“Write what you know.” It’s the oldest advice in the book for writers. And whether you’re working on the next great American novel or a chart-crushing pop song, if you’ve spent half your life in the intense glare of the media spotlight chances are you’re going to write about being famous: the money, the perks, the highs, the men/women, the parties, the substances, the loneliness, the backstabbing, the liars, the cheaters. You get the picture.
So it makes sense that Taylor Swift, who has spent half her life in the blinding crosshair of global celebrity, sounds a bit world-weary on her new single, “Look What You Made Me Do.” We don’t know who she’s talking about in the Right Said Fred-interpolating dance-pop single, but clearly it’s someone who has done her wrong, and we have our suspicions.
Just look at one of the most revealing lines: “i don’t like your little games/ Don’t like your tilted stage/ The role you made me play/ Of the fool, no I don’t like you.” If that line isn’t about the world-weariness of trying to live up to the expectations of life under a microscope amid pressure from the expectations of others, what is?
But Taylor is far from alone in using her art to work out the tricky pitfalls of fame. It’s a topic that songwriters have come back to time and again, so in honor of “Look” we give you nine other times musicians worked out the wages of stardom in song.
Britney Spears, “Piece of Me” (2007)
Key lyrics: “I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17/ Don’t matter if I step on the scene/ Or sneak away to the Philippines/ They still gon’ put pictures of my derriere in the magazine/ You want a piece of me?”
Kenny Chesney, “Welcome to the Fishbowl” (2012)
Key lyrics: “You see me and I see you/ Can’t hide nothing ’cause it’s all see-through/ Don’t be fool enough to tell a lie/ Satellite’s watching up in the sky/ There for all the world to know/ What we do and where we go/ Welcome to the fish bowl”
Eminem, “Almost Famous” (2010)
Key lyrics: “I wake up behind these trenches/ You run around defenseless/ There is too much to lose/ You cannot fill these shoes/ I just wanna be famous, but/Be careful what you wish you for”
Lady Gaga, “Paparazzi” (2008)
Key lyrics: “I’m your biggest fan/ I’ll follow you until you love me/ Papa-paparazzi/Baby there’s no other superstar/You know that I’ll be/ Your papa-paparazzi/ Promise I’ll be kind/ But I won’t stop until that boy is mine/ Baby you’ll be famous/ Chase you down until you love me/ Papa-paparazzi”
?Notorious B.I.G., “Mo Money, Mo Problems” (1997)
Key lyrics: “I don’t know what they want from me/ It’s like the more money we come across/ The more problems we see”
Arcade Fire, “Flashbulb Eyes” (2013)
Key lyrics: “What if the camera/ Really do take your soul/ Oh no/ Hit me with your flashbulb eyes/ Hit me with your flashbulb eyes/ You know I’ve got nothing to hide/ You know I got nothing/ No I got, nothing”
Hole, “Celebrity Skin” (1998)
Key lyrics: “No second billing cause you’re a star now/ Oh, Cinderella/ They aren’t sluts like you/ Beautiful garbage, beautiful dresses/ Can you stand up or will you/ Just fall down/ You better watch out/ What you wish for/ It better be worth it/ So much to die for”
Justin Bieber, “Yellow Raincoat” (2013)
Key lyrics: “Well never do I ever do I ever want this to phase me/ Well never do I ever do I want this thing to make me/ ‘Cause the fame and the money, and the girls will drive you crazy/ And all the ‘He said, she said,’ I’m thinking maybe/ Just put on my/ Guess I’ll put on my raincoat, my yellow raincoat”
David Bowie, “Fame” (1975)
Key lyrics: “Fame makes a man take things over/ Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow/ Fame puts you there where things are hollow (fame)/ Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame/ That burns your change to keep you insane (fame)”