Taylor Swift has officially opened (and closed) the book on her big music industry feuds.
In her October cover interview with Rolling Stone, the singer did not hold back on explaining her side of the drama from the last few years of her career. Everything from her decision to remain silent during the 2016 Presidential Election, her love for Fall Out Boy, the way the promotion of her infamous “girl squad” backfired, and “reconnecting” with former frenemy Katy Perry were laid out on the table during Swift’s candid interview with the music magazine.
For starters, she finally gave a full answer about her decade-long feud with Kanye West, beginning with his infamous 2009 VMA tantrum and reaching its zenith when he included her name in a line of his song “Famous” (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous”). After she publicly disapproved of the lyric, he released a recording of a phone call in which she can be heard giving approval, but Swift insisted that she had only been played the first half of the lyric, and that there was “some lead-up” before the fiasco that has never been publicly addressed. (She also insinuated that the opening track on Lover, “I Forgot That You Existed,” is about the moment she freed herself from being weighed down by this media quarrel with the rapper.)
“Some events took place to cause me to be pissed off when he called me a bitch,” Swift told Rolling Stone. “Basically, I got really sick of the dynamic between he and I,” she went on.
I started to feel like we reconnected, which felt great for me — because all I ever wanted my whole career after that thing happened in 2009 was for him to respect me. When someone doesn’t respect you so loudly and says you literally don’t deserve to be here — I just so badly wanted that respect from him, and I hate that about myself, that I was like, “This guy who’s antagonizing me, I just want his approval.” But that’s where I was. And so we’d go to dinner and stuff. And I was so happy, because he would say really nice things about my music. It just felt like I was healing some childhood rejection or something from when I was 19. But the 2015 VMAs come around. He’s getting the Vanguard Award. He called me up beforehand — I didn’t illegally record it, so I can’t play it for you. But he called me up, maybe a week or so before the event, and we had maybe over an hourlong conversation, and he’s like, “I really, really would like for you to present this Vanguard Award to me, this would mean so much to me,” and went into all the reasons why it means so much, because he can be so sweet. He can be the sweetest. And I was so stoked that he asked me that. And so I wrote this speech up, and then we get to the VMAs and I make this speech and he screams, “MTV got Taylor Swift up here to present me this award for ratings!” [His exact words: “You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award ’cause it got them more ratings?”] And I’m standing in the audience with my arm around his wife, and this chill ran through my body. I realized he is so two-faced. That he wants to be nice to me behind the scenes, but then he wants to look cool, get up in front of everyone and talk shit. And I was so upset. He wanted me to come talk to him after the event in his dressing room. I wouldn’t go. So then he sent this big, big thing of flowers the next day to apologize. And I was like, “You know what? I really don’t want us to be on bad terms again. So whatever, I’m just going to move past this.” So when he gets on the phone with me, and I was so touched that he would be respectful and, like, tell me about this one line in the song.
To sum it up: the singer heard the line about having sex with West in the phone call, and thought that the two could finally be on good terms if she just approved it and let it go, however that was not the case once she heard the full song. “When I heard the song, I was like, ‘I’m done with this. If you want to be on bad terms, let’s be on bad terms, but just be real about it,'” she said, before reminding that she is not the only pop star to have been pulled into West’s musical orbit and had her public image harmed by a feud. “He literally did the same thing to Drake. He gravely affected the trajectory of Drake’s family and their lives. It’s the same thing. Getting close to you, earning your trust, detonating you,” Swift said, in reference to the 2018 beef stirred up between Drake and West, when West produced an album by Pusha T, on which the rapper insisted Drake was “hiding a child.”
Then, she gave what appears to be her final word on the subject: “I really don’t want to talk about it anymore because I get worked up, and I don’t want to just talk about negative shit all day, but it’s the same thing. Go watch Drake talk about what happened.” (Drake eventually admitted that he had a son named Adonis, but later opened up about the damage the beef had done on an episode of The Shop with LeBron James.)
However, that was not the only feud Swift addressed in the interview. Her legal troubles with Scooter Braun and former label boss Scott Borchetta, and the fact that she does not own the rights to the master recordings for her first six albums, were discussed as well. “When you have a business relationship with someone for 15 years, there are going to be a lot of ups and a lot of downs. But I truly, legitimately thought he looked at me as the daughter he never had. And so even though we had a lot of really bad times and creative differences, I was going to hang my hat on the good stuff,” she said about Borchetta. “I wanted to be friends with him. I thought I knew what betrayal felt like, but this stuff that happened with him was a redefinition of betrayal for me, just because it felt like it was family. To go from feeling like you’re being looked at as a daughter to this grotesque feeling of ‘Oh, I was actually his prized calf that he was fattening up to sell to the slaughterhouse that would pay the most.'”
“These are two very rich, very powerful men, using $300 million of other people’s money to purchase, like, the most feminine body of work,” she went on. “And then they’re standing in a wood-panel bar doing a tacky photo shoot, raising a glass of scotch to themselves. Because they pulled one over on me and got this done so sneakily that I didn’t even see it coming. And I couldn’t say anything about it.”
Swift also made a point to condemn racism and right wing extremism in the United States (“There’s literally nothing worse than white supremacy. It’s repulsive. There should be no place for it.”), compared herself and fictional Game of Thrones character Daenerys Targaryen—and to be clear, she hates that Dany snapped and killed a whole bunch of people with her fire breathing dragons, but sees parallels between their climb to the top as women in a patriarchal society (“It’s easier to get power than to keep it. It’s easier to get acclaim than to keep it. It’s easier to get attention than to keep it.”). The one thing she mostly kept mum about is her relationship with Joe Alwyn, which, at this point seems to be something we will never get any further insight into outside of making assumptions about which song lyrics are direct references to the actor. Still, for the most part she remained candid.
What’s made exceptionally clear by Swift in her profile interview is that the narrative surrounding her persona and career will no longer be “Taylor Swift versus the girls of pop music.” It is a little “Taylor Swift versus the boys,” but she has every right to be mad about the ways men have wronged her in the past ten years, especially given the patriarchal nature of her industry. But it’s nothing we couldn’t have ascertained from someone who expresses themselves most clearly via songwriting, and on one particular song on her seventh studio album. Just go listen to “The Man” if you really want to know how she feels.