Looking back through pop music history, it’s hard to find an artist who avoided the sophomore jinx more thoroughly than Taylor Swift. The Pennsylvania native unleashed her second album, “Fearless,” in late 2008; it topped the charts for eight consecutive weeks, spawned 11 Hot 100 singles (out of a mere 13 tracks) and garnered four Grammys, including album of the year.
All of which raises expectations for the singer-songwriter’s upcoming third LP, “Speak Now.” Yet Swift seems to be taking it in stride.
“I’ve always had this theory about my music,” says the 20-year-old, “that if I always write songs about my life, and my life is always changing, my music will always be changing too. ‘Speak Now’ is about the last two years of my life, and those years have been intense.”
Part of that intensity, of course, consists of her now-legendary victimization by Kanye West at last year’s VMAs, which even merited a response from President Obama. Swift handled the incident with remarkable poise, and as befitting her history of diary-like songwriting, even composed a tune of conciliation.
But for such an autobiographical songwriter, such immense success poses a problem. Can a globe-trotting millionaire superstar, who made her acting debut in this year’s “Valentine’s Day,” still write autobiographical songs with as much resonance to the sensitive teenage fans who think of her as a peer?
“When I’m writing a song, I don’t factor in the millions of people who might hear that song some day,” Swift says. “I only think about what I want to say to the person who has inspired that song. Sometimes when I want to get to the truth of the matter, I pretend I have one chance to send that person a letter. What would I say? When someone has intensely emotionally affected me, the only way for me to get past it or make sense of it is to write them a song.”
“I can only hope that people will be able to apply my personal stories to their life. But I don’t sit there in the room and think, ‘all right, let’s not add that detail because it’s not general enough.’ I like my lyrics to be specific and paint an accurate picture.”