothes off in pictures or anything – I'm very private about that. So it scares me how valuable it would be to get a video of me changing. It's sad to have to look for cameras in dressing rooms and bathrooms. I don't walk around naked with my windows open, because there's a value on that."
I'd love to say that Swift is being overly paranoid, but, considering recent events, maybe (sadly) not.
Images via Rolling Stone.