Few, if any, record-of-the-year Grammy Awards during the event’s 57-year history have gone to artists who consciously set out to win what long has been considered the music industry’s most prestigious award.
On the flip side, it’s a safe bet that of the five candidates for that honor going into Monday’s 58th Grammy ceremony, Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” is probably the only one that began as a joke, a song she initially didn’t think would end up on her “1989” album.
FULL COVERAGE: Grammy Awards 2016
Swift’s cheeky hit, in which the singer salivates at the prospect of reeling in the next victim of her insatiable appetite for romantic conquests, is vying with D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s steamy ballad “Really Love,” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars’ party anthem “Uptown Funk,” Ed Sheeran’s hyper-romantic confession “Thinking Out Loud” and The Weeknd’s ode to love’s capacity to overwhelm “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Several weeks before “1989” was released, Swift talked about the song at her Beverly Hills home, saying, “I started writing it as a joke, but it ended up being everyone’s favorite.
“I pride myself on being self-aware,” she continued, “but I’ve also noticed there’s this drastic fictionalization of my personal life in the press. They’ll write that I’m needy, that I push people away, then I pull them back. I found this all fascinating.
“I was not happy with false narrative being painted with me in the press,” she said, “and if you have a problem with what’s being written about you, it’s your choice to do something about it.
Taylor Swfit has risen from country singer/songwriter to pop princess. Here’s a look at her in concert.(Jun Sato / Getty Images)
Taylor Swift took over the Staples Center before a sold-out crowd, performing hit after hit, with special guests who included L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant and “Orange Is the New Black’s” Uzo Aduba.(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Taylor Swift adds sparkle to the stage as she performs at Louisiana State’s Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., on May 22. She’s making the rounds with her 1989 World Tour.(Christopher Polk / Getty Images for TAS)
Taylor Swift lifts her hand in the air at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, on June 2015.(Ross Gilmore / Getty Images for TAS)
Upon her arrival to Tokyo in May 2015,
At the iHeartRadio Music Awards in March 2015, Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance when she joined Madonna onstage for a performance of “Rebel Heart.” It was quite the collaboration.(Kevin Winter / Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
Taylor Swift joined Kenney Chesney onstage during his Big Revival tour kick-off for a 55-show run. It was at this concert that Swift was spotted in the arms of musician Calvin Harris, sparking rumors the two were dating.(Rick Diamond / Getty Images for Kenny Chesney)
“So I started thinking, ‘What if I were this girl — this whole [damaged] starlet thing?’ I’m going to write a song as if I were,” and then she punched up “Blank Space,” which features the lyrics “Oh, my God, look at that face, you look like my next mistake. Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane. But I’ve got a blank space, baby/And I’ll write your name.”
Shortly after the single’s release, it shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, spending seven weeks in the top spot at the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. The “Blank Space” video, in which she gleefully smashes a suitor’s luxury sports car after a spat, has logged nearly 1.5 billion views on YouTube. (That video came with a whimsical disclaimer: “No animals, trees, automobiles or actors were harmed in the making of this video.”)
“I had always had a huge fear concerning the idea of celebrity, and the circus you find yourself in when you’re lucky enough to have some success in the music field,” Swift, 26, told The Times. “I used to worry that the scope of things that inspire me would shrink.
“As a songwriter, that’s your No. 1 fear: that you’ll become less attuned to life itself, that you’ll start challenging yourself less and that you’ll find fewer places to go creatively,” said Swift, who, at 20, became the youngest person to win the album of the year Grammy for 2008’s “Fearless.”
“What’s happened for me is that the scope had broadened,” she said. “Honestly, I can look at someone else’s life and be inspired enough to write a song, to create a narrative to what they must be feeling. That’s been the most incredible realization.”