Up until the night of the 2009 Grammy Awards, Taylor’s career was relatively drama-free.
Cue Kanye West jumping up on stage amid Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Video and interrupting the bewildered young star by claiming “Beyoncé had the best video of all time.” If the public didn’t love Taylor Swift before this incident, they certainly did after it, as fans and celebs alike stood in solidarity, causing public opinion to soar in her favour.
For years, Taylor Swift has been marketed as the relatable girl next door and for that, she has gained an army of doting fans known as ‘Swifties’. Despite the fact that she is still undisputedly the biggest female pop star on the planet right now - a string of humble brags, accusations of a Mean Girls-type #GirlSquad and a couple of infamous Twitter brawls have left online commentators and fans alike with a sour taste in their mouth.
If there’s one person who doesn’t - ahem, allegedly - like Taylor Swift, it’s Firework songstress and former friend, Katy Perry. The two once enjoyed a seemingly close friendship, but in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone, Swift hinted that there was no love lost between her and an unnamed singer, largely believed to be Perry. She even confessed that Bad Blood is about a fellow recording artist with whom she is now “straight-up enemies.” Apparently, it all kicked off when Katy ‘stole’ three of Taylor’s dancers to perform on her ‘Prism’ world tour, forcing them to abandon Swift who was touring her album, Red.
Many believed that the fall-out between the two popstars was over their respective relationships with John Mayer (Katy started dating John shortly after her marriage to Russell Brand ended and months after Mayer and Swift broke up), but Taylor was quick to point out that the feud in question with the unnamed singer was not about a guy. Nevertheless, following the release of Swift’s Rolling Stone interview, Katy Tweeted, “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing.”
Let’s face it, if Kim Kardashian tweeted this, no one would bat an eyelid; so it seems rather unfair to single Taylor Swift out for complaining about her privilege. Then again, Kim doesn’t market herself as a down-to-earth ‘I’m just like you’ kinda girl. So when Taylor Swift goes on record to say she suffers from ‘girlnextdooritis’ (yes, really), this pill can be a little harder to swallow.
It’s not that anyone is begrudging Taylor her hard-earned, custom-made Oscar de la Renta gown, but it’s the subtle humble brag about it that seemed to grate on people. It's something Taylor does extremely well - and often. How many more times can we witness Taylor almost paralysed in shock and completely flabbergasted when she wins a music award when she already has 250 of them at home?
Taylor’s undeniably catchy Bad Blood sent the Twittersphere into meltdown when it was released in May 2015 - not least for its video’s star-studded cast - but also because of rumours which suggested the song was about Taylor’s former friend and now-sworn ‘frenemy’, Katy Perry. Naturally, Swift denied the track was about Perry but it doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.
Miley Cyrus even called Swift out for her use of 'revenge violence' and questioned why the 26-year-old singer is applauded for it (while Miley is criticised for her every move). Similarly, when Swift released the video for Blank Space in November of the same year, she was accused of trivialising violence as she sought revenge on a cheating boyfriend by yelling, throwing a phone, wielding a golf club and furiously stabbing a cake that we are no doubt asked to imagine is said boyfriend. She claimed the video was a parody of her public persona as a maneater.
Okay, if anyone deserves a shot at happiness, it’s Taylor, right? She sure seems to have gone through her fair share of heartbreak and we have the many, many songs to prove it. Let’s hope for all of our sakes that Swift’s relationship with Calvin Harris is ever-lasting because do we really need or want another Swiftian break-up song?
In saying that, there is something unsettling about their picture-perfect relationship. To be honest, it’s probably jealousy, given that we’ve all seen Calvin’s Emporio Armani campaign, but their Instagram love story errs just a little too far on the side of insufferable. There was that strange “Swan Goals” post of the couple cuddled up on a giant inflatable swan, the Christmas card-like Snowman pic and the incessant onslaught of snaps from “that time we finally took a vacation together.” Oh, and then there was that weird ear-nibbling at the Billboard Music Awards.
When the MTV VMA nominations for Video of the Year were released, Nicki Minaj immediately called out MTV for only including videos that celebrated “women with very slim bodies” referencing her the absence of her smash-hit Anaconda from the list. What ensued was an explosive exchange between Swift and Minaj when Taylor believed that Nicki was personally attacking her. “It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot”, tweeted the Bad Blood singer to the Super Bass rapper.
What Taylor failed to realise was that Minaj did not mention her nomination, though one can assume Swift’s is the video she was referencing, but rather Nicki was calling out the dominant infrastructure that surrounds the awards and the overbearing white, patriarchal system that decides whose art is valid and worthy of an award. As Taylor jumped to conclusions, she completely missed the point and came off as just a little too self-obsessed with a lot to learn.
Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss, Cara Delevingne and Gigi Hadid made up just some of Taylor Swift’s veritable coven that paraded down the 2015 VMA red carpet (hand in hand), leading Twitter and Instagram into a #SquadGoals-induced frenzy. Since then, Swift has made a point of being surrounded by her impossibly beautiful high-profile friends, in a move that Gawker has termed ‘Swiftian performance art.’
Alongside her famous friends, Taylor espouses the notion of female empowerment and friendship, but her brand of feminism has been criticised for its image-centric appearance and distinct ‘you can’t sit with us’ vibe. Taylor’s ‘squad’ is arguably unattainable for her impressionable young fan base, comprising largely of supermodels and popstars and critics have accused her of using ‘Girl Power’ as a vehicle to capitalise on and expand her own image.
Even if public opinion is beginning to shift, it probably won’t have any great effect on Swift’s overall public image and she will still be largely thought of as the sweet-as-pie American country singer who has transformed herself into a bonafide pop superstar. However, in an article in the Washington Post, lawyer and journalist Jill Filipovid pointed out that “being a feminist is more than just supporting your girlfriends.” Taylor may declare herself to be a feminist in herdedication to empowering and supporting other women, but her engagement with feminism appears particularly shortsighted.
Of course, Swift can’t be the only celebrity accused of such a stance without any real political underpinning, but it remains of Swift’s biggest downfalls. Not least is her super-famous ‘squad’ filled with beautiful (mainly) white women, but in her interaction with Minaj and her speediness to criticise the artist rather than the institution, Swift displays a deeply problematic understanding of what it means to be a feminist.