During her cover story interview for Billboard’s Women In Music issue, Taylor Swift discussed several aspects of her mega-selling seventh studio album Lover, including its creation after a personal “recalibrating” period, her stripped-down performances of its songs and her plans to showcase the full-length live with her Lover Fest shows next year. In two moments from the extended conversation that did not make the print story, Billboard’s Woman of the Decade also touched upon two of the album’s highlights, which double as a pair of the more interesting songs in her discography: “The Man” and “It’s Nice To Have A Friend.”
“The Man” imagines how Swift’s experience as a person, artist and figure within the music industry would have been different had she been a man, highlighting how much harder women have to work in order to succeed (“I’m so sick of running as fast as I can / Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man,” she sings in the chorus). The song has become a fan favorite since the release of Lover, and Swift recently opened a career-spanning medley with the song at the 2019 American Music Awards.
When asked about “The Man,” Swift pointed out specific double standards that exist in everyday life and explained why she wanted to turn that frustration into a pop single. Read Swift’s full thoughts on “The Man” below:
“It was a song that I wrote from my personal experience, but also from a general experience that I’ve heard from women in all parts of our industry. And I think that, the more we can talk about it in a song like that, the better off we’ll be in a place to call it out when it’s happening. So many of these things are ingrained in even women, these perceptions, and it’s really about re-training your own brain to be less critical of women when we are not criticizing men for the same things. So many things that men do, you know, can be phoned-in that cannot be phoned-in for us. We have to really — God, we have to curate and cater everything, but we have to make it look like an accident. Because if we make a mistake, that’s our fault, but if we strategize so that we won’t make a mistake, we’re calculating.
“There is a bit of a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t thing happening in music, and that’s why when I can, like, sit and talk and be like ‘Yeah, this sucks for me too,’ that feels good. When I go online and hear the stories of my fans talking about their experience in the working world, or even at school — the more we talk about it, the better off we’ll be. And I wanted to make it catchy for a reason — so that it would get stuck in people’s heads, [so] they would end up with a song about gender inequality stuck in their heads. And for me, that’s a good day.”
Meanwhile, the penultimate song on Lover, “It’s Nice To Have A Friend,” sounds unlike anything in Swift’s catalog thanks to its elliptical structure, lullaby-like tone and incorporation of steel drums and brass. When asked about the song, Swift talked about experimenting with her songwriting, as well as capturing a different angle of the emotional themes at the heart of Lover.
Read Swift’s full thoughts on “It’s Nice To Have A Friend” below:
“It was fun to write a song that was just verses, because my whole body and soul wants to make a chorus — every time I sit down to write a song, I’m like, ‘Okay, chorus time, let’s get the chorus done.’ But with that song, it was more of like a poem, and a story and a vibe and a feeling of… I love metaphors that kind of have more than one meaning, and I think I loved the idea that, on an album called Lover, we all want love, we all want to find somebody to see our sights with and hear things with and experience things with.
“But at the end of the day we’ve been searching for that since we were kids! When you had a friend when you were nine years old, and that friend was all you talked about, and you wanted to have sleepovers and you wanted to walk down the street together and sit there drawing pictures together or be silent together, or be talking all night. We’re just looking for that, but endless sparks, as adults.”