In a new interview, Taylor Swift explained how the 2018 midterm election inspired her to take a political stance after years of avoiding it.
Swift, in an emailed interview with Vanity Fair, explained the moments captured in the documentary “Miss Americana,” when her candidate in the 2018 Tennessee Senate race, Democrat Phil Bredesen, lost to Republican Marsha Blackburn. In that moment, she was inspired to write her song, “Only the Young."
“Almost the entire process of creating that song, I was fighting back tears because I was so sad about the results of the midterm elections in my state and the losses faced by superb Democratic candidates in states like Georgia and Texas,” the 31-year-old pop star told the outlet, referring to Stacey Abrams’ defeat in Georgia and Beto O’Rourke’s loss in Texas. “I didn’t want the defeat and hopelessness I felt for our country’s future to get the best of me. I didn’t want to weep. I wanted to have hope. Writing ‘Only the Young’ helped me push through that moment in my life and gave me the hope to keep fighting for what I believe is right.”
The tune, directed at young people, captures the moment the world learned of the election outcome and includes a call to action: "They aren't gonna help us/Too busy helping themselves/They aren't gonna change this/We gotta do it ourselves," she sings.
The lyrics also reference a "...big bad man and his big bad clan/Their hands are stained with red."
In the months that followed the release of the song, she allowed California congressman Eric Swalwell to use it in a voter turnout video. She said that while she initially had been hesitant to get involved in politics, she’s since found her voice.
“As a country musician, I was always told it’s better to stay out of (politics),” Swift told Vanity Fair. “The Trump presidency forced me to lean in and educate myself. I found myself talking about government and the presidency and policy with my boyfriend (actor Joe Alwyn), who supported me in speaking out. I started talking to my family and friends about politics and learning as much as I could about where I stand. I’m proud to have moved past fear and self-doubt, and to endorse and support leadership that moves us beyond this divisive, heartbreaking moment in time.”
Swift rarely speaks publicly about Alwyn, though she has previously said they “always bonded over music.” The two have even collaborated on songs, though you won’t find Alwyn’s name in the credits because he wrote under a pseudonym, William Bowery.
According to Vote.org, Swift inspired about 65,000 people to register to vote after she endorsed two candidates in that fateful 2018 election.
"In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now," the then-28-year-old wrote at the time, denouncing Blackburn. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love.”