TEARDROPS ON MY GUITAR
How Katy Perry Checkmated Taylor Swift
The first pop star on the Hillary train, Perry will have the most powerful woman in the world in her corner if the Democrat is elected. It might be a looong four years for Swift.
One year ago today, Katy Perry, dressed in an American flag cape and a white strapless dress with a blue and red ‘H’ festooned over her heart, swished onto an Iowa stage. “Make some noise if you’re for Hillary!” she stage-shouted into her mic before launching into a rendition of “Roar.”
It was her first campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton, and it’d be far from her last. By the following summer, Perry would be onstage with Clinton again, this time in a much higher-profile role: the opening act for the former Secretary of State’s nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. If the polls hold between now and election day, it’s a safe bet that when Clinton is sworn into office in January, Perry won’t be far away. And when that day happens, it will be the culmination of one of the most genius pop star feud jiu jitsu moves of all time.
Anyone who follows pop culture (or has glanced in boredom over the pink cover lines of a tabloid newsstand over the last year and a half) knows that Katy Perry and Taylor Swift don’t get along. While there’s dispute over what, exactly, went down between the two (John Mayer? Some tour dancer drama? Something else?), 2015 was the year it all came to a head. In the months after the release of her monster album 1989, Swift’s Instagram account aggressively catalogued a parade of birthday parties with her celebrity besties. Each photo, in effect, served to mark the non-Taylor Swift celebrity pictured as part of The Squad, a social force that pulsated and writhed with the mysterious power of the alpha girl.
That May, Taylor Swift released her video for “Bad Blood,” featuring a portion of that Squad aggressively green-screened into an intimidating girl gang. The song was rumored to be about Katy Perry. That August, Swift brought half of the cast of “Bad Blood” to the MTV Video Music Awards. Katy Perry didn’t even attend them. It was the pop star equivalent of inviting every girl in school to a slumber party except for one girl she was intent on putting down. It was a mean girl tour de force. How could Perry possibly counterpunch?
By getting political, that’s how. Taylor Swift has been adamantly apolitical for the majority of her career. In 2012, when Katy Perry was doing a little bit of light campaign lifting for President Obama’s reelection bid, Swift told Time that she didn’t feel like she was in any position to tell young people who to vote for (although she eventually admitted that she was supporting Obama). Persistent but unsubstantiated rumors swirl that when Swift had a MySpace page back in social media’s stone age, she wrote “Republicans do it better.” But, apart from that peep in 2012, in every subsequent election cycle, she’s been silent.
And so, while it was a gamble at the time, Katy Perry jumping aboard Hillary Clinton’s bandwagon just months after Taylor Swift concluded her Bad Blood Squad tour could, whether intentional or not, prove to be a checkmate in the greatest white girl pop star feud of this generation. No matter what Swift did next, it would put her in the loser column. She couldn’t endorse Hillary Clinton shortly after Katy Perry without becoming the pop star with the second-highest seniority in the Clinton camp. She couldn’t endorse another candidate on the liberal side of things without risking being a loser after the dust settled on the primary contests. And she sure couldn’t endorse one of the 17 people running for the Republican nomination without alienating a large number of young people and women. So, the best somebody in her position could do would be to sit and wait in hope that Clinton lost in the primaries, thus preventing her rival from occupying a cozy space next to the first female major party nominee or—gasp—president.
From there, things got worse for Taylor Swift’s apolitical dreams. As Donald Trump closed in on the GOP nomination, some of his white supremacist fans held Swift up as an “Aryan goddess” in online forums, because she looks the part. Swift hasn’t ever said anything of a white supremacist persuasion nor has she disavowed their adoration, sticking to her apolitical agenda.
So strong is her desire to stay out of the political fray that Swift hasn’t yet publicly spoken out against Trump, even after video of the GOP presidential nominee bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” surfaced. As Fusion has pointed out in an article urging Swift to speak up, Swift once filed suit against a radio DJ who allegedly groped her at a meet and greet.
With only 15 days to go before Election Day, it’s too late for Swift to endorse either candidate now. She could back Clinton and be the last celebrity aboard the bandwagon, or back future-possible-loser Trump and essentially light her public image on fire. Or, she can post a nostalgic instagram about how this day is the ten year anniversary of the release of her first album.
It's possible that Swift and Perry have buried the hatchet while nobody was looking. Last night, Perry, Swift, and the two's shared ex boyfriend John Mayer attended Drake's party in Los Angeles, and nobody's passive-aggressively posted anything about it on social media yet. But perhaps action speaks louder than shade. On this, the one year anniversary of Katy Perry's first official activity with the Hillary Clinton campaign (which just so happens to be the same anniversary as the anniversary of the release of Taylor Swift's first album), Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, who famously refused to join Taylor Swift’s so-very-2015 squad, are making news for teaming up to canvass college dorms for Hillary Clinton.
All Swift can do now is sit back and wait for election returns to roll in. From there, she can watch Katy Perry, early-adopting pop star ally of the probably first female president in American history, perform at the historic inaugural ball. She can read women’s magazine puff pieces about Perry and Madame President’s blossoming friendship, which started as a political alliance but became real. She can pose for star-spangled Instagram shoots until she’s red, white, and blue in the face. But she won’t be With Her.