The fall equinox may be tomorrow, but Taylor Swift welcomed the new season a little early at the NSAI 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards last night. The singer dressed up in a long-sleeved one-shoulder Michael Kors black sequined dress. She accessorized with Rahaminov earrings, an Anne Sisteron ring, and Aquazzura shoes.
The look evokes her Reputation era, which may be a hint that she’ll be re-recording it soon, as she becomes legally permitted to re-record the work on November 11, five years after its release. (And we all know Swift loves leaving Easter eggs.)
Swift was awarded the songwriter-artist of the decade honor at the Nashville ceremony, and gave a poignant speech about her history as an artist and her philosophy on writing lyrics.
She said, via Billboard, “For me, tonight feels brimming with a genuine camaraderie between a bunch of people who just love making stuff. Who love the craft. Who live for that rare, pure moment when a magical cloud floats down right in front of you in the form of an idea for a song, and all you have to do is grab it. Then shape it like clay. Prune it like a garden. And then wish on every lucky star or pray to whatever power you believe in that it might find its way out into the world and make someone feel seen, feel understood, feel joined in their grief or heartbreak or joy for just a moment.”
“I’ve learned by being in the entertainment industry for an extended period of time that this business operates with a very new, new, new, next, next, next mentality,” she continued. “For every artist or songwriter, we’re all just hoping to have one great year. One great album cycle. One great run at radio. And these days, one song that goes viral on TikTok. One glorious moment in the sun. Because on your next project you’ll probably have to invent a new thing to be. Think of all new things to say, and fresh ways to say them. You will have to entertain people. And the fact is that what entertains us is either seeing new artists emerge or established artists showing us a new side to themselves. If we are very, very lucky, life will say to us ‘your song is great.’ The next thing life will say is ‘What else can you do?’”
“I say all of this because I’m up here receiving this beautiful award for a decade of work, and I can’t possibly explain how nice that feels,” she said. “Because the way I see it, this is an award that celebrates a culmination of moments. Challenges. Gauntlets laid down. Albums I’m proud of. Triumphs. Strokes of luck or misfortune. Loud, embarrassing errors and the subsequent recovery from those mistakes, and the lessons learned from all of it. This award celebrates my family and my co-writers and my team. My friends and my fiercest fans and my harshest detractors and everyone who entered my life or left it. Because when it comes to my songwriting and my life, they are one in the same. As the great Nora Ephron once said, ‘Everything is copy.’”
She went on to divulge her own lyric-writing mentality: “I also have, in my mind, secretly, established genre categories for lyrics I write. Three of them, to be exact. They are affectionately titled ‘Quill Lyrics,’ ‘Fountain Pen Lyrics,’ and ‘Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics.’ I know this sounds confusing, but I’ll try to explain. I came up with these categories based on what writing tool I imagine having in my hand when I scribbled it down, figuratively.”
Quill-style lyrics are “if the words and phrasings are antiquated, if I was inspired to write it after reading Charlotte Brontë or after watching a movie where everyone is wearing poet shirts and corsets. If my lyrics sound like a letter written by Emily Dickinson’s great grandmother while sewing a lace curtain, that’s me writing in the Quill genre.”
“Fountain pen-style means a modern storyline or references, with a poetic twist,” she said. “Taking a common phrase and flipping its meaning. Trying to paint a vivid picture of a situation, down to the chipped paint on the door frame and the incense dust on the vinyl shelf. Placing yourself and whoever is listening right there in the room where it all happened. The love, the loss, everything. The songs I categorize in this style sound like confessions scribbled and sealed in an envelope, but too brutally honest to ever send.”
And of the last category, Swift said, “The third category is called ‘Glitter Gel Pen’ and it lives up to its name in every way. Frivolous, carefree, bouncy, syncopated perfectly to the beat. Glitter Gel Pen lyrics don’t care if you don’t take them seriously because they don’t take themselves seriously. Glitter Gel Pen lyrics are the drunk girl at the party who tells you that you look like an angel in the bathroom. It’s what we need every once in a while in these fraught times in which we live.”
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.