In many ways, this Taylor Swift documentary is like all the other musician documentaries recently released. It’s a flare shot urgently if shakily to fans that says: I’m human. And perhaps more than that: I’m a human who has recently done some growing up.
Specifically, Swift’s revelations seem to orbit around 1. untangling her self-worth from the “good girl” public persona 2. a political awakening 3. her own lawsuit over a groping case and how it inspired her to stand up for human rights more generally. All good and noble things.
There’s not a lot of dirt. Nothing about feuds, no Katy Perry, only a little about Kanye. Not much about love. Nothing about the Scooter Braun fiasco, and that feels like a big one to have left out. Basically, the label Swift signed to as a 15 year old owned the rights to all the masters of her recordings. They sold the label to Braun without offering her the chance to buy her own music back and so now all her old albums are owned by Braun, who manages Kanye and Justin Bieber among others, and who, according to Swift, was responsible for bullying and an attempt to dismantle her career. She severed ties with that label, but when she walked, she had to leave all her old music behind for someone else’s profit, painful I’m sure. So it’s strange to have left it out entirely.
Personally, though, the only part of these documentaries that I’m ever interested in is in the creation of the music. And we do get some great takes of her with various collaborators trying to turn something she’s been humming to herself into a song with notes and words and instruments. It’s cool to watch it all come together, and as Swift is actually a very accomplished musician, playing piano and guitar, her fingerprints are all over the creative process.
I’m not sure if this documentary is really meant to appeal to anyone but her fans, but there are enough of those to make this film successful on their own. It’s backstage access to a major star during some formative years of self-discovery and transformation. The Swifties will be proud.