In the interview, Swift insinuated that her previous explanation of the song—that it was about another female artist that tried to “sabotage an entire arena tour”—might have been a diversion tactic:
“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.”
Then again, Perry might have had reason to worry after all. “If you’d listened to my previous four albums, you would think this was about a guy who broke my heart,” Swift went on. “And nothing could be further from the truth. It was important to show that losing friendships can be just as damaging to a person as losing a romantic relationship.”
Wait, what? It seems like Swift strayed off-message, but can’t decide whether to disavow her Rolling Stone story, claim she was misunderstood, or hint at yet another saga to give the song new legs. It’s an apt backpedaling for an entertainer who’s made her name as a perennial girl next door–turned–underdog, rising again and again above the petty motives of those who’d exploit her or tarnish her good name.
But so much of that persona is built on a throne of lies. In 2013, she made an indignant argument against the gossiping hordes that claimed she’d purchased a Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, mansion next door to her then-boyfriend (a Kennedy!). “People say that about me, that I apparently buy houses near every boy I like—that’s a thing that I apparently do. If I like you I will apparently buy up the real-estate market just to freak you out so you leave me,” she said. Turned out, they were right. But Swift wasn’t humbled. Earlier this month, she again denied buying a $25 million house in Beverly Hills and was promptly found out.
Swift once claimed that Kanye West’s College Dropout was the first album she and her brother ever bought on iTunes, when she was 12—never mind that College Dropout dropped in 2004, when Swift was 14, and iTunes had launched three years earlier, when Swift was already well on her way to becoming a country star.
Her lyrics are full of straw men (read: lies!) that serve to uphold the same carefully crafted image. To wit, from “You Belong With Me”: “She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers.” Since when has Taylor Swift ever been a dorky tomboy? From “Shake It Off”: “I stay out too late/Got nothing in my brain/That’s what people say.” Actually, no one’s lobbing out-of-control party-girl accusations at Swift—public consensus has labeled her a smart businesswoman.
Granted, not every song in the pop canon is written from the singer’s personal perspective. But Swift positions each of her tunes as another against-the-odds chapter of her autobiography. Which of these are true, and which have sprung from the imagination of a PR-savvy billionaire? Whatever you do, don’t write it down—publish a critique, and Swift’s next wounded tale could be a sinfully catchy takedown aimed straight for you.