Billboard releases its annual Women in Music issue Friday, and for the second time, Taylor Swift is on the cover as Billboard’s Woman of the Year. It’s safe to say that’s a title she’s earned, considering she recently scored the best first-week sales for an album since 2002 — despite the predictions of industry insiders and even people on her own team.
In the interview (out in full Friday, Dec. 5), Swift reveals the behind-the-scenes battles she fought to keep country out of her unabashed pop album 1989, her feelings on the backlash to “Welcome to New York” and details on her relationships with her famous friends, including Lorde and Lena Dunham. Here’s five ways Swift writes her own rules.
When It Comes to Her Music, She Won’t Compromise
When Swift told Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta that she hadn’t recorded a country album, “he went into a state of semi-panic.” Swift tells Billboard he pleaded that she countrify the album. “Can you give me three country songs?” and “Can we put a fiddle on ‘Shake it Off’?” are two questions Swift recalls him asking. “All my answers were a very firm ‘no,’ because it felt disingenuous to try to exploit two genres when your album falls in only one.”
She Won’t Back Down
When Billboard asked her about the criticism toward “Welcome to New York,” Swift felt no need to apologize. “When you write a song, you’re writing about a momentary emotion,” Swift says. “To take a song and try to apply it to every situation everyone is going through — economically, politically, in an entire metropolitan area — is asking a little much of a piece of a music.”
Her Lyrics Are the Only Lyrics She’ll Sing
“I’m not going to be one of those artists who walks in [to a room with songwriters] and says, ‘I don’t know, what do you want to write about?’ or one of those things where they say, ‘So what’s going on in your life?,’ and I tell them and then they have to write a song about it. I wouldn’t be a singer if I weren’t a songwriter. I have no interest in singing someone else’s words.”
Swift Doesn’t Let Others Control Her Image
Even after her team agreed to the idea of a pop album, there were concerns. “I remember all the sit-downs in the conference rooms… they said, ‘Are you really sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to call the album 1989? We think it’s a weird title. Are you sure you want to put an album cover out that has less than half of your face on it? Are you positive that you want to take a genre that you cemented yourself in, and switch to one that you are a newcomer to?’ And answering all of those questions with ‘Yes, I’m sure’ really frustrated me at the time — like, ‘Guys, don’t you understand, this is what I’m dying to do?'”
She Watches Out for Her Friends — And Is (Sort of) a Life Coach
“Taylor is like this force of protective energy,” Lorde tells Billboard. “She looks after everyone she knows. We’re both interested and involved in the workings of the industry. I have this thing in my head that she should do seminars — ‘Swift’s 13 Steps’ or something.” Sign us up.
Read Taylor Swift’s full cover story when it’s out Friday, Dec. 5.