As soon as Taylor Swift hit the “create post” button on a Tumblr dispatch at the end of June, her feud with music mogul Scooter Braun was on. His company Ithaca Holdings LLC had bought Big Machine Label Group, the record label that released Swift’s first six albums and owned her master recordings. For Swift, this was a “worst case scenario,” because instead of owning her own music, it now belonged to Braun, whose “manipulative bullying” she’d been suffering for years, she wrote.
But this disagreement was destined to be bigger than just two people. In her many instances of public bad blood, Swift has cultivated powerful allies, and Braun has managed prominent peers of hers, like Justin Bieber, who was one of the first figures to come to Braun’s defense publicly, in a very wordy Instagram post. Yet declaring allegiances in 2019 can take many forms: It can be as subtle as tapping a heart icon, or as overt as mounting a full-court Twitter offense. Clearly, making sense of a series of shifting alliances and false maneuvers wasn’t a task for the faint of heart. Into this fray stepped one brave woman, who decided to do the world the public service of diagramming who was on what team in l’affaire Swift vs. Braun. And we do mean diagram: There are enough overlapping lines and reversals on this thing to make Carrie Mathison’s head spin.
Our brave guide’s name is Courtney Soliday, and she agreed to annotate her chart, which earned hundreds of views and a mention in CNN’s widely read Reliable Sources newsletter, for rubberneckers everywhere.
Soliday, a 29-year-old production assistant and intellectual property attorney based in New York, said she’s doesn’t really consider herself a member of any particular fandom. But something about the nature of this battle immediately struck her as big. Once Taylor said the word bullying, “it starts to become a feminism issue almost,” Soliday said. “People want to support a woman who is being bullied and not receiving the fruits of her labor.” (“I am on Team Taylor,” she conceded.) Conveniently, as the feud broke out, Soliday happened to have a free trial on a service called LucidChart, a common tool for meme-making. “I was going to cancel it,” she said, but then “I was like, ‘It would be funny to post a flowchart of who has taken sides so far.’ ” Before long, people started sending her tips. And fighting in her mentions. She became, ever so briefly, the internet’s foremost chronicler of this particular dispute.
To start, “I put green to denote they were clients of Scooter Braun,” Soliday said. She used yellow to mark people who liked Justin Bieber’s fateful Instagram post, and purple to indicate people who liked another major Instagram post that rallied support for Team Scooter, by his wife, Yael. “I wanted to differentiate between someone like Katharine McPhee,” who tweeted her support of Braun, Soliday said, “and someone who maybe didn’t make a statement but through their behavior I have placed them on this side of the chart.” She was also careful to note cases where people initially liked a post in support of Braun but eventually unliked it, perhaps out of fear it would earn them a spot on Swift’s shit list. But also, some of the colors don’t mean anything. “My trial expired so I had to switch to Photoshop,” she said. “It kind of just got messy.”
“When I first posted it, people were replying and engaging with it, so I kept doing it, and then it got a little carried away,” Soliday said. “Some people were replying that I hadn’t included JoJo yet—she sings ‘Leave (Get Out).’ Other people were replying to the person requesting JoJo like, ‘I hope she adds it. JoJo has been through so much, she knows how this feels.’ People were kind of getting invested in their favorites being documented.” Soliday said the person she was most surprised to see had an opinion on the whole drama was Elaine Hendrix, the actress best known as the evil would-be stepmom in the Lindsay Lohan remake of The Parent Trap. (Hendrix is Team Taylor, for the record.)
Soliday also expressed surprise that actress-singer McPhee weighed in to take Braun’s side; McPhee even went so far as to argue in Instagram comments about how women don’t have to support other women just because of their shared gender. (“To take Scooter’s side so publicly and then to make that women comment, I was surprised that she spoke out like that,” Soliday said.) As for the people who notably didn’t speak up, “The most popular ‘When so-and-so weighs in, it’s over’ reply I got was Carly Rae Jepsen or Karlie Kloss. I think other people were really waiting to hear what they had to say.”
Soliday maintained high standards. Though there were screenshots circulating that claimed to show Ariana Grande posted something pro-Braun on Instagram and then backtracked, Soliday declined to include Grande on the chart, because she couldn’t confirm the veracity of the images. “A lot of people were upset that I didn’t add Katy Perry,” too, she said—a Change.org petition with Perry’s name on it had been going around. But Soliday thought it might be fishy: “Someone signing a petition as Katy Perry just wasn’t enough.”
Soliday said she added a few people to the chart that she’d never heard of before. Like @CardiBCharts, an account with 34,500 followers that, for some reason, declared allegiance to Swift: “I think it’s just an account that tweets about how Cardi’s singles are doing on the Billboard charts,” Soliday said. Personally, I’d never heard of Bishop Briggs or Daya, but they’re both singers on Team Taylor. The account @NYDoorman “asked if I would add him because he was arguing with Bieber fans in the mentions of Comments by Celebs,” an Instagram and Twitter presence, Soliday said. “He has a tweet now that’s high up in the thousands that ties Scooter Braun to, like, murders in Yemen. They started the hashtag #ScooterBraunIsATerrorist. Because the Carlyle Group is an investor in the new label? So he has his own thing going on over there.” (She dutifully put him on the chart.)
For Soliday, the lesson of constructing this chart is clear: “Don’t like anything unless you fully support its message and its speaker.” The degrees of separation between Taylor Swift and terrorism may be less than you think! And if that isn’t a microcosm of what it’s like to follow pop music and exist on social media right now, I don’t know what is.