Taylor Swift Says She Categorizes Her Lyrics into Genres Based on Which 'Writing Tool' She'd Use

·3 min read
NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Decade honoree, Taylor Swift performs onstage
NSAI Songwriter-Artist of the Decade honoree, Taylor Swift performs onstage

Terry Wyatt/Getty Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is letting fans into her songwriting process.

On Tuesday, Swift, 32, accepted the songwriter-artist of the decade award at the annual Nashville Songwriter Awards at the city's legendary Ryman Auditorium.

The award honors Swift's contributions to music between 2010 and 2019, during which she released five albums that tracked her evolution from country-pop roots toward the pop music she released by the time she made the 2019 album Lover.

During the awards show, Swift performed an acoustic version of "All Too Well (10-Minute Version)." In her acceptance speech, she said that receiving an award for a decade's worth of work marks a celebration of the successes and errors from throughout in her career, asserting that her songwriting and personal life "are one [and] the same."

Swift, who said lyricism is "possibly my favorite part of songwriting" during her speech, revealed that she utilizes "established genre categories for lyrics I write" when she's crafting new songs.

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"Three of them, to be exact," she explained at the ceremony. "They are affectionately titled Quill Lyrics, Fountain Pen Lyrics, and Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics."

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"I know this sounds confusing, but I'll try to explain. I came up with these categories based on what writing tool I imagine having in my hand when I scribbled it down, figuratively," Swift continued. "I don't actually have a quill. Anymore. I broke it once when I was mad."

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift

Terry Wyatt/Getty

Swift went on to explain that she categorizes her own songs as Quill Lyrics "if the words and phrasings are antiquated, if I was inspired to write it after reading Charlotte Brontë or after watching a movie where everyone is wearing poet shirts and corsets," using the song "Ivy" from 2020's evermore as an example.

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Most of Swift's lyrics fall into the second category, "Fountain Pen style," she said during the speech.

"Fountain pen style means a modern storyline or references, with a poetic twist," Swift explained, using "All Too Well" as a reference point. "Taking a common phrase and flipping its meaning... the songs I categorize in this style sound like confessions scribbled and sealed in an envelope, but too brutally honest to ever send."

Swift described her third lyric category, "Glitter Gel Pen," as "frivolous, carefree, bouncy, syncopated perfectly to the beat," citing the 2014 song "Shake it Off" as an example.

NSAI Executive Director, Bart Herbison presents Taylor Swift with the Songwriter-Artist of the Decade Award onstage
NSAI Executive Director, Bart Herbison presents Taylor Swift with the Songwriter-Artist of the Decade Award onstage

Terry Wyatt/Getty

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"Glitter Gel Pen lyrics don't care if you don't take them seriously because they don't take themselves seriously," Swift said. "Glitter Gel Pen lyrics are the drunk girl at the party who tells you that you look like an angel in the bathroom. It's what we need every once in a while in these fraught times in which we live."

Elsewhere in Swift's acceptance speech, she said songwriting "is my life's work and my hobby and my never-ending thrill."

"I am moved beyond words that you, my peers, decided to honor me in this way for work I'd still be doing if I had never been recognized for it," she told the audience.

Past songwriter/artist of the decade award winners recognized by the Nashville Songwriters Association include Vince Gill for his work in the 1990s and Toby Keith for his contributions during the 2000s, according to its website.