By any measure Taylor Swift had an incredible year. Her “Eras” concert tour sold out stadiums around the country. She released several albums (including some of the Taylor’s version re-recordings), she dominated Spotify with four albums that each have over 7 billion streams. And of course she was named Person of the Year by Time Magazine. Here’s a bit of what they said about her.
Swift’s accomplishments as an artist—culturally, critically, and commercially—are so legion that to recount them seems almost beside the point. As a pop star, she sits in rarefied company, alongside Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Madonna; as a songwriter, she has been compared to Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Joni Mitchell. As a businesswoman, she has built an empire worth, by some estimates, over $1 billion. And as a celebrity—who by dint of being a woman is scrutinized for everything from whom she dates to what she wears—she has long commanded constant attention and knows how to use it. (“I don’t give Taylor advice about being famous,” Stevie Nicks tells me. “She doesn’t need it.”) But this year, something shifted. To discuss her movements felt like discussing politics or the weather—a language spoken so widely it needed no context. She became the main character of the world.
Becoming the main character of the world certainly has a lot of upside for someone prepared to handle it but it also seems have made a lot of people crazy. Last month David wrote about the weird new trend on the right of trashing Swift as a musical no-talent (who wasn’t even pretty some added). As David pointed out, there’s all the evidence in the world that the people saying that are wrong but it didn’t matter. When someone gets this much attention there will always be people looking to take them down a notch (and take themselves up a notch in the process).
Not to be outdone, the NY Times published an opinion piece Thursday arguing at great length that Taylor Swift is gay. To be clear, Swift has said that she’s not gay and has had a string of boyfriends (including the current one that everyone knows about). And yet, the author of this opinion piece, who is not a complete rando but an editor for the opinion section, is certain that Swift is secretly a lesbian.
It’s honestly one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen in a newspaper. There’s a very “Who really killed Kennedy?” vibe to the whole thing which is only made stronger by the fact that it goes on and on for thousands of words.
In 2019, she was set to release a new album, “Lover,” the first since she left Big Machine Records, her old Nashville-based label, which she has since said limited her creative freedom. The aesthetic of what would be known as the “Lover Era” emerged as rainbows, butterflies and pastel shades of blue, purple and pink, colors that subtly evoke the bisexual pride flag.
On April 26, Lesbian Visibility Day, Ms. Swift released the album’s lead single, “ME!,” in which she sings about self-love and self-acceptance. She co-directed a campy music video to accompany it, which she would later describe as depicting “everything that makes me, me.” It features Ms. Swift dancing at a pride parade, dripping in rainbow paint and turning down a man’s marriage proposal in exchange for a … pussy cat.
At the end of June, the L.G.B.T.Q. community would celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. On June 14, Ms. Swift released the video for her attempt at a pride anthem, “You Need to Calm Down,” in which she and an army of queer celebrities from across generations — the “Queer Eye” hosts, Ellen DeGeneres, Billy Porter, Hayley Kiyoko, to name a few — resist homophobia by living openly. Ms. Swift sings that outrage against queer visibility is a waste of time and energy: “Why are you mad, when you could be GLAAD?”…
The first time I viewed “Lover” through the prism of queerness, I felt delirious, almost insane. I kept wondering whether what I was perceiving in her work was truly there or if it was merely a mirage, born of earnest projection.
But there are of course some obvious problems with this theory, not the least of which is Swift’s current boyfriend. How do you explain that or explain it away? The answer of course is that it becomes part of the conspiracy.
Whatever you make of Ms. Swift’s extracurricular activities involving a certain football star (romance for the ages? strategic brand partnership? performance art for entertainment’s sake?), the public’s obsession with the relationship has been attention-grabbing, if not lucrative, for all parties, while reinforcing a story that America has long loved to tell about Ms. Swift, and by extension, itself.
Having gotten that problem out of the way we can move on to reading more tea leaves.
Sometimes, Ms. Swift communicates through explicit sartorial choices — hair the colors of the bisexual pride flag or a recurring motif of rainbow dresses. She frequently depicts herself as trapped in glass closets or, well, in regular closets. She drops hairpins on tour as well, paying tribute to the Serpentine Dance of the lesbian artist Loie Fuller during the Reputation Tour or referencing “The Ladder,” one of the earliest lesbian publications in the United States, in her Eras Tour visuals…
Whether she is conscious of it or not, Ms. Swift signals to queer people — in the language we use to communicate with one another — that she has some affinity for queer identity. There are some queer people who would say that through this sort of signaling, she has already come out, at least to us.
So we’ve gone from the claim that Swift is carefully leaving gay breadcrumbs for her fans to follow to the suggestion that maybe she’s doing all of this subconsciously. One of the key aspects of any good conspiracy theory is that it’s ultimately unfalsifiable. If you disprove one aspect of the theory, the theory finds ways to account for that.
Ultimately, we get to the crux of the matter which is the authors own personal certitude that Swift is secretly gay based on a video clip:
There it is, at the bridge’s end: “Bet I could still melt your world; argumentative, antithetical dream girl.” An undeniable declaration of love to a woman. As soon as those words leave her lips, she lets out a whoop, pacing around the stage with a grin that cannot be contained.
For a moment, Ms. Swift was out of the woods she had created for herself as a teenager, floating above the trees. The future was within reach; she would, and will, soon take back the rest of her words, her reputation, her name. Maybe the world would see her, maybe it wouldn’t.
But on that stage, she found herself. I was there. Through a fuzzy fancam, I saw it.
I don’t know what to call this other than a religious impulse. The author is making a claim to gnostic insight, a first hand experience which settles all doubt. Except in this case the object of devotion is a 34-year-old pop star who is dating a football player and telling anyone who will listen she’s not gay.
“Because of her massive success, in this moment there is a Taylor-shaped hole in people’s ethics,” a person close to the situation, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, told CNN. “This article wouldn’t have been allowed to be written about Shawn Mendes or any male artist whose sexuality has been questioned by fans.”
“There seems to be no boundary some journalists won’t cross when writing about Taylor, regardless of how invasive, untrue, and inappropriate it is – all under the protective veil of an ‘opinion piece,’” the person added…
she has denied that she is a member of the LGBTQ community. In a 2019 interview with Vogue magazine, Swift said she has simply aimed to be a good ally to the LGBTQ community as their rights come under attack.
Anyway, 2023 was the year Taylor Swift became the main character of the world and that has clearly driven some people crazy. Back in the real world, it’s not necessary to take her down a notch politically or elevate her religiously. Following either path is really just becoming part of the mania about the current thing. Take a breath, step back and either enjoy the music or don’t. Unless your name is Travis Kelce, Swift is only a main character in your life if you make her one.