Taylor Swift Billboard Woman Of The Year, Says She’s “Perfectly Happy Being Alone”
Taylor Swift is Billboard’s 2014 “Woman of the Year.” The honor, which she is receiving for the second time, was first announced back in October, and Swift debuted the special issue’s cover on her Instagram Thursday night, writing, “Thanks Billboard. Also thanks, YOU. (Does dorky celebratory dance then trips over a cat toy).” In the accompanying cover story, the star opens up about her transition from country to pop, her famous best friends, and why she’s “happy” being alone. Plus, check out behind-the-scenes video of Swift’s cover shoot below!
When 1989 was released in October, Swift became the first musician to have three albums sell more than a million copies in a single week. But if some label executives had their way, the record never would’ve happened in the first place. Swift reveals, “I remember all the sit-downs in the conference rooms, where I would get kind of called in front of a group of people who have worked with me for years. 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?'”
Even Scott Borchetta, who discovered Swift, had his doubts. She recalls, “When I knew the album had hit its stride, I went to Scott Borchetta and said, ‘I have to be honest with you: I did not make a country album. I did not make any semblance of a country album.’ And of course he went into a state of semi-panic and went through all the stages of grief — the pleading, the denial. ‘Can you give me three country songs? Can we put a fiddle on ‘Shake it Off’?’ And 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.”
Swift admits she was “really frustrated” by the reactions she was getting, and was “like, “Guys, don’t you understand, this is what I’m dying to do?” But, “the biggest struggle turned into the biggest triumph when it worked out,” she says, noting that the album sales far exceeded everyone’s predictions except her own. “Everyone, in and out of the music business, kept telling me that my opinion and my viewpoint was naive and overly optimistic — even my own label. But when we got those first-day numbers in, all of a sudden, I didn’t look so naive anymore.”
It’s Swift’s hope that fans and critics alike understand how much the album’s success is truly her own creation, but she knows some opinions can’t be swayed. “Do I get offended when people don’t fully understand how much of the workload is done by me? No, they’re busy with their own lives,” she says. “If someone has studied my catalog and still doesn’t think I’m behind it, there’s nothing I can do for that person. They may have to deal with their own sexist issues, because if I were a guy and you were to look at my catalog and my lyrics, you would not wonder if I was the person behind it.”
Swift further shades singers who buy songs, rather than writing their own. “When I’m in a room with a writer for the first time, and I bring in 10 to 15 nearly finished songs as my ideas, I think they know that I’m not expecting anyone to do the work for me,” she says. Swift explains, “I’m not going to be one of those artists who walks in 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.”
And Swift stresses that “Shake It Off” was released as the first single not just because of its infectious sound, but also because of the strong message she wanted to share. “This album is not about boys. It’s not about something trivial; it’s not about revenge or breakups. It’s about what my life looks like now. And that song is essentially written about an important lesson I learned that really changed how I live my life and how I look at my life.”
And speaking of boys, Swift knows that some people are looking for hints about her love life in every lyric. “I’ve been dealing with it for so many years now that I expect the media to do it, I expect fans to do it. Human curiosity is never to be underestimated. But I don’t have anyone whose feelings are on the line except for me,” she says, explaining, “If I was in love with someone right now, I don’t know how I would handle everyone else weighing in on our stories, because when you’re in a relationship there are a lot of secrets and a lot of sacred moments that you don’t want to divulge. I, however, am 24, perfectly happy being alone, and one of the reasons I’m perfectly happy being alone is that no one gets hurt this way.”
The interview also features Swift’s reaction to some backlash she received after recently being named New York City’s Global Welcome Ambassador, and Billboard points out that people forget she actually grew up nearby in Pennsylvania, and has a rather strong connection to the area. “People have no idea!” exclaims Swift. She reveals, “I summered at the Jersey Shore every year. When I first discovered that I was in love with performing, I wanted to be in theater. So growing up, New York City was where I would come for auditions. I was 10, but I was as tall as a 16-year-old, and then you’d have a 22-year-old who could play 10, and they’d get the role. Then I started taking voice lessons in the city, so my mom and I would drive two hours and have these adventures.”
“I went to a Knicks game a few weeks ago, and people were like, ‘Oh, it’s your first Knicks game!’ I actually have a photo of my first Knicks game,” she says. “I was 12 years old and I was in a halftime talent competition, but I didn’t win because the kid who won sang “New York, New York,” and I was like, ‘Here’s a song I wrote about a boy in my class…'”
The Knicks game at least was a controlled environment where Swift could kick back and enjoyed a night with her pals without fear of getting mobbed, despite the large crowd in attendance. Swift says, “The only places I can’t really go are huge carnival-type things, where there could be some sort of stampede. It’s happened before. Which sucks, because I love carnivals, and I love fairs.”
She further confesses, “I have a hard time accepting the fact that my life is abnormal. I admit it now, but I’m not going to stop grocery shopping just because it tends to be a very hectic situation. If I ever have a family, that’s when I would start to think about the inconvenience of it — if I had to explain to a 4-year-old why all those men are pointing cameras at us and why people are staring. At this point, I can handle it because it’s just me, and my friends are really good about it, too. If I had friends who made me feel bad about it, I’d feel like I was a burden to them.”
It’s those friendsships that help Swift stay grounded. “You’ll notice a lot of celebrity-type people tend to surround themselves with people whose lives revolve around them. You’ll have a posse of these exciting and fashionable cling-ons, and it’s because those celebrities need to be fawned over,” she says, noting that she rather be the one doing the fawning. “I feel uncomfortable being the No. 1 priority in my friends’ lives — I want to be there to make their lives more fun, if they need to talk, to be there for spontaneous and exciting adventures, but I don’t want friends who don’t have a life outside of me,” says Swift.
She continues, “So whether it’s Karlie, who loves what she does in fashion, or Lily Aldridge or Lena or my friend Abigail, whose job is making sure that veterans get their compensation checks, the one thing they all have in common is that they love what they do. They have me in their life because they want me in their life, not because they gain from it.”
But if there’s one thing to take away from Swift’s unprecedented rise to superstardom and her continual world domination, perhaps it’s this: “Everybody wanted me to become a cliche. And I wasn’t going to let it happen, and my family wasn’t going to let it happen. And now I’m allowed to be 24, almost 25, which is nice.” Nice is probably an understatement. Check out video from Swift’s Billboard shoot below. What do you think of the interview and her “Woman of the Year” honor? Note: Video no longer available.