Kim Kardashian’s Sunday-night Snapchats were a gift from the benevolent gossip gods, scandalous manna from heaven that we will feast on for weeks. But once you’ve recovered from the sheer “oh snap!” factor of the videos, take a minute to consider the actual snippets of conversation between Taylor Swift and Kanye West, which offer a rare glimpse at a (relatively) unfiltered exchange between celebrities. Think about it: How often do we get to see the way celebrities talk to each other when they don’t think cameras or prying eyes are around to observe? Finally, a peek into the private worlds of two of our biggest stars, right?
So what do we learn about private Taylor and private Kanye from the call? (Not that they were totally alone, or ever are—Rick Rubin can be spotted in the backdrop, along with other members of team Kanye, one of whom was presumably recording, and as for Taylor, I wouldn’t put it past her to bug every conversation she’s part of, Nixon-style.) Swift seems a lot like you might expect her to be in the conversation—talkative to the point of oversharing irrelevant details (“I still have the Nashville area code, but I had to change it …”), professional, smart, and quick to make connections. She seems to treat every aspect of her life and career as a business. Friendships are business too, so this is a business call. Private Taylor is not really a person at all; there is only success robot Taylor.
Taylor also shows that she has a memory for details. She thanks Kanye for the flowers he sent her and mentions how many Instagram likes they netted. Talking about how many likes an Instagram got is not cool—a cool person would pretend not to care about such things—but Taylor is numbers- and success-oriented. Later, when she cites the sales figures her album had before Kanye ever interrupted her (“It doesn’t matter that I sold 7 million of that album before you did that, which is what happened,” she says—you can imagine her turning to a camera and winking for that last part), that number, too, is one she has at the ready. It’s a little passive-aggressive, a reminder to Kanye that she doesn’t think she needs him, but it also shows how much she cares—she went back and checked, and she already had 7 million in sales, so ha. And if we had any notion that “the interruption” was some unimportant blip that we’re all making too much of all these years later, we’ve been disabused of that, too: It still looms large for both Taylor and Kanye.
Not a minute after hearing the rap, Taylor is already laying out her publicity plan of attack. “If people ask me about it, I think it would be great for me to be like, well, he called me and told me the line before it came out, like, joke’s on you guys, we’re fine. You guys wanna call this a feud, you wanna call this throwing shade, but right after the song comes out I’m gonna be on the Grammy red carpet and they’re gonna ask me about it and I’m gonna be like, he called me.” This shows a sophisticated understanding of our gossip ecosystem, proof that everything Taylor does, she more or less does deliberately. She is never not thinking about publicity, about what she’ll say to the press, about how she’ll spin this.
Taylor’s gonna Taylor, but on the videos, it’s Kanye who’s kind of a surprise—he’s initially nervous (“You still got the Nashville, uh, number?”), but mostly he seems clear and kind: “What I give a fuck about is just you as a person and friend,” he says. It seems like he’s not trying to trick Taylor into anything. But it’s worth remembering that the videos are also, in addition to being extremely lo-fi, not complete. After Kanye raps the “might still have sex” lyric for Taylor, she says something about overexposure, but you can’t make out the whole statement. That’s our Taylor: always thinking strategically about her image, how this will affect the big picture of her brand.
To Taylor’s point about overexposure, Kanye responds that he thinks the mention is “a really cool thing to have.” Was Taylor fully buying that, though? As much as these videos offer what feels like the undeniable truth, a gotcha moment when Kim proved Taylor wrong, it’s also abundantly clear that they don’t present the full picture. There are parts of the video where Taylor sounds resigned. “You didn’t know who I was before that, it’s fine,” she says, when that is clearly not fine. Even the effusive thank yous and vows of friendship Taylor offers can be seen in this light—she’s used to laying it on thick, weaponizing her sweet personality as a way to further her business interests. When she says, “It’s a really cool thing to do and a really good show of friendship,” you can hear a hint of falseness in her voice, her willing herself to say what she knows she’s supposed to say.
Not to let Swift off the hook too much, but don’t we all sometimes try to people-please instead of say what we actually feel? Kanye has previously said he had an hourlong conversation with Taylor, and what we’re seeing here is less than five minutes. No one can pretend to understand her motivations for insisting that Kanye is in the wrong here—Who cares if he called you “that bitch”? Why make a big thing of it? Why continue to fight it?—but it seems like even after this umpteenth, mic drop of a chapter, there’s probably still more to this story. Whether it involves Tom Hiddleston and an even deeper conspiracy, that remains to be seen.