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With “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” Taylor Swift Got Ahead Of Her Least Original Critics

There doesn’t have to be drama. There can just be bops.

Posted on April 8, 2021, at 10:34 a.m. ET

In a move we should probably be used to by now but evidently are not, Taylor Swift surprised us all on Wednesday by dropping yet another song completely out of the blue.

Francis Specker / CBS / Getty Images

The song — “Mr. Perfectly Fine” — is the second previously unreleased track Taylor has dropped ahead of the rerecorded version of her album Fearless, which is coming out on Friday.

In February, Taylor confirmed that the rerecorded version of the album would include six tracks ~from the vault~ that she’d written during the making of Fearless but hadn’t made it onto the record.

“I’ve decided I want you to have the whole story,” Taylor wrote in her announcement. "See the entire vivid picture, and let you into the entire dreamscape that is my Fearless album.”

The song itself is both a certified bop and also very typical of Fearless-era Taylor’s most vicious side, full of super-personal slights from a boy who broke her 18-year-old heart.

Genius / Via genius.com

And of course, in true 2008 fashion, as soon as the song dropped, fans scrambled to figure out which famous face or public relationship may have been referenced in its lyrics.

Fox / Giphy / Via giphy.com

The general consensus quickly became that “Mr. Perfectly Fine” refers to none other than Joe Jonas, with whom Taylor had a pretty public breakup back in 2008 — and, of course, the decade-old drama made headlines.

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It turns out “Mr. Perfectly Fine” contains some pretty interesting lyrical parallels with “Forever & Always” and references a man who quickly moved on to a new relationship, which was a point of contention in the Jaylor 1.0 breakup.

Genius / genius.com

During an infamous appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Nov. 11, 2008, a then-18-year-old Taylor talked about the recent demise of her relationship with Joe, alleging that he had broken up with her during a phone call that lasted 27 seconds.

In the same interview, she revealed that “Forever & Always,” which appeared on Fearless, was about him.

Of course, this is all speculation, and it could very well be that “Mr. Perfectly Fine” isn’t about Joe Jonas at all. We don’t know when exactly the song was written, but Taylor and Joe only dated for three months before breaking up that October — less than a month before Fearless was released. According to a 2008 interview with the Los Angeles Times, “Forever & Always” was written so late in the album-making process that Taylor had to plead for it to be included on the record the day before it was finalized.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter who the song is ~actually~ about. That Ellen interview was the closest we ever came to confirmation of the inspiration behind any of the songs on Fearless. As a result, 13 years later, Joe is still being affiliated with the music Taylor made when she was 18.

“Mr. Perfectly Fine” might be about Joe Jonas. It might not. But what matters is that people believe it is.

It’s no secret that over the course of her last few albums — and in the past year especially — Taylor has taken a conscious step back from the drama that plagued the beginning of her career.

Whether it was simply a result of maturity, her long-term relationship, or the entire world turning against her and her persona, Taylor has rebranded.

In many ways, 2017’s Reputation was the beginning of the complete upheaval of Taylor’s persona, and it’s only continued since then. Her 2020 albums, Folklore and Evermore, were her least autobiographical ever, with Taylor choosing to draw from the experiences of fictional characters and fabricate new ones entirely in her songwriting rather than putting her own most personal moments on a platter for public consumption.

“There was a point I got to as a writer who only wrote very diaristic songs, that I felt it was unsustainable for my future moving forward,” she told Zane Lowe in an Apple Music interview around the release of Evermore. “It felt like too hot of a microscope. On my bad days, I would feel like I was loading a cannon of clickbait, when that’s not what I want for my life.”

It stands to reason, then, that revisiting past eras while rerecording and releasing her first five albums could pose a conundrum for the New Taylor™.

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

By now, we all know Taylor’s dispute with Big Machine Records over her master recordings is the reason she’s going through this rerecording process. From the beginning, she’s made it clear that owning her work has taken priority over leaving her music and its associated drama in the past.

The intensely personal nature of her music was something Taylor explicitly referenced in her Tumblr post after Big Machine sold her masters to Scooter Braun, writing, “I had to make the excruciating choice to leave behind my past. Music I wrote on my bedroom floor and videos I dreamed up and paid for from the money I earned playing in bars, then clubs, then arenas, then stadiums.”

So, in order to reclaim her life’s work, Taylor is rerecording and rereleasing all that intensely personal music, and — to keep things fresh and exciting for fans who have been more than familiar with Fearless since 2008 — she’s including songs she never previously released.

In doing so, however, she runs the risk of recentering all that personal drama and inviting her critics to rehash their oldest, most unoriginal complaints about her music: She only writes songs about breakups. She dates too many men. It’s all about the drama.

Those complaints may be outdated, but Taylor is still facing them in 2021: Just last month, she publicly condemned Netflix show Ginny & Georgia for making what she described as a “lazy and deeply sexist joke” about her dating life.

This time, though, Taylor got ahead of the criticism. She released early what may be her most drama-filled song from the vault — likely foreseeing that it would make headlines and giving it its own moment to shine. Instead of being bothered by what people might say, she just...said it herself.

Me in 2020: life is chill, writing songs based in fiction to avoid drama, feeling pretty grown up My 2008 music from the vault, in a goblin voice: “REELEEEEEEASE MR PERFECTLY FIIIIIIINE” https://t.co/PCexr31q9x

Twitter: @taylorswift13

“Life is chill, writing songs based in fiction to avoid drama, feeling pretty grown up,” Taylor wrote of her 2020 self in her tweet announcing the track’s release.

And then she acknowledged "in a goblin voice" that her 2008 music goes against that new, chill outlook entirely.

And if Taylor’s own acknowledgment weren’t enough to quell accusations of petty drama, Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones star and wife of the very same Joe Jonas who apparently inspired “Mr. Perfectly Fine”) stepped up to the podium.

Posting a link to the song on her Instagram story just a few hours after it was released, Sophie made sure to tag Taylor directly, and wrote, “It’s not NOT a bop.”

“Forever bending the knee for the 👑of the north,” Taylor wrote in response.

(Joe has been silent on the matter, but his blessing matters less. If the “Drivers License” debacle taught us anything, it should be that even if a girl writes a song about a boy, people will find a way to turn it into a feud with another girl.)

And so, great tweets were written, beef was preemptively squashed, and lessons were imparted: There doesn’t always have to be drama. There can just be bops.

By releasing “Mr. Perfectly Fine” just a couple of days ahead of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Taylor anticipated and shut down any overused and outdated criticism that may come about as a result of her revisiting her past.

She's telling the world that she’s both aware of and laughing at the possibility of tabloids attempting to stoke decade-old drama. Not only does she own her music, but she’s in on any of the deprecating jokes you may want to make about it. And you know what that is? Growth.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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