With seven successful studio albums and a variety of industry accolades including two Grammys for Album of the Year and 29 American Music Awards, Taylor Swift is a global music phenomenon.
Those who have followed Swift’s career since her early days in country music already know her story, but even diehard fans get to see a new side of the Lover singer in her latest Netflix documentary, Miss Americana.
Miss Americana (directed by Lana Wilson) chronicles Swift’s rise to fame, from singing karaoke in her hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania as a child to embarking on her first headlining tour to promote her crossover album, Fearless along with a variety of other career-defining moments.
One of the more upsetting moments featured in the documentary is a flashback to the 2009 Video Music Awards when rapper, Kanye West grabbed the microphone from Swift during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video. While a clip of the award show plays, Swift shares via voiceover that at the time, she was unaware the crowd was booing West for his actions. She thought they were booing her and the moment served as a formative experience for her, as she explains that her life and career have been built on “getting people to clap for [her].”
The incident also serves as context for the now-infamous 2016 phone call between Swift and West in which he asks her permission to name-check her in his song, “Famous” and the subsequent trending Twitter hashtag, #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty after West manipulated the leaked phone call to suggest Swift gave him her blessing to call her a b—h on the track. (She didn’t). Swift shares the psychological effects the event had on her: she disappeared from the public eye for a year and eventually started writing her mega-smash reputation to cope.
In a similar vein, the documentary also touches on other emotionally heavy topics such as Swift’s mother, Andrea‘s battle with cancer (Swift recently revealed to Variety that while her mother was already undergoing cancer treatment, her doctors found a brain tumor), her struggles with body image (Swift previously battled an eating disorder but is now taking better care of herself), and her sexual assault trial (Swift says her trial was the impetus behind her decision to get vocal on politics). It’s moments such as these where viewers are reminded that Swift is more than just a massive musical brand–she’s a human being first. In fact, many of the more poignant scenes capture Swift’s everyday life and her roles as daughter, sister, and friend. One in particular? Swift shares how her mother’s cancer diagnosis has affected her and helped shift her perspective on life: “Does it really matter if the Internet doesn’t like you today when your mom is sick from her chemo?,” she says.
On the flip side, Miss Americana isn’t just about the setbacks Swift has faced. Viewers also get to witness her practice her craft and write a few of the songs from her seventh studio album, Lover, including “ME!” and “The Man.” Getting to see Swift in the studio is interesting–she works almost effortlessly, tinkering with lyrics and melodies and finishing an entire verse and chorus in minimal time (see a clip of her working on “ME!” below for more). Swift is very much a professional; it’s evident she has both the talent and the work ethic that have helped sustain her career for the past 15 years.
Overall, Miss Americana is a great watch. While serious at times and more light-hearted at the others, the doc provides fresh insight into one of modern music’s most well-known, beloved, and at times controversial figures.