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At NPR’s Tiny Desk, Taylor Swift fully embraces her rep for ‘heartache and misery’

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift stopped by NPR’s Tiny Desk for a concert that aired Wednesday.
(Richard Shotwell / Associated Press)

Taylor Swift fully embraced her reputation for courting despair as she played an NPR Tiny Desk concert that was broadcast Wednesday.

For the acoustic mini concert, the country-turned-pop star played stripped-down versions of multiple tracks from her latest effort, “Lover,” which she called a “very, very happy, romantic album.”

However, that didn’t stop her from protecting her status as the unofficial queen of the breakup ballad.

“I’ve gotten a question over and over again that I think has the potential to seriously deteriorate my mental health,” Swift joked between songs. “The question is, ‘What will you ever do if you get happy? What will you write about? Will you just never be able to write a song again?’ ”

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Swift and the cramped audience shared a laugh, though the songstress did admit that the theory once truly haunted her, since songs about heartbreak are “so fun to write.”

Despite her uncharacteristically calm romantic life as of late — she has reportedly been dating “The Favourite” actor Joe Alwyn happily for about two years — Swift was pleased to share her secret for recapturing a tragic state of mind: She lives vicariously through books, movies and conversations with heartbroken friends.

“I ended up writing a song that was a breakup song on the ‘Lover’ album, and I was like, ‘This is my proof that I don’t have to stop writing songs about heartache and misery,’ which, for me, is incredible news,” she quipped, earning more laughs before she launched into the somber tune “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”

Swift was more serious about some of her darker relationship days while introducing the emotional title track — a culmination of, and release from, all the pain she’s mused about in her past.

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“I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing breakup songs and songs about things not turning out the way you wanted them to or songs about what you thought would be love, and it turned out to not be that at all,” she said. “Songwriting is really a cathartic, therapeutic thing for me, and so there were a lot of things I’ve written about in my life that were the harder things I’ve had to go through.”

Swift has, of course, made a signature of not-so-subtly putting past celebrity lovers on blast with intimate ballads and anthems, including but not limited to “Dear John” (John Mayer), “All Too Well” (Jake Gyllenhaal) and “I Knew You Were Trouble” (Harry Styles).

“In life, you accumulate scars,” she said. “You accumulate hurt. You accumulate moments of learning and disappointment and struggle and all that, and if someone’s going to take your hand, they better take your hand, scars and all.”

Swift is set to hit the road for her official Lover tour next year.


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