Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hell hath no fury like innocent-looking but spiteful Taylor Swift if you break up with her

  • Print

Taylor Swift, 22-year-old singer, songwriter and serial breaker-upper, has just released a new album. Many of the songs on Red are breakup songs -- put on your Taylor Swift "surprise face" here -- with highly specific references to ex-boyfriends. If you need help narrowing down the field -- is it Joe? or John? or Jake? -- there are convenient clues embedded in the liner-note lyrics.

Swift uses a rudimentary code -- it involves the sinister use of the caps-lock key -- to set up hidden messages that sometimes point in the direction of former squeezes. Swift's choruses may be about smartening up, moving on and beginning again. But her verses are often about needy, whiny, insecure, flip-flopping, need-my-space guys. Clearly, writing mean breakup songs is the best revenge.

A lot of writers draw on autobiography. Breaking up is hard to do, and it's not surprising that these kind of incidents would wander into the country-pop-crossover star's killingly confessional lyrics. Usually, the deal is that you transform raw experience through the refining crucible of art. If you can't manage that, you at least change names and identifying details.

Swift challenges basic breakup etiquette with songs that are barely one step up from Facebook status updates. They are packed with enough "you know who I mean" clues that most listeners will easily connect the celebrity-boyfriend dots. Swift has coyly told interviewers that she never discloses who her songs are about, but she's certainly prepared to drop hints.

According to unofficial pop-culture code-breakers -- who've parsed this latest round of songs, videos and ciphers and found references to astrological signs and eye colour, work schedules and taste in plaid shirts -- Jake Gyllenhaal is taking a big hit on Red. You know that guy with whom she's "never ever getting back together?" Like, never, ever, ever? That's Jake.

Ever since penning a public "Dear John" letter to dead-eyed womanizer John Mayer, Swift has been known for her breakup songs, developing a million-selling kiss-and-tell routine that would be considered caddish in a male. Swift is let off, possibly because she looks like a baby deer wearing lipstick.

And it's not all her fault. Partly, this tendency to Too Much Information is just the way things work these days. The coded message in the song "All Too Well" is MAPLE LATTES, which seems to be an unmistakable allusion to a photo op with Gyllenhaal. (Do a Google Image search for "maple lattes" and guess whose pic comes up?)

This kind of probing research was harder in the pre-Internet days. Carly Simon's 1972 song You're So Vain is about a self-absorbed ex-lover, but the guy's real-life identity has always been disputed, with Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty heading up a long list of possibles. (True to the song's famous line, Beatty does think that the song is about him, so bonus points there!) Even the origins of Alanis Morissette's 1995 post-breakup tirade, You Oughta Know, remain murky. Possible subjects include hockey player Mike Peluso and America's Funniest Home Videos host Bob Saget(!).

In these media-saturated times, we just know a lot more about famous people -- especially famous people who only date other famous people. Taylor Swift has had high-profile dalliances with Joe Jonas, John Mayer, Glee's Cory Monteith and -- in one of those awkward 21st-century androgynous first-name overlaps -- Taylor Lautner. In a recent interview, Ellen DeGeneres jokingly implicated Swift in the Danny DeVito-Rhea Perlman split.

You can argue that anyone who dates Swift is signing up to be part of the celebrity-media machine. He should expect exposure and be prepared to take the bad with the good. You could even argue that Gyllenhaal deserves to be punished -- just a tiny wee bit -- for dating an ingenue like Swift in the first place. (Many grown-ups viewed his short-lived relationship with Swift as the love-life equivalent of starring in The Prince of Persia.)

But Swift's latest fella is Conor Kennedy, an 18-year-old who's still in prep school. News broke -- just as the album dropped -- that these two have also split. Of course, their relationship is still rosy on Red, part of that Kennedy-clan fairy tale that had Swift dressing like the young Jackie O and buying a house in Hyannis Port. But by the next album, Swift's Begin Again optimism may have morphed into her deeply spiteful -- yet deceptively cute! -- breakup mode. Let's hope she leaves the poor kid alone.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 3, 2012 E3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Drew Willy on his team's win over Alouettes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Standup- Morning Fog. Horse prances in field by McPhillips Road, north of Winnipeg. 060605.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of the new school-zone speed limit?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google