Swift addresses the LGBTQ community directly through her song “You Need to Calm Down” as well as its star-studded video, but the need to do so was prompted by her friend Todrick Hall. “Maybe a year or two ago, Todrick and I are in the car, and he asked me, What would you do if your son was gay? The fact that he had to ask me . . . shocked me and made me realize that I had not made my position clear enough or loud enough,” she says. “If my son was gay, he’d be gay. I don’t understand the question.”
Swift said it was “devastating” that she had not been “clear” on her stance as a supporter of gay rights, though songs like “Welcome to New York” and the video for “Mean” had offered some pro-LGBTQ messaging. She explained further that the current political climate made the timing more prescient.
“Rights are being stripped from basically everyone who isn’t a straight white cisgender male,” she said. “I didn’t realize until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of. It’s hard to know how to do that without being so fearful of making a mistake that you just freeze. Because my mistakes are very loud. When I make a mistake, it echoes through the canyons of the world. It’s clickbait, and it’s a part of my life story, and it’s a part of my career arc.”
The singer-songwriter also explained the intent behind her controversial Reputation era as well as her decision to reclaim her own privacy during that time. She noted how it followed her feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West over West’s song “Famous,” which has a lyric about Swift. She called her “cancellation” via a leaked phone call and sea of snake emojis on her Instagram an “isolating experience,” especially given the violent nature of some messages.
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“I realized I needed to restructure my life because it felt completely out of control,” she explained. “I knew immediately I needed to make music about it because I knew it was the only way I could survive it. It was the only way I could preserve my mental health and also tell the story of what it’s like to go through something so humiliating.”
Swift called the version of herself she portrayed during Reputation both a “character” and a “metaphor,” with the dark aesthetic and harsher sound. “I think a lot of people, with Reputation, would have perceived that I had torn down the house. Actually, I just built a bunker around it.”
Taylor Swift’s seventh album, Lover, will be out on August 23rd. She will perform at the MTV Video Music Awards that weekend as well.