Taylor Swift is less likable when she’s on a publicity tour. It’s an odd disconnect for a musician whose lyrical candor was an early selling point. At her quietest, she’s an anomaly among young celebrities, who are typically overexposed on social media and reality television. The mystery set Swift apart. Without it, she’s just too relatable.
Candor in lyrics (or on Tumblr) is one thing. Candor in publicist-approved chats with reporters is another. Lyrically, Swift’s sweet sentimentality lives on. In conversation, as it turns out, she’s just as boring as the rest of us. Her politics, packaged predictably in the wrapping of moral superiority, amount to banal liberalism.
“We need to not have the right kind of Democrat and the wrong kind of Democrat. We need to just be like, ‘You’re a Democrat? Sick. Get in the car. We’re going to the mall,’” she told Rolling Stone recently. Of course, Swift seems convinced her ideas are radical. Then again, so does every kid with a trust fund and a women’s studies major at Brown. I don’t care about their thoughts on the patriarchy either.
This recent string of Swift interviews has, at least, helpfully conveyed how deeply affected she was by the mounting pressures of superstardom. Swift weighed, for instance, whether her endorsement would help or hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016, grappling with her own fluctuating popularity. A more interesting celebrity probably would have just done it.
Swift, however, is reasonable in the way well-parented children of suburban privilege are reasonable. She’s “obsessed” with politics in the way group-thinking brigades of Brooklyn-based blue-check warriors are. It’s all a disappointing output from someone whose experience on this earth has been entirely singular. Even the way she speaks is underwhelming, like a character cut from the plot of “Big Little Lies” for being too normal.
Left unexplained, Swift’s lyrics are so much more dimensional and mysterious. That also goes for her personal life and her politics. She’s exceptionally talented at littering her work with Easter eggs, leaving fans in pursuit of hidden meaning for months and years. I can’t help but think all the clever layering is diminished the more she shares.
When she took a step back, there was something particularly compelling about a millennial celebrity whose ascent to fame coincided closely with the ascent of social media and reality television choosing to undershare. That said, her new album has some bright spots, and she’s still one of our generation’s greatest pop talents.
I would be more optimistic about her fading from the spotlight after the PR blitz if she didn’t suddenly seem so eager to campaign like it’s 2004 and she’s Howard Dean in Iowa. It’s better to know less than to know that Taylor Swift, a woman who rocketed from Middle America to superstardom, is basically as interesting as the liberal arts grad next to you in line at the Williamsburg Whole Foods, Pod Save America ringing in her AirPods.