“There’s been a lot of discussion about William Bowery, who is Joe, as we know,” Swift says, her response greeted with laughter by Dessner and Antonoff. “Joe plays piano beautifully, and he’s always just playing and making things up and creating things. ‘Exile’ was crazy, because Joe had written the entire piano part and was singing that Bon Iver part, the whole first verse. So I was entranced and asked if we could keep writing that one, and it was pretty obvious that should be a duet. We’re really big Bon Iver fans, and we knew that Aaron knows him, but I was too afraid to suggest it.” When Swift suggested it could be a duet to Dessner, he suggested Bon Iver immediately—so it seems that the decision was fated all along.
Is “Mad Woman” a shot at Scooter Braun? Swift remains ambiguous
Outside of the runaway success of Folklore, another story which has been dominating headlines this year surrounding Swift have been the twists and turns in her ongoing fight to reclaim ownership of the master recordings for her first six albums, the rights for which were passed to Scooter Braun after he acquired her former record label and were then recently sold to a private equity firm for a whopping $300 million. Swift has expressed her displeasure on multiple occasions at never being offered a fair shot at buying them back herself—as well as her frustrations that these sales were being overseen by Braun, the manager of fellow pop powerhouses Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, who Swift has referred to as a “bully.” (Swift has recently confirmed, however, that she has begun to re-record her earlier albums and will be releasing new versions of the albums, a move that will inevitably end up significantly reducing the value of the original masters.)
Given Swift’s propensity for reflecting what’s going on in her life within her music, many fans looked to the album’s twelfth track, “Mad Woman”—with its story of a woman being treated as delusional for wanting what is rightfully hers—as a more personal tale about Swift’s ongoing battles with Braun, which Swift appears to implicitly confirm in the documentary. “The first time I heard that piano bit you’d written, with those ominous strings underneath it, I knew this was a song about female rage, it has to be,” says Swift in her conversation with Dessner ahead of performing “Mad Woman.” “And then I was thinking the most rage-provoking element of being a female is the gaslighting. There have been instances of this recently with someone who is very guilty of this in my life, and it’s a person who tries to make me feel like I’m the offender by having any kind of defense. I feel like I have no right to respond, or I’m crazy, or I’m angry. How do I say why this feels so bad?”