When Taylor Swift put out her previous album, “Reputation,” her mantra was, “There will be no explanation,” and she pretty well stuck to that, with a no-interviews policy. But for her next album, she’s already doing a fair amount of explaining — not that that extends to a title or release date or anything else concrete, just yet.
In an interview Wednesday morning with Zane Lowe for Apple Music’s Beats 1, Swift talked about the sunnier tone of the forthcoming collection — which won’t come as too great a revelation to fans after the distinctly giddy “ME!” single and video were released Friday. “This new music is much more playful and actually inward facing,” she said, comparing it with the defensive tone that characterized several of the key “Reputation” tracks two years ago. “Like, when you get into this album, it’s much more about me as a person — no pun intended with the song title. But it’s kind of taking those walls, taking that bunker down from around you that I felt like I had to put up…”
Swift also talked about the Easter eggs she’s laid out for fans as clues about her new music and how quick they’ve been to pick up on them… although she suggested that they might be a little slower on the draw guessing what’s coming next. “There are fewer people who know the next single title,” she said.
“Wow,” said Lowe. “So it’s not ‘Lover'” — the most easily guessed title, since the word appears as a giant rooftop sign in the new music video, about as subtly as the word “ME!” appeared in a Nashville mural Swift posed in front of just prior to that song’s release last week.
She would neither confirm nor deny. “I’m not going to break,” Swift said. “You think you’re dealing with an amateur?” The singer said that “the Easter egg hunts, when they stop being fun for my fans, I’ll stop doing them, but they seem to be having fun with them — and I think that with music I’m always trying to expand the experience from just being an audio one. Like, if I can turn it into something that feels symbolic or seems like a scavenger hunt or seems like some kind of brain game … I just want to entertain them on as many levels when I can.”
Swift talked about the good vibes on the “Reputation” tour affecting her decision to go quickly back to an every-other-year album cycle instead of the three-year wait that preceded the last album.
“The aesthetic for the music I make is usually a reflection of how I feel as a person,” she said. “During the ‘Reputation’ stadium tour, I started to feel my life. … like a different soundtrack playing behind my life. And I really do credit the fans for the complete resurgence of exuberance and excitement towards music and making new music. … I’m ready to kind of do it a little bit more like I used to. I feel more comfortable.”
Looking back on the darker tone of “Reputation,” Swift also acknowledged that the 2017 album had twin narratives. “At the beginning of that entire album process, I was very defiantly putting up a defense mechanism. It was like reflecting on the persona you had felt had been crafted and constructed for you. And that was the first time I’d ever done that with an album. The album kind of had two different sides to it. You had very weaponized songs that were very much antsy. And then you had the real story of the album, which was basically about love and real love and real friendship and finding those things in and amongst feeling very, very misunderstood in a lot of ways in your life.”
The no-interviews policy had to do with “certain times in your career where if you say something it’s going to be misconstrued, and if you don’t, it’s going to be misconstrued. You might as well just make music and do what you do and keep your head down. I at the very beginning of the album was pretty proud of coining the term, ‘There will be no explanation. There will just be reputation.’ … I stuck with it. I didn’t go back on it. I didn’t try to explain the album because I didn’t feel that I owed that to anyone. There was a lot that happened over a couple of years that made me feel really, really terrible. And I didn’t feel like expressing that to them. I didn’t feel like talking about it. I just felt like making music, then going out on the road and doing a stadium tour and doing everything I could for my fans. … I didn’t need to try and get every headline or try to get the cover of this or the cover of that. I just needed to think of ways to reach out to them in ways I hadn’t even thought of before. So the relationship between me and fans really actually strengthened throughout the course of ‘Reputation.'”
She also talked with Lowe about sharing a certain brand of humor with her “ME!” duet partner, Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie. “In the past in terms of duet partners, I’ve always stuck with predominantly close friends like Ed Sheeran or Zayn. …. So for me to go outside of close friends, I figured Brendon would be a good one because I’ve been such a fan for so many years and I’ve watched his career and I’ve watched what seems to be his work ethic from the outside. When you get in the room with him, it’s like ‘You’re exactly how I thought you would be.’ … There’s sort of a playful, mischievous side to his performance style where we both love to overly dramatize something for the sake of humor. People don’t always get the joke, but that’s okay.”
Swift and Urie will kick off the Billboard Music Awards telecast Wednesday, broadcast live on Fox at 8 ET/5 PT.