For many fans, a tantalizing part of Taylor Swift’s music has always been the idea that they are based in real situations that happened to her. Some critics have made a hobby out of decoding which real-life person fueled songs like “Mean” or “Red.” Swift sometimes offers cryptic clues as to these identities, but has never confirmed them outright. In a new GQ cover story, Swift explains to writer Chuck Klosterman why she doesn’t name names and why the speculation doesn’t bother her.
“I’ve never named names, so I feel like I still have a sense of power over what people say,” Swift tells GQ. “The fact that I’ve never confirmed who those songs are about makes me feel like there is still one card I’m holding. So if you’re going to look at your life and say, ‘I get to play sold-out football stadiums all over the world. I get to call up my favorite artists and ask them to perform with me, and most of the time they say yes. I get to be on the cover of this magazine’—this is all because I write songs about my own life. So I would feel a little strange complaining about how it’s covered.”
A notable recent example is “Bad Blood,” a song which describes some sort of feud and was recently blown up into a star-laden music video riffing on Kill Bill revenge fantasies. In a cover story for Rolling Stone ahead of 1989‘s release, Swift said that “Bad Blood” was about “another female artist” and “It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me.”
Many people have assumed Swift was referring to Katy Perry, including Perry herself. However, talking to Klosterman, Swift says that “Bad Blood” is actually about an ex-boyfriend of Swift’s, and she invented the female artist story to cover it up.
“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,” Swift says. “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. It was not a song about heartbreak. It was about the loss of friendship.”
When Klosterman points out that no one assumes “Bad Blood” is about a guy, Swift responds, “but they would have. So I don’t necessarily care who people think it’s about.”
Head over to GQ for more on Swift.