Taylor Swift Reveals How She Stood Up to Apple, Kanye, Relationship Drama and More

Taylor Swift's recent missive to Apple — the one that caused the tech behemoth to reverse course, once again demonstrating her world-beating pop power — came after some late-night soul searching, the singer tells Vanity Fair writer Josh Duboff, in the magazine's September cover story.


"I wrote the letter at around four A.M.," Swift says. "The contracts had just gone out to my friends, and one of them sent me a screenshot of one of them. I read the term 'zero percent compensation to rights holders.' Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and I'll write a song and I can't sleep until I finish it, and it was like that with the letter."

After receiving criticism for a Wall Street Journal op-ed Swift wrote last summer, about Spotify's free-streaming service, Swift says she worried "people would say, 'Why won't she shut up about this?' ... My fears were that I would be looked at as someone who just whines and rants about this thing that no one else is really ranting about."

Swift says she consulted only one person before releasing the letter on the Internet. "I read it to my mom," she says. "She's always going to be the one. I just said, 'I'm really scared of this letter, but I had to write it. I might not post it, but I had to say it.'"

Apple surprised Swift by almost immediately changing its plan not to compensate artists during the trial period of its new streaming service. Says Swift, "Apple treated me like I was a voice of a creative community that they actually cared about," she says. "And I found it really ironic that the multi-billion-dollar company reacted to criticism with humility, and the start-up with no cash flow reacted to criticism like a corporate machine."

Interviewed in London during a stop on her massive 1989 world tour, Swift also opens up to Duboff about her oft Instagrammed friendships with Lena Dunham, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez, and more — and how men don’t stand a chance of creating tension within this tight-knit coterie. "We even have girls in our group who have dated the same people," Swift says. "It's almost like the sisterhood has such a higher place on the list of priorities for us. It’s so much more important than some guy that it didn't work out with."

"When you've got this group of girls who need each other as much as we need each other, in this climate, when it's so hard for women to be understood and portrayed the right way in the media ... now more than ever we need to be good and kind to each other and not judge each other — and just because you have the same taste in men, we don't hold that against each other," she says.

Swift also tells Duboff how Jay Z unknowingly helped her reconcile with Kanye West years after the rapper awkwardly interrupted her 2009 VMA acceptance speech.

"I feel like I wasn't ready to be friends with [West] until I felt like he had some sort of respect for me, and he wasn't ready to be friends with me until he had some sort of respect for me — so it was the same issue, and we both reached the same place at the same time," Swift says. "I became friends with Jay Z, and I think it was important, for Jay Z, for Kanye and I to get along ... And then Kanye and I both reached a place where he would say really nice things about my music and what I've accomplished, and I could ask him how his kid's doing."

On the subject of career inspirations, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter has her sights set outside of the music industry, on women who have used their massive celebrity for greater good. "If you look at Oprah, she's made so many people happy over the years," Swift says. "She's made so much money, but she's given so much of it away ... Same thing with Angelina Jolie. She's been so productive, but she's used that position to better other people's lives, and I think that's where I'd want to be."

Because of her re-prioritized relationships, and the media's scrutiny of her past romances, Swift says that she's changed her attitude toward dating in recent years. "That was the way that I decided to go on with my life," she says. "Not looking for anything, not necessarily being open to anything, and only being open to the idea that, if I found someone who would never try to change me, that would be the only person I could fall in love with. Because, you know, I was in love with my life."

Despite her fame, fortune, and array of A-list friendships, Swift maintains a sense of humor and the impression that she is still impossibly grounded. When Duboff asks about Swift's latest reputation, as a style icon, she levels with him: "I think I know how to put together a good outfit ... But any day you're going to admit to being a style icon is a day you need to look in the mirror and really check yourself."

More From Vanity Fair:
• The Beginner's Guide to Taylor Swift’s Girl Squad
• Taylor Swift Is Just as Obsessed with Selfies as You Are
• Taylor Swift's Girl Squad Now Includes the U.S. Women's Soccer Team
• Update: Taylor Swift Got Apple to Change Its Payment Policy

Photo Credit: Vanity Fair