Even before the glitz and glam, all Taylor Swift wanted was appreciation and success for her talent. Fifteen years, seven albums and an estimated net worth of $360 million later and you simply can’t deny the power that the singer and songwriter holds within the music industry. She’s witnessed both the highs and incredible lows of the limelight and was scrutinised to a point that #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty was one of Twitter’s highest trends of 2016. Lana Wilson’s new behind-the-scenes documentary offers an insight into a period of transition for the star amidst an apparent downfall, giving us a closer look into the private life of Miss Americana herself.
Sitting comfy in a blush pink onesie, Swift gets a call to say that Reputation – the remarkable follow-up to her dreamy pop fusion 1989 – received no nominations. A quiet pause and a look that shows a tad of sadness, her response simply resonates with someone willing to continue to prove herself: “I’ll just have to make a better record.” The reality is, she didn’t need to. Reputation was an era that allowed her to address her feelings towards all that was said about her during her on-going feud with Kanye West – and also arguably her best album to date. In her song Call It What You Want from the record, she addresses the downfall of her good-girl status (“All the liars are calling me one, nobody’s heard from me for months, I’m doing better than I ever was.”) whilst also hinting that a new and perhaps happier era is upon us.
Wilson emotively projects an image of a young woman who has achieved fame to the highest level at an age where most haven’t. Through home videos, informal interviews and on-stage recordings, we see her constantly reinventing herself for not just her fans, but also women who look up to her as a role model. Obviously Swift has had it easier in the industry than most, being a white, blonde and beautiful woman, with her family supporting her move to Nashville in 2004. Miss Americana isn’t about her privileged life or even attempts to acknowledge the fortune she withholds – in one shot she’s literally sat on the floor with her guitar wearing fox slippers. It’s a film that focuses on how issues relating to her career in the past few years have ultimately moulded her into a better version of herself. Her new album – Lover– really defines Swift’s lightness since coming back into the limelight and the film sensitively shows how content she is making something that isn’t a product of harsh behaviour thrown at her.
Our look into her private life acts an emotional tour, in comparison to her public and lively concerts. Swift openly talks about previously suffering from an eating disorder, her struggle with self-image, and her experience of sexual assault where she addresses the 2017 court case she eventually won. These experiences allowed Swift to become more open on matters that were and continue to be more important than writing about boys and break-ups. For the first time in her career, she chose to take a political stance despite being encouraged not to do so – insisting that the backlash could ruin her image. The one criticism that stands out from this is perhaps it appears that Swift only took action to support political matters such as women and LGBT rights when she was directly affected in the public eye herself.
Sure, Swift is just one in a pool of many others who have struggled with certain issues, but that is what makes Miss Americana a great success. It unravels the popstar image that she retained from a tender age and highlights a young woman who is constantly progressing. It’s both a conventional and gleaming piece to watch, with past and present sentiments of the star flicking before our eyes allowing her life to still remain hearty and private. It’s unlikely to make haters give Taylor another chance, but for her legion of fans, it will act as a trusty comfort blanket knowing she’s finally at peace with both life in the limelight and personally – the line “think I’m finally clean” from her 1989 song Clean seems to resonate well.
Directed by: Lana Wilson