Journalists are desperate to know one thing about Taylor Swift, it seems, but she says their questioning has the power to seriously affect her mental health.
There’s a societal expectation that women need to suffer to be creative. We need to be angry or sad to create something amazing, apparently.
Take Adele, for instance. After the Grammy Award-winning singer announced her divorce earlier this year, fans immediately reacted by saying they couldn’t wait for the “heartbreak” album to come out.
And then there’s Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who recently called out the assumption that her troubled character is autobiographical. “Women can make things up too! It’s not all our diaries!” she told the Guardian.
Now Taylor Swift has revealed just how toxic this way of thinking can be.
Taylor Swift’s sixth album, Lover, broke record after record when it was released earlier this year. It was the largest sales week for any album by any artist since Swift’s 2017 album, Reputation. And she became the first female artist to have six different albums sell over 500,000 copies in a single week.
The light and happiness of Lover was a noticeable shift in tone from the angst and upset of Reputation. Although Swift is known for breakup ballads like We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Dear John and I Almost Do, her latest album is proof that she is perfectly capable of writing absolute tunes that carry a happy message.
This week, Swift treated fans to a stripped down performance of Lover in an acoustic live session for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. Filmed at NPR’s Washington D.C. office. Swift played hits such as The Man and Death by a Thousand Cuts to an intimate audience of 200 people. She also played the Red album fan favourite All Too Well.
Sharing photos from the session on her social media, Swift described it as a “big mood”.
Midway through the set, Swift took the opportunity to address the question that she’s been asked throughout her career. And she revealed that it had the potential to “seriously deteriorate” her mental health.
“Over the course of me doing interviews, which is about 15 or 16 years, I’ve gotten a question over and over again that I think has the potential to seriously deteriorate my mental health,” she said.
“That question is, ‘What will you ever do if you get happy?’ Like what will you write about? Will you just never be able to write a song again? It’s an interesting question.”
Swift continued: “When I would get that question as a young person, I’d kind of be like, ‘Well, I started out writing songs about stuff I had no idea about’.
“Like I started writing songs when I was 12 years old and they were usually about heartbreak, I had no idea what I was talking about, but I had watched movies and read books.’
She added: “Then I’d go home and be like, ‘What would happen if I were ever happy?’
“Would I not be able to do the thing I love the most in the world? Would I not be able to write breakup songs anymore?’.”
But, just because Swift has taken a more positive tone with her music, it doesn’t mean that she’s any plans to stop writing heartbreak songs.
Before singing Death by a Thousand Cuts (which is all about an aching heart) she said that the song is “proof that I don’t have to stop writing songs about heartache and misery, which, for me, was incredible news”.
Because the point is that Swift can write about whatever the hell the wants, and the world will always be listening.