The song “Blank Space” has the sound of a pen clicking right before Taylor Swift sings, “And I’ll write your name.” But in the wildly provocative video Swift just released, there are no pens in sight. If she’s going to add your name to her list here, it’ll be with some other writing utensil. Like a knife. Or golf club.
In an interview with Yahoo Music last week, Swift promised, “It’s probably the wildest video I’ve done.” That whetted fans’ appetites to an unbelievable degree, but if anything, she under-promised and over-delivered with this emotional destruction derby. No bunnies are boiled, but otherwise, she goes pretty close to full-on Fatal Attraction in this Joseph Kahn-directed clip, turning from sweet siren to vengeful wreath after little more than the flick of something errant across the smartphone screen of her lover (played by Sean O’Pry, one of the world’s top male models). Headlights will be smashed, mansions will be trashed, and mascara will be smeared… all for satirical effect.
What’s being spoofed here? Her own image as a break-up-and-tell, poison-pen lyricist. When Swift introduced the song’s live premiere of the song the night 1989 was released two weeks ago, she told the rooftop crowd about bringing the tune in to play for her co-writers and producers, Max Martin and Shellback. “I did not think it was going to get picked, because I kind of wrote it as a joke,” she explained then. “You guys know — you’ve seen it the last couple of years. It’s interesting what the media has decided to fictionalize and sensationalize about my personal life. It’s been pretty gnarly! They’ve drawn up this character who’s emotionally unstable and needy and clingy” — who, after her boyfriends leave, “then goes to her evil lair and writes songs.” That image is an “interesting juxtaposition to my actual life, which involves me with my two cats watching Friends marathons. But I thought, which is more interesting to write about? The character they’ve made up, though it may be fictional, is actually kind of interesting.”
When we spoke with her last week, after fans had had a little over a week to digest all the new songs, Swift was particularly pleased with the reaction to “Blank Space,” which was already topping a key chart in advance of its official status as a single, validating her choice to make it the follow-up to “Shake It Off.”
“Just the way this has all kind of shaken out, I did not expect for ‘Blank Space’ to be the favorite. And it is the absolute favorite,” she told us last Wednesday, pointing out that “it’s No. 1 on iTunes right now, which is absolutely insane, and “Shake It Off” is No. 2… It’s just so cool to see people like that, because it was sort of a risk for me to even take it into the studio and play this idea for Max Martin and Shellback and say, ‘Hey, I want to write this completely satirical song about the fictionalization of my personal life, and just kind of poke fun at it.’ The fact that it ended up being a shining spot on the album is really exciting for me. Because I think it’s gonna be really interesting when people see things we have up our sleeve, like the video and other things that I’m really excited about people discovering.”
Did she just say “…other things”? That’s a serious clue that more is forthcoming, since the video does end with text promising a “Blank Space Experience,” the exact nature of which is yet unknown.
Talking with her last week, we wondered if she had any worry that average listeners might not get just how meta the song is or even suss that it’s all being sung with a smirk. Swift didn’t seem too concerned about it being taken seriously. “It’s interesting when you put out a song with sort of a comedic element to it,” she said. “People with different senses of humor perceive it differently. You’ll have people who completely get the joke and they’re saying, ‘Oh look, she’s completely taken back the narrative, and she’s singing from the perspective of the person the media paints her to be.’ And then other people will be listening to it on the radio and thinking, ‘I knew it! I knew she was crazy!’”
Now that the video is out, we have a better understanding of why she wasn’t worried. Even the humor-impaired would have a hard time missing the wicked fun and self-awareness of what’s on-screen with “Blank Space.” But, severely parodic or not, she has enough of a way with a blunt instrument that Drew, that guy from “Teardrops on My Guitar,” might really be thinking he dodged a bullet (or at least nine-iron) by now.
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