Start composing your own music—here's how
First: the girl next door, making her breakthrough to country music stardom at the tender age of 14. Now: a young lady who is increasingly critical of herself and expresses it in thoughtful song lyrics. Miss Americana premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020. Since then, the Taylor Swift portrait can be streamed on Netflix. In the 85-minute documentary, director Lana Wilson shows how the pop icon repeatedly earns criticism for her appearance as Everybody’s Darling. But also how she has learned to deal with the media pressure of recent years.
Taylor Swift was born on December 13, 1989 in the US state of Pennsylvania. At a young age, Mr. and Mrs. Swift discovered their daughter's singing talent. From then on, she took part in numerous karaoke competitions and picked up her first win at the age of ten. The teenager began to write her first song lyrics, and by the age of 14 already had a major music contract in her pocket. This was the trigger for her meteoric rise to pop stardom.
Even though the sales figures for her last two albums may seem comparatively low, Swift has shattered records in the past. In the music industry, she is one of the highest-paid artists and has already been honored with countless awards, including the Artist of the Decade Award. At the age of 30, she has sold more than 50 million albums and 150 million singles. Time and again, her songs have made it to the top of the charts. Shake It Off, for example, spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Incidentally, Taylor co-wrote Shake It Off with Max Martin. If you want to know more about the person behind Max Martin, check out this article.
However, the Taylor Swift portrait shows that life hasn't always been easy. Taylor has been the subject of media debates several times in recent years, which has put increasing pressure on her. She has always been known as Everybody’s Darling, always appearing as a flawless figure and keeping quiet. But now she wants to break the great silence. In Miss Americana you get to know the pop star from a new side.
Current interviews, private and public recordings as well as video recordings from Taylor's youth alternate with each other. Director Lana Wilson documents the change from a former country star to a successful pop icon who can also be a “bad girl.” The film shows not only beautiful moments, but also drastic experiences that Taylor has never spoken about before. Some examples include the court case against a presenter who allegedly sexually harassed Swift, and the eating disorder from which Taylor suffered for years.
From the Taylor Swift portrait you can see that the pop star has always lived for the recognition of others. She herself admits to always being liked by everyone.
The incident at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009 made her doubt her career and existence. When she accepted the award for “Best Female Video,” Kayne West spoke up: “Beyonce made one of the best videos of all time.” In an interview recorded years later, Taylor says she felt totally out of place at that moment. Especially for her as a vulnerable person, this had been very humiliating. This incident was the catalyst for a dispute that still made many headlines.
The Taylor Swift portrait shows how the singer did not make her political opinion known for years. She was afraid of getting into trouble. As an example, she cites the band "Dixie Chicks", which took a political stance in 2003 and thus triggered a wave of hatred. This set the ball rolling and was followed by countless calls for boycotts, critical statements by politicians and public demonstrations. Taylor says that today she has reached a point where she no longer listens to the opinions of others and does express herself politically.
In an Instagram post, she pledged support for Democratic candidates in the election for the first time. The cameras are rolling to document the moment Taylor publishes the post. As a viewer, you root for Taylor, who is no longer willing to surrender to this fate. Shortly after, she also criticizes a Republican candidate for the Senate. Taylor voices her voting recommendation for a candidate who clearly advocates rights for LGBTQI people. In doing so, she set something into motion. Within 24 hours, nearly 65,000 people registered to vote. This marked a turning point: the girl next door was a thing of the past.
Why did the pop icon never make her opinion known in public? The Taylor Swift portrait shows her almost pathological longing to be liked by everyone. She has always been afraid of what consequences her actions would bring. Since time immemorial, Taylor has been in a constant battle with herself. But that is over now, she says. The documentary fits well into today's times, when pop icons no longer hide behind a facade, but share their ups and downs with the public. Even if it seems as if Taylor now has no problem removing her mask, it is certainly a very big step for the artist.
At the 61st Grammy Awards, Taylor was hoping for a nomination in one of the categories with her new album Reputation. When she learned that nothing came of it, she said in front of the camera that she doesn't think that's bad. As a viewer, however, you can tell that she is very offended. This again shows that Taylor still has to fight against herself.
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Originally published on October 30, 2022, updated on February 3, 2023
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