Taylor Swift is at it again. The country-turned pop-turned Bad-Taylor-turned-back-to-Good-Taylor has returned to her old shenanigans, having been caught up in some drama regarding the ownership of her masters.
A quick breakdown of this tangled mess: Swift wrote an angry, impassioned post on her Tumblr page addressing the purchase of her former label, Big Machine Label Group. She said she was "sad and grossed out" that music mogul Scott "Scooter" Braun, who discovered Justin Bieber, bought Big Machine, as he was responsible for "incessant, manipulative bullying" perpetrated against her.
That bullying includes, according to Swift, that moment in the celebrity messiness Hall of Fame when Kim Kardashian-West leaked the phone call Kanye West made to Swift asking for permission to invoke her name and mention a possible sexual encounter between them in his song "Famous." You know the one. There's video of her on the phone saying the lyric insinuating she and West might still have sex was "like a compliment kind of." She also profusely thanked him for giving her a heads up about the mention before the song came out. After it was released, Swift made a big stink about the use of the term "that bitch" in the lyrics and said that part of the song was never run by her.* The ensuing drama unfolded in a public arena, with video leaks and public shaming by all involved.
Not a great look for Swift, who works overtime to maintain a squeaky-clean image (except when she's Bad Taylor, of course). Swift alleges in her post that Kardashian-West "orchestrated an illegally recorded snippet of a phone call to be leaked and then Scooter got his two clients together to bully me online about it," referring to a 2016 photo of Braun, Bieber, and West posted by Bieber taunting Swift with the caption "Taylor swift what up." The caption has since been deleted, but the photo remains.
Having bought Big Machine, Braun is now the owner of the master recordings of six of her albums, including 1989, Reputation, and Speak Now. "Scooter has stripped me of my life’s work, that I wasn’t given an opportunity to buy," she wrote. "Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it. This is my worst case scenario."
Swift and Braun's famous friends took to social media to take sides in the fight, with Bieber asking what she hoped to gain from her post. "Seems to me like it was to get sympathy u also knew that in posting that your fans would go and bully scooter,” he wrote. Demi Lovato spoke up for Braun, calling him a "good man" on her Instagram stories. Katy Perry, fresh off making peace with Swift with the aid of some truly malicious-looking cookies, said she stands with Taylor, while Cara Delevingne trashed Bieber for not "lifting women up instead of tearing them down because you are threatened," and YouTuber Todrick Hall called Braun an "evil person," "homophobic" and "not a Swift fan." Even Braun's wife, Yael Cohen Braun, got in the pit in defense of her man.
Here's where it gets extra muddy. Swift alleges in her post that she learned about the acquisition of her masters "as it was announced to the world." But there's another Scott involved here besides Braun: Scott Borchetta, the former owner of Big Machine. Swift mentions in her post that "Any time Scott Borchetta has heard the words ‘Scooter Braun’ escape my lips, it was when I was either crying or trying not to. He knew what he was doing; they both did. Controlling a woman who didn’t want to be associated with them. In perpetuity. That means forever." She also alleged that she "pleaded for a chance" to own her masters, but that the deal presented to her forced her to earn one album back for every new album she created for the label, so she walked.
The thing is, as was the case with the Kim-Kanye scandal, there are receipts. Borchetta posted on the Big Machine website that "it's time for some truth," providing proof that not only did Swift know of the acquisition ahead of time—because her father, Scott Swift, is a shareholder in the label and thus was part of a meeting in which the transaction was discussed, voted on, and passed—but that Borchetta texted her the night before to let her know that Braun was taking over the label. While he didn't post screenshots, he shared the text of the message he sent her letting her know that the news would be breaking the following day. Borchetta also shared messages and screenshots of a contract between the two of them discussing a possible new deal that would also allow her to own all her masters. He writes: "As you will read, 100% of all Taylor Swift assets were to be transferred to her immediately upon signing the new agreement. We were working together on a new type of deal for our new streaming world that was not necessarily tied to ‘albums’ but more of a length of time."
In a text she allegedly sent him (again, there were no screenshots shared, only text of the message), Swift wrote: "Since communication ran dry on our negotiations, I’ve done what I told you I would do and gone out exploring other options. Owning my masters was very important to me, but I’ve since realized that there are things that mean even more to me in the bigger picture. I had a choice whether to bet on my past or to bet on the future and I think knowing me, you can guess which one I chose." To set the tea's temperature to extra scalding hot, Borchetta also alleges that Braun approached Swift to participate in the concerts to support the Manchester bombing victims and the Parkland March and she declined both.
This does not look good for Swift. Perhaps there is truth to her claims, and validity to her concerns and anger towards Braun, Borchetta, and company. But in getting caught in what appears to be several lies, she does herself (and others caught in the crosshairs of the mess) more harm than good. Especially considering how hard she wants to stay in control of her nice girl image. One has to ask, in all seriousness—does she understand the concept of receipts? If you say something egregious about someone else, they may be able to prove you wrong with a single video, screenshot, contract, text, or other form of tangible proof. After the incident with Kardashian and West, one would think she would have learned her lesson on owning enemies, with lesson one being make sure you have everything straight so you can't be proven wrong.
It is extremely mind-boggling that anyone with a level of fame and fortune such as hers—with the connections she has and access to the best in public relations and brand management—is so terrible at spinning the narrative in her favor. All because she is A) bad at lying, and B) lies about things that are provable. She is, however, excellent at following the number one rule of lying, which is always believe in your lie. Even if you know it's a lie, you have to believe it is true with every ounce of your strength. It's this rule that makes hot-sociopath reality TV so compelling. You love to see it. And in the case of Swift, we especially love to see it, because it exposes the falsehoods of an extremely famous person, particularly one who is adamant about portraying themselves as an innocent.
Taylor Swift is an attractive white woman who built her image on being a good country girl. American society is designed to bolster her, believe in her, and give her countless opportunities, even if time and time again she has shown herself to be fake and manipulative. Again, in the cases that have appeared in the court of public opinion, Swift usually has valid points to make. West did use her image in a video in which she appears to be naked and in bed with several other celebrities, which must have felt awful, and she said so herself in the Tumblr post. Losing ownership of the music that she poured her heart into to her sworn enemy must be absolutely devastating. But it's very hard to cheer for her when she takes real pain and wraps it in a turducken of fake reasoning. She sang about the old Taylor being dead, replaced by a take-no-prisoners version of herself who would hold nothing back against those who have wronged her. But more and more, the distinction between old Taylor and New Taylor, i.e. Good Taylor and Bad Taylor, gets blurrier as she gets caught in what seems to be failed attempts at manipulation. Her fans are then forced to believe in her lie along with her, or see through it and choose to love her anyway, or… not. But they deserve more. At the very least, they deserve to idolize a person who understands the existence and power of a screenshot.
Correction 7/2/19: A previous version of this article stated that Swift was unaware of Kanye West's "Famous" prior to its release, and that she told West that she "loved" the song in the phone call between the two that later leaked. However, in the transcript of the call, she does not explicitly say she loved the song, and later stated that the lyric including the term "that bitch" was never run by her. This article has been updated. We regret the error.
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