Taylor Swift’s new music is morphing into a medium for spreading her liberal political beliefs, and she’s just revealed that the inspiration behind the next song set to release late this month came from being upset with how the 2018 midterms went in her home state of Tennessee (Democrats lost!)
“I was really upset about Tennessee going the way that it did, obviously. And so I just wanted to write a song about it,” Swift told Variety in a recent interview, adding that she waited until 2020 to release the song so that “it could maybe hopefully stoke some fires politically and maybe engage younger people to form their own views, break away from the pack, and not feel like they need to vote exactly the same way that people in their town are voting.”
Taylor Swift made clear her political views, calling the midterms “tragic because young people are the people who feel the worst effects of gun violence, and student loans and trying to figure out how to start their lives and how to pay their bills, and climate change, and are we going to war.”
She also took aim at Republicans, calling their policies “sinister” and “so dark.”
Swift's new political song titled 'Only the Young' is scheduled for release January 31, the same day as her Netflix movie 'Miss Americana.'
Lyrics include: “You did all that you could do / The game was rigged, the ref got tricked/ The wrong ones think they’re right / We were outnumbered — this time.”
See the trailer here:
Here's more from Swift's Variety interview:
In the fall of 2018, Swift finally comes out of the closet politically to intervene on behalf of Democrats in a midterm election in her home state of Tennessee. As the Washington Post put it, this announcement “fell like a hammer across the Trump-worshipping subforums of the far-right Internet, where people had convinced themselves… that the world-famous pop star was a secret MAGA fan.” Donald Trump goes on camera to smirk that he now likes Swift’s music a little less. The singer is successful in enlisting tens of thousands of young people to register to vote, but her senatorial candidate of choice, Democrat Phil Bredesen, loses to Republican Marsha Blackburn, whom she’d called out as a flagrant enemy of feminism and gay rights.
“Definitely, that was a bigger disappointment for me,” Swift says, pitting the midterm snub against the Grammy snub. “I think what’s going on out in the world is bigger than who gets a prize at the party.”
It was not always thus for Swift — as the detractors who dragged her for staying quiet during the last presidential election eagerly pointed out. If you had to pick the most embarrassing or regrettable moment in “Miss Americana,” it might be the TV clip from “The Late Show With David Letterman” in which the host brings up politics and gets Swift to essentially advocate the “Shut up and sing” mantra. As the studio audience roars approval of her vow to stay apolitical, Letterman gives her what now looks like history’s most dated fist bump.
Thinking back on it, Swift is incredulous. “Every time I didn’t speak up about politics as a young person, I was applauded for it,” she says. “It was wild. I said, ‘I’m a 22-year-old girl — people don’t want to hear what I have to say about politics.’ And people would just be like, ‘Yeahhhhh!’”
At that point, Swift was already starting to record isolated pop tracks, taking baby steps that would soon turn into full strides away from her initial genre. But whether she had designs on switching lanes or not, the lesson of the Dixie Chicks’ forced exile after Natalie Maines’ comment against then-President George W. Bush had branded itself onto her brain at an earlier age, when she’d just planted her young-teen flag in Nashville and overheard a lot of the lamentations of older Music Row songwriters about how the Chicks had thrown it all away.
“I saw how one comment ended such a powerful reign, and it terrified me,” says Swift. “These days, with social media, people can be so mad about something one day and then forget what they were mad about a couple weeks later. That’s fake outrage. But what happened to the Dixie Chicks was real outrage. I registered it — that you’re always one comment away from being done being able to make music.”
Maybe the most transfixing scene in “Miss Americana” is one where Swift argues with her father and other members of her team about the statement she’s about to release coming out against Blackburn and — it’s clear from her references to White House opposition to the Equality Act — Donald Trump too. The comments were so spontaneous that Wilson wasn’t there to film the moment, but the director had asked people to turn on the camera if anything interesting transpired, and here it most certainly did.
“For 12 years, we’ve not got involved in politics or religion,” an unnamed associate says to Swift, suggesting that going down the road of standing against a president as well as Republican gubernatorial and Senate candidates could have the effect of halving her audience on tour. Her father chimes in: “I’ve read the entire [statement] and … right now, I’m terrified. I’m the guy that went out and bought armored cars.”
But Swift is adamant about pressing the button to send a nearly internet-breaking Instagram post, saying that Blackburn has voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act as well as LGBTQ-friendly bills: “I can’t see another commercial [with] her disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values.’ I live in Tennessee. I am Christian. That’s not what we stand for.” Pushing back tears, she laments not having come out against Trump two years earlier, “but I can’t change that. … I need to be on the right side of history. … Dad, I need you to forgive me for doing it, because I’m doing it.”
Says Swift now, “This was a situation where, from a humanity perspective, and from what my moral compass was telling me I needed to do, I knew I was right, and I really didn’t care about repercussions.” She understands why she faced such heated opposition in the room: “My dad is terrified of threats against my safety and my life, and he has to see how many stalkers we deal with on a daily basis, and know that this is his kid. It’s where he comes from.”
Swift was recently announced as the recipient of a Vanguard Award from GLAAD, and she name-checked the org in her basher-bashing single “You Need to Calm Down,” which was released as one of the teaser tracks for last fall’s more outwardly directed and socially conscious “Lover” album. Part of her politicization, she says, is feeling it would be hypocritical to hang out with her gay friends while leaving them to their own devices politically. In the film, she says, “I think it is so frilly and spineless of me to stand onstage and go ‘Happy Pride Month, you guys,’ and then not say this, when someone’s literally coming for their neck.”
A year and a half later, she elaborates: “To celebrate but not advocate felt wrong for me. Using my voice to try to advocate was the only choice to make. Because I’ve talked about equality and sung about it in songs like ‘Welcome to New York,’ but we are at a point where human rights are being violated. When you’re saying that certain people can be kicked out of a restaurant because of who they love or how they identify, and these are actual policies that certain politicians vocally stand behind, and they disguise them as family values, that is sinister. So, so dark.”
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Swift said she wrote “Only the Young” in the emotional aftermath of the 2018 elections.
“I was really upset about Tennessee going the way that it did, obviously. And so I just wanted to write a song about it,” Swift told Variety.
“I didn’t know where it would end up. But I did think that it would be better for it to come out at a time that it could maybe hopefully stoke some fires politically and maybe engage younger people to form their own views, break away from the pack, and not feel like they need to vote exactly the same way that people in their town are voting.”
Variety reported that Swift’s new song is heard over the end credits of the Netflix documentary.
The song reportedly features lyrics that reference the 2018 midterms: “You did all that you could do / The game was rigged, the ref got tricked / The wrong ones think they’re right / We were outnumbered — this time.”
Taylor Swift told the trade publication that “Only the Young” probably won’t be released as a single.
“I don’t see it as a single,” Swift said. “I just see it as a song that goes with this film. I don’t see it as a ‘let’s go make a music video and try to see what this does at radio’ single.”
For years, Swift declined to talk about her political beliefs. But the singer has since become a vocal supporter of the Democrat Party, using her vast social media following to promote Democrat candidates and lash out at conservatives.
In 2018, she published a statement on Instagram in which she criticized Republican Marsha Blackburn, who would eventually win her race for the U.S. Senate.
The statement is at the center of a sequence in Miss Americana that shows Swift arguing with her father and business associates.
“For 12 years, we’ve not got involved in politics or religion,” an unnamed associate says in the documentary, according to Variety.
The singer’s father reportedly says, “I’ve read the entire [statement] and … right now, I’m terrified. I’m the guy that went out and bought armored cars.”
Despite the backlash, Swift told Variety that she wants to remain politically outspoken.
“Using my voice to try to advocate was the only choice to make. Because I’ve talked about equality and sung about it in songs … but we are at a point where human rights are being violated,” she said.