The shady side of Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is on top of the world, but critics say she's done some sketchy things to get there. From her controversial views on feminism to her questionable dating habits, let's take a closer look at the shady side of America's sweetheart.

She capitalizes on her relationships

Though she insists in interviews that she doesn't like to talk about her personal life, Swift definitely profits on the speculation. According to countless celebrity sites, most of Swift's exes have made their way into her singles.

Singer Joe Jonas supposedly inspired Swift's "Forever and Always" after he broke up with her in an infamous 27-second phone call. Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is rumored to be the man behind most of Red, including "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." Harry Styles is allegedly the beau behind "I Knew You Were Trouble" and much of 1989, especially "Style" and "Out of the Woods," in which she references "two paper airplanes flying" (like the matching necklaces they wore) and a snowmobile crash he was in while they were together. 

Though Swift never officially confirms or denies these suspicions, she often scatters hints, like bread crumbs, in liner notes and interviews, knowing full well that fans will follow the trail.

Some of her muses have called her bluff

Though Swift has played coy about the inspiration behind her songs, some of her alleged muses have fired back. 

Musician John Mayer told Rolling Stone he was "humiliated" by "Dear John." He said the track "made me feel terrible, because I didn't deserve it… It was a really lousy thing for her to do." He added, "I never got an email. I never got a phone call. I was really caught off-guard." Mayer also noted, "I think it's kind of cheap songwriting. I know she's the biggest thing in the world, and I'm not trying to sink anybody's ship, but I think it's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait till he gets a load of this!' That's bulls***."

Swift responded by telling Glamour that Mayer was being "presumptuous" about the track's inspiration. (Okay, Tay, whatever you say.)

Mayer isn't alone in his gripes. Jonas also claimed Swift manipulated the facts regarding their breakup to drum up sympathy at the expense of his reputation. "For those who have expressed concern over the '27 second' phone call," he said (via People), "I called [Swift] to discuss feelings… Those feelings were obviously not well received. I did not end the conversation. Someone else did. Phone calls can only last as long as the person on the other end of the line is willing to talk." 

Her awkward reactions at award ceremonies

Despite winning almost everything all the time, Swift puts on an awkward faux shocked face when she wins an award. The only time she seems genuinely shocked is when she loses to someone else—just look at the sneer she threw at Adele during the 2013 Golden Globes and her embarrassing reaction when Daft Punk beat her for album of the year at the 2014 Grammys.

Swift candidly addressed the latter in an interview with Grammy Pro (via Billboard). "When they announced the album of the year winner it was like, 'And the album of the year goes to…Reeeeeandom Access Memories, Daft Punk!' And they really dragged out the 'reeee. And for a second, I kinda thought we had it," she said. "I remember not going to after-parties. I went home and I cried a little bit, and I got In-N-Out Burger and ate a lot." 

Seriously? That sounds a little dramatic for someone who has clearly received a gigantic amount of critical affirmation throughout her career.

Her hypocritical slut-shaming

In Swift's song, "Better Than Revenge," the singer attacks a woman who she thinks stole her boyfriend. Rumor has it the song is about actress Camilla Belle allegedly stealing Jonas from her (which Jonas vehemently denies). Swift sings, "She's not a saint and she's not what you think / She's an actress / She's better known for the things that she does / On the mattress."

However, one could surmise that Swift has no issues "stealing" guys when it's convenient. In her video for "You Belong With Me," she lures the football star away from his girlfriend, and according to the Daily News, she allegedly began secretly dating Harris while he was still attached to his ex, model Aarika Wolf.

She had a barely legal boyfriend

In July 2012, Swift was feelin' 22…with a guy who just turned 18. Conor Kennedy turned 18 on July 24, 2012; he and Swift were first spotted getting cozy on July 31, 2012. 

When asked if she "kidnapped" Kennedy, Swift scoffed to Rolling Stone (via E! News), "You can't kidnap a grown man… The way I look at love is, you have to follow it, and fall hard, if you fall hard. You have to forget about what everyone else thinks." 

She crashed a Kennedy wedding

When Swift was dating Kennedy, she was accused of crashing a family wedding with him against the bride's wishes. Kennedy's cousin, Kyle Kennedy, was tying the knot with Liam Kerr, and Kyle's mom, Victoria Gifford Kennedy, reportedly didn't want the singer to attend. 

Victoria told The Boston Herald (via E! News), "[Conor and Swift] texted me an hour before the wedding and asked if they could come… I responded with a very clear, 'Please do not come.' They came anyway… I personally went up to Ms. Swift, whose entrance distracted the entire event, politely introduced myself to her, and asked her as nicely as I could to leave. It was like talking to a ghost. She seemed to look right past me."

Swift's camp denied the claims, but Today show host Kathie Lee Gifford, who was at the wedding, insisted the incident happened exactly as Victoria described. On her show, Gifford said (via E! News), "It's the bride's day, and that was Vicki's other concern. 'This is my daughter's day and I would appreciate it if you would not come.'" Gifford added, "I was out in the hallway, [Swift] was waiting, standing around, and he came out, took her by the hand and they left."

Her confusing feminist ideals

Swift stirred up a hornet's nest of criticism when she tried discussing feminism in a 2012 interview with The Daily Beast. "I don't really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have," she said. "I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life." Critics thought she'd missed the point by suggesting some sort of male standard to try to meet.

Swift's views on feminism are also conflicted when examined through the lens of her interactions with other women in the entertainment industry. When comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler wise-cracked about her dating life at the Golden Globes in 2013, Swift quoted Katie Couric (who was actually quoting Madeleine Albright) in Vanity Fair, telling the mag, "There's a special place in Hell for women who don't support other women." Two years later, Swift's words rang hollow when her "Bad Blood" video–reportedly inspired by Swift's hatred for another female artist (more on that in a minute)–won video of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards. 

Essentially, critics argue that Swift touts feminism as part of her brand only when it benefits her directly. Need more examples? She tweeted "we need feminism in 2015" when a tabloid ran a bogus headline about her that she didn't like. At the 2016 Grammys, she made it clear that she was proud to be the first woman to win album of the year twice, but accepted her Grammy for 1989 on a stage full of only male collaborators. She privately helped Kesha fund her legal battle against Dr. Luke, but never made a public statement of support. In January 2017, while musicians such as Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Ariana Grande, and Rihanna were all attending the Women's March, Swift tweeted her support…after the fact.

She was accused of stealing a lyric

In November 2012, singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson expressed his distaste for a lyric in Swift's "All Too Well" that was very similar to a line in his 2003 song "I Saw." 

In "All Too Well," Swift sings, "And I'll forget about you long enough / To forget why I needed to." In "I Saw," Nathanson croons, "I'll forget about you long enough / To forget why I need to." While this could, of course, be a coincidence, Swift had previously revealed that she was a fan of Nathanson, even scribbling lyrics to his song "Queen Of (K)nots" on her arm for a July 2011 performance, according to Spin

On Oct. 24, 2012, Nathanson wrote in a since-deleted tweet (via Spin), "She's definitely a fan…and now she's a thief." On Nov. 2, 2012, he tweeted, "So far, my favorite thing about today is the wave of @taylorswift13 fans calling me a prick on Twitter for writing "I Saw" in 2003."

Swift has not commented on the lyrical similarities.

The timing of her relationships is suspicious

For all her scorned woman songs, Swift has allegedly broken at least two hearts to date: Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston. Swift and Harris split after more than a year of dating in early June 2016, and she and Hiddleston were spotted together just days later.

What's more, Swift may have hitched her star to Hiddleston before her relationship with Harris was even over. The DJ was reportedly miffed when PDA photos of Swift and the Avengers star went viral right after he and Swift broke up. A source told E! Online, "Calvin was very suspicious that Taylor was cheating during their relationship. He just didn't know with whom. He feels like these pictures confirm his suspicions, and it changes everything. He is so angry and feels betrayed. He is convinced that Taylor was cheating with Tom while they were still together." 

An insider also told The Sun, "The timing of this looks very bad for Taylor. There was an obvious connection with Tom at the Met Gala [in May 2016]—you can see that in the video of them dancing together… It feels pretty disrespectful to be moving on to someone so public so quickly." (Some speculated that Swift flaunted her fling with Hiddleston to distract from the drama brewing between her and Kanye West–more to follow on that.)

By September 2016, Swift and Hiddleston were through. She soon began dating actor Joe Alwyn, though that romance was reportedly kept under wraps for more than six months.

She reneged on a songwriting agreement with Harris

During Swift and Harris' relationship, he released the massive hit "This Is What You Came For," featuring Rihanna, but it wasn't until after he and Swift broke up that Swift supposedly demanded a songwriting credit for the track. 

After the split, it was revealed that Swift had used the pseudonym "Nils Sjoberg" in the credits on the song to prevent the media from harping on the couple instead of the craft. When Harris was asked if he would collaborate with Swift, he remained true to the their agreement and told Ryan Seacrest, "You know, [Swift and I] haven't even spoken about [collaborating]. I can't see it happening though."

After the breakup, Swift's publicist released a statement notifying the world that Swift co-wrote the song. Why didn't Swift just say so from the get-go? TMZ reported that "her squad [was] sick of Calvin trashing Taylor and feel he should be thanking her for quietly giving him a smash hit."

To add insult to injury, more than a year later, Swift featured a gravestone of "Nils Sjoberg" in her music video for "Look What You Made Me Do." That's subtle, and not at all petty, Taylor.

She seems obsessed with taking down Kanye West

Remember when Kanye West interrupted Swift at the 2009 VMAs? She certainly does. Swift wrote a song about it called "Innocent" and even keeps a framed photo of the incident in her home.

At the 2015 Grammy Awards, Tay and Yeezy finally mended fences, or so we thought, until West released The Life of Pablo in 2016. In the first verse of "Famous," he raps "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that b**** famous." The video that accompanies that song includes a Swift look-alike lying naked in bed next to West. You can't make this stuff up, and we wouldn't blame Swift for taking offense, except West's wifey, Kim Kardashian, claims Tay signed off on the song. Say what?

According to Kardashian, West and Swift discussed the songs lyrics. "It was funny because [on the call with Kanye, Taylor] said, 'When I get on the Grammy red carpet, all the media is going to think that I'm so against this, and I'll just laugh and say, 'The joke's on you, guys. I was in on it the whole time,'" Kardashian told GQ. But Swift didn't laugh when she won album of the year at the Grammy Awards. She "completely dissed my husband just to play the victim again," said Kardashian.

Swift's camp denied Kardashian's claims, until the reality star released video footage of Swift on the phone with West while he was in the studio. At that point Swift promptly released a statement saying, in part, "I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009."

But Swift is arguably keeping this narrative very much alive, as evidenced by the first track off her 2017 album, Reputation. As you may recall, Kardashian was robbed of jewels at gunpoint and bound in a bathtub in October 2016, and West suffered a mental breakdown in November 2016 and canceled his tour. In 2017, Swift apparently found it appropriate to reference a "tilted stage" (West's tour had featured a tilted stage) in her debut track, "Look What Made You Made Me Do." In the video for that song, she sits in a diamond-filled bathtub, which many took as an allusion to the circumstances surrounding Kardashian's life-threatening experience.

Is she trying to destroy Katy Perry too?

On June 8, 2017, Variety reported that Swift's catalog was–surprise!–being newly released on all streaming services, supposedly to celebrate 1989 reaching 100 million songs sold and 10 million album sales. Swift's timing was quite the coincidence, considering Perry's album, Witness, was scheduled to drop on June 9, 2017. Perry's album boasted a limp diss track allegedly directed at Swift called "Swish Swish." Spin reported that Perry's streaming numbers for Witness barely beat Swift's for 1989 on opening week, coming in at 19.2 million streams for Perry and 18.9 million for Swift.

This was just another blow against Perry allegedly served up at the hands of Swift, who has beefed with the "California Gurls" singer for years. Some say the ill will is connected to their mutual ex, John Mayer, though both ladies have insisted that's not the case. Instead, the entire mess may revolve around a few backup dancers. For real.

In 2014, Swift told Rolling Stone that an unnamed pop star (who the world quickly deduced was Perry) had inspired "Bad Blood." According to Swift, the rival star "basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me."

Perry shared her side of the story with James Corden in May 2017. "There [were] three backing dancers that went on tour with [Swift,] and they asked me before…if they could go, and I was like, 'Yeah, of course…but I will be on a record cycle in about a year, so be sure to put a 30-day contingency in your contract so you can get out if you want to join me.'" When the time came for Perry to tour, she texted the dancers. "They said, 'All right, we're going to talk to management about it.' And they did. And they got fired. I tried to talk to [Swift] about it, and she wouldn't speak to me… Then she writes a song about me."

Her questionable Apple Music deal

In 2014, Swift removed her entire catalog from all streaming services ahead of her 1989 album release. In June 2015, she specifically called out Apple Music for its streaming revenue model, claiming it was unfair to not pay artists for streaming their music during the service's 90-day trial period. 

Apple Music changed their tune days later, and so did Swift, tweeting (via E! News), "After the events of this week, I've decided to put 1989 on Apple Music…and happily so. This is simply the first time it's felt right in my gut to stream my album. Thank you, Apple, for your change of heart." 

Swift inked a huge business deal with her former foe that included an exclusive 1989 World Tour documentary. According to Billboard, Swift's decision was "a business-as-usual move for an artist and label who are wringing every ounce of sales and promotional benefit out of anyone willing to meet them halfway—or so."

In April 2016, Swift also starred in commercials for Apple Music, leading many to believe the entire exchange was an elaborate stunt between both powerhouses.

She tries to silence her critics

On Sept. 5, 2017, a blog called PopFront posted an essay criticizing Swift for not speaking out against white supremacists who view her as an Aryan icon. Variety reported that Swift's legal team contacted the blog's editor, Megan Herning, demanding that the blog be removed and accusing the writer of defamation. The letter also claimed to be an official denouncement of white supremacy from Swift, but Swift's attorneys also demanded copyright protection to keep the letter private…which would mean Swift never really publicly denounced white supremacy, which was the point of the entire blog post.

The American Civil Liberties Union published the letter in its entirety, as well as a letter of its own that took subtle jabs at Swift's own song titles. Verbiage included, "criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off" and "applying these fundamental constitutional principles to your four 'hideous falsehoods' shows that not even in your wildest dreams can they constitute defamation."

Herning isn't alone. Several other writers tweeted about having to amend or remove stories Swift's team found offensive.