Is Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” an Allegory for the U.S.–China Climate Pact?

Taylor Swift is having a moment. If you’ve been anywhere near an electronic device in the last month, this is no news to you. Her album 1989 debuted to critical success she’s never seen before and commercial success no one’s seen since Britney’s hayday. But if there’s been one knock on our pop star du jour, it’s that she’s a relative lightweight.

While Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s feminist poetry, TayTay sings about mean boys and fun nights and how old she is. Right? WRONG.

Turns out, T-Swift is using her noted lyrical prowess to comment on the great Issues Of The Day with biting analysis—we just haven’t been looking hard enough. And the proof is in her latest smash-hit single, “Blank Space.”

“Blank Space” has been praised as many things: a self-aware take on her “boy crazy” reputation, a strong repudiation of the stereotypes placed on women, a pure-pop cakewalk that’s easy to listen to and hard to forget. But what we’ve largely ignored is Swift’s intriguing commentary on the recent climate deal struck by American President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Right now you might be thinking, “What on EARTH is [name redacted for legal reasons] talking about, that makes no sense.” Or, you might be thinking, “Wow [name redacted for legal reasons] is so smart I’m glad I’m reading this.” If you’re thinking the second thing, you’re right. Let’s look at the lyrics to find out why:

Swift starts off with “Nice to meet you/ where you been?” as a way of politely chastising China’s absence from previous rounds of climate discussions. It’s as if she’s saying she’s happy to see China finally at the negotiating table, but there really is no excuse for their previous refusals to consider action on climate change.

In the next stanza she moves on to “New money/ suit and tie/ I can read you like a magazine.” Here she acknowledges that it has only been in the last half century or so that China has fully industrialized, and in the process has become an economic powerhouse able to rival and likely surpass the other richest countries. Plus—and this is really getting a bit weird—if you look at the attire both men wore while speaking to the press during Obama’s visit… it’s actually a suit and tie! Spooky!

“Ain’t it funny/ rumors fly/ and I know you’ve heard about me” is an interesting take on President Obama’s known hatred for leaked information coming out of his administration. She wryly calls such leaks “funny” while pointing out that China’s vast intelligence operation has likely already heard plenty. 

When she sings “So hey/ let’s be friends,” I’m 99% sure she’s actually just quoting President Obama’s opening line in the most recent round of negotiations.

“I’m dying to see/ how this one ends,” is one of the more macabre lines in the song and the lyric that makes clear where Swift stands on the issue of climate change. Always one to turn a phrase, she points out that we’ll all be “dying”—in flooded cities, burning hillsides and drought-ravaged plains—to see how HUMANITY ends if we fail to act.

One of her least subtle lines comes next: “Grab your passport/ and my hand.” Yes, Taylor, we understand that this agreement was hashed out on President Obama’s overseas trip last month, and that Obama and Jinping like holding hands.

But she’s right back at it with “I can make the bad boys good for a weekend.” China has long been the proverbial “bad boy” of climate change discussions, but over just a few days of intense negotiations, President Obama was able to make them “good.”

“So it’s gonna be forever/ or it’s gonna go down in flames” is a dire warning once again. Either both nations stick to this hugely important pact for the long run, or the planet literally runs the risk of being consumed by flames fanned by higher temperatures, more severe droughts, and increased lightning strikes.

When Swift sings “You can tell me when it’s over/ if the high was worth the pain” there are actually two reasonable interpretations. Either she’s acknowledging that reducing carbon emissions will be a painful process for an industrializing economy like China’s—and that there’s no guarantee it will be worth it—or she’s pointing out that for decades China’s carbon levels have been too high and that we are all now due for the pain that is sure to come as a result. I’m inclined to believe it’s the former, but you can form your own opinion on this one.

You can’t, however, form your own opinion on the next line: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/ they’ll tell you I’m insane.” That’s because there’s no doubt that Swift is using “ex-lovers” to mean allies, of which the U.S. certainly has a long list. Yet would any of us be surprised if allies like Germany, Brazil, or Israel would refer to America as “insane” in light of recent NSA revelations? In fact, perhaps only Great Britain among our allies would be willing to stick up for us at this point; but in Swift-parlance, that special relationship is more likely to be considered a “soul-mate” than an “ex-lover.”

With “Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game” Swift offers perhaps her biggest critique of Obama. While he tried to lead through the sheer force of personality and likability, Jinping has successfully mastered the “game” and led China to economic strength and international acceptance that no other communist nation with such a frightening human rights record has achieved.

“Cause we’re young and we’re reckless/ we’ll take this way too far” references the knee-jerk reaction from many American conservatives who said that Obama—despite a term and a half in the White House—is an inexperienced negotiator who made a poorly-thought-out deal with China.

“It’ll leave you breathless/ or with a nasty scar” is actually a little bit rude. Referencing China’s devastating pollution and smog issues (which have been known to leave residents with asthma literally breathless) in a song about their new efforts to reduce emissions just seems like a low blow. The kind of blow that could leave a nasty scar, actually.

After referencing America’s “long list” of allies once more, she goes to the crucial line: “But I’ve got a blank space, baby/ and I’ll write your name.” If there has been one nation missing from climate negotiations in the last few decades, it has undoubtedly been China. Each time an agreement is drawn up, their space remains blank and the pledge remains unsigned. Finally, after years of trying, President Obama is ready to write in China as a partner in the fight against climate change.

“Cherry lips/ crystal skies” is a quick paean to the literally brighter environmental future the two nations share—though I would argue that “cherry lips” is rather offensive if it’s intended to describe Chinese traditional white-face-red-lips makeup, but hey, this wouldn’t be the first time Taylor’s been accused of cultural insensitivity. 

At the end of the stanza she dives into a bit more of a realistic take: “Wait the worst/ is yet to come, oh no.” And she’s right. Even with this historic climate pact and a renewed worldwide effort to reduce carbon emissions, we have already done too much damage. We can do our best to mitigate the effects, but things are bound to get worse before they get better.

“Screaming/ crying/ perfect storms” seems to acknowledge this further in startling imagery. Is this the future we want? Death? Destruction? Massive hurricanes wreaking havoc?

Yet just a few lines later she’s back to describing the negotiations, with a line sure to please both Obama critics and his supporters: “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” To fans of the president, this line encapsulates the success of Obama’s trip to China. He smiled for the cameras. He wore Chinese garb. He glad-handed the elites. But behind closed doors he took it to China, getting them to agree to a deal that could limit their economic expansion in order to secure a better future for us all. The president’s detractors are sure to read the line as an indictment of Obama’s attempts to use his charismatic personality to cover up a failed presidency. 

After this, she repeats the chorus a few times for emphasis (as if to say, “Do you hear what I’m saying, America? THIS IS ABOUT INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS!”), then Swift has one more line of interest: “Boys only want love if it’s torture/ don’t say I didn’t/ say I didn’t warn ya.” Here, she tees up what we can expect from her next album: a scathing critique of the ‘enhanced interrogation” techniques employed by the United States during the War on Terror and the flimsy legal justification used to permit such practices.

I think we’re all looking forward to listening to that, but for now we’ll just have to make do with what we have: a catchy ear-worm of a pop-hit that doubles as a well-researched take on the U.S.-China climate agreement.

Photographs of Obama Sitting on a Couch, Ranked

10. Can you imagine feeling as if there was a realistic chance you’d lose to John McCain and Sarah Palin? And can you imagine holding hands with your mother-in-law? The things this man went through, my word. I know this is more of a “loveseat in a Holiday Inn that’s shooting way above its paygrade” than a couch, but it makes the cut nevertheless.
Vibes: 6/10
Comfort: 3/10
Upholstery: 2/10
Overall: 3.67/10
9. Relaxer in chief. Featuring Diamond Joe, probably explaining something to somebody who already knows what’s up. Aviators galore. This photo makes me feel older than Ronald Reagan on the day he left office (a.k.a. the same age as Biden on the day he enters office). Two point deduction in comfort rating for being alone with Biden in his office. White flowers on blue cloth: pure malarkey. 
Vibes: 7/10
Comfort: 4/10
Upholstery: 2/10
Overall: 4.33/10
8. Whose podcast is this anyways? Also, how come the Oval Office has to have the same shitty floral print on the washed-out couch, just with a slightly more tasteful a color scheme than the couch at the U.S. Naval Observatory? As for Barry O though, he looks cool as can be (at least for pairing cuffed pants with square-toed shoes). I would bet anything in the world that Axe flubbed a “how do you like dem apples” joke five minutes after this photograph was taken.
Vibes: 4/10
Comfort: 7/10
Upholstery: 3/10
Overall: 4.67/10
7. This is the Mendoza Line of Barack Obama Couch Pics. Great head tilt. Nothing but respect for the manspreading leg-cross.  And the uncomfortably close quarters at the end of the couch with your pornstachio’d roommate is a cherry on top. The bro-bama era looks chill as heck.
Vibes: 8/10
Comfort: 5/10
Upholstery: 2/10
Overall: 5/10
6. A rare couch pic where Obama smiles with his teeth. But this sectional is a little too Martha Stewart-y for my taste. Props to Michelle for matching her blouse to the (yet again!) flowery print, this time on an assaultingly rosé cloth covering.
Vibes: 8/10
Comfort: 5/10
Upholstery: 4/10
Overall: 5.67/10
5. Huge liberal fail. Classic Ivy League Obama can’t figure out how to lay on a couch. Big fan of the two-tone upholstery though. Hope he got some friends to help him move this couch rather than leave it for the next tenant. 
Vibes: 9.5/10
Comfort: 0/10 — not on the couch
Upholstery: 8.5/10
Overall: 6/10
4. A classic entry in the Barack-smizing-on-a-couch-with-Michelle-and-featuring-extremely-90s-energy genre. My guess is this was a free starter loveseat from her parents’ basement. The comfort-colors teal jars with the bright white (and picture-frame-less) background, but I think it accentuates Barack and Michelle’s wonderful style decisions for this photograph. 
Vibes: 9/10
Comfort: 8/10
Upholstery: 5/10
Overall: 7.33/10
3. Holy shit these vibes. Pensive. Composed. Cool as hell. Withering houseplant in the background. I would stay up all night listening to this version of Obama lecture me on the import of the Harold Washington mayoral campaign or whatever he was into at the moment. 
Vibes: 10/10
Comfort: 7/10
Upholstery: 6/10
Overall: 7.67/10
2. Does this man ever show his teeth while posing for a couch photo? Does he need to? My only gripe is with the couch’s upholstery—it feels like a missed opportunity to pair it with the graphic and artistic choices of the rug, squatty-potty statue, and prints. I wish I had been as confident as these two clearly were about everything from their interior design to their life choices. 
Vibes: 10/10
Comfort: 10/10
Upholstery: 7/10
Overall: 9/10
1. Excellent all around. Not only does the couch look comfy as all get out, the plush exterior interacts perfectly with the color scheme of the pillows, wall, and background art. The perfect couch for a loving family, especially since it gives them plenty of personal space but also the option to cuddle up together. 
Vibes: 10/10
Comfort: 10/10
Upholstery: 10/10
Overall: 10/10

Minutes from the All-Apartment Meeting of My Quarantine Mt. Rushmore

Stephen (hereinafter, the “Recording Secretary”): Thank you for gathering here today in the living room of my 600-square-foot apartment, Bruce Springsteen, Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, and Abraham Lincoln. It’s a pleasure having you all here for our first all-apartment meeting. Now I’m sure you have a lot of quest — 

Michael Jordan: Yeah, first of all, what are we all doing here? 

Recording Secretary: That’s a good question. Things certainly are pretty crazy these days. As best I can tell, somebody asked me, “Who is on your Mt. Rushmore of people you’d want to be quarantined with,” and I listed off you four, and then this sort of happened. 

Abraham Lincoln: What’s Mt. Rushmore?

Recording Secretary: Well, so, there’s this range of hills in what was formerly the Dakota Territories that is considered sacred land by the Sioux Tribe and —

Barack Obama: Let me get this straight. You got to choose the four people to be cooped up with during a pandemic, but you didn’t choose your girlfriend? 

Recording Secretary: Yes, thank you Mr. President, that’s a very astute observation, and one that I can assure you has already been raised several times.

Bruce Springsteen: I actually have something I’d like to address now that we’re all gathered together. 

Recording Secretary: Sure, you’re the boss.

[Everybody groans but Lincoln, who is preoccupied studying an electrical socket.]

Springsteen: Well, I’d like to say that I’ve been sensing a lot of… competitive tension in the apartment recently. [Looks at Jordan] I mean, just the other day I missed a small spot while doing dishes, and Jordan stared daggers at me and then lashed into a tirade about how my early 70s work sounded like “nothing but a shitty-ass cheap-motherfucking-knockoff of if Bob Dylan and Van Morrison’s did the audio equivalent of two girls one cup.” 

Obama: Jesus. But I know what you mean. Just the other day I heard Jordan call Stephen “a slower, whiter, less-Twitter-woke version of broken-back-ass Steve Kerr” just because Stephen roasted the brussel sprouts a bit too much. 

Recording Secretary: I don’t want to talk about — 

Springsteen: Yeah! And then I took $25k off Jordan after we bet on the Lincoln–Obama debate over universal health care, and he wouldn’t let it go until we doubled or nothing on our pick-up basketball game. 

Recording Secretary: Yes, yes, about that. I really don’t think those teams were fair. Maybe next time it shouldn’t be me, Obama, and Bruce versus Jordan and Lincoln.

Lincoln: If I may, I have a question. Why did Jordan keep calling me “Will Perdue–looking ass” during the game? 

Obama: My fellow teammates, I am deeply troubled by the fact that we lost five straight games by a collective score of 105–7. We will do better. We. Must. Be. Better.

Jordan: You all are some weak motherfuckers. Especially stovepipe over here—I bet I could’ve dropped 50 on Stonewall Jackson before this chin-strapped jagoff could take a typhoid-laced dump.

Springsteen: Abe was on your team!

Jordan: Yeah, but I’m also getting pretty tired of hearing him remind me that he was friends with Frederick Douglass. 

Lincoln: Hey man, Republicans buy shoes too.

Springsteen: You’re, like, not a Republican any more! 

Recording Secretary: Mike, I’d also like to raise an anonymous comment I received complaining that you are “absolutely draining our internet with your online poker habit” — 

Jordan: I don’t know anything about that.

Recording Secretary: Well, I don’t want to have to make you retire early from our 2K tournament if —

Jordan: said I don’t know anything about that. 

Lincoln: Excuse me, but a thought occurred to me. Why does Mr. Springsteen over here always count off “Hu-n, Hu-oo, Hu-ree, Hu-r” every time he’s about to start a task? 

Springsteen: Clearly you’ve never seen the American dream light up ahead of you like the headlights of a ‘59 Chevy down the Jersey turnpike

Obama: I think maybe we could all spend a little less time pestering each other, like some people around here who keep coming to me about things like “why the fuck is goddamn Grant on a bill that’s worth ten times more than mine” or “what modern magical marvel is behind these menthol cigarettes”? 

Lincoln: I’m sorry, I’m not right in my head. Anyways, who wants to play Catan? 

Jordan: Down. And I’ll bet fifty grand that Lincoln can’t raise the biggest army again.

[Barack throws Stevie Wonder on the Sonos, and we play Catan. It’s awesome. Later, Barack and the Recording Secretary go out to walk Bo and get carryout from Valois while Bruce and Lincoln roll a spliff and talk about resenting their fathers. Jordan has disappeared to play 36 holes of night golf before sunrise. High fives all around. Everybody in attendance agrees that the Recording Secretary’s Mt. Rushmore decision was the best thing to ever happen to us.]

Meeting adjourned and the minutes submitted for final approval.

WOW: George Lucas’ Jedi Council Predicted the Obama Administration YEARS Before the 2008 Election

Okay guys, check this out. This. Is. Mindblowing. 

Star Wars fans know how much attention and detail George Lucas poured into his art. But I’m guessing that most of you didn’t get this MAJOR easter egg hidden in the prequel trilogy. It turns out that Lucas, by portraying the Jedi Council in Episodes I through III (not to mention other assorted ~not canon~ stories), totally NAILED the Obama administration that would roll into office more than THREE YEARS after the release of Revenge of the Sith

Pretty wild, right? Here’s how we know: 

  • In the prequels, the Jedi Council is portrayed as a group of high-minded and well-meaning libs. A veritable “team of rivals,” if you will. But just as Secretary of States Clinton and Kerry were unable to foresee or prevent the rising trend of nationalism across the globe, the Jedi—despite strong moral superiority and favoritism from the media—were oblivious to the return of the Sith Order happening in their midst.
  • Emperor Palpatine never gained the popular vote, but, like Mitch McConnell, he commanded a disproportionate majority in the Senate. 
  • Yoda is an obvious stand-in for Joe Biden. I mean, both are old, neither can communicate well, and they both just absolutely love reminding you of all the great people they knew in the past. But ask them to stand up and actually do something for once? Whoooaaa, buddy, let’s not take things too fast. 
  • It goes without saying that the Droid Army is a portentous commentary on the tenuous morality of drone warfare. I mean, duh. 
  • I’m not sure how Lucasfilm pulled this one off, but if you analyze the script closely, you can tell that Mace Windu is an amalgamation of all the Crooked Media guys. Just as Mace keeps reminding you that he’s a great swordsman, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor keep reminding you that they were in the Obama administration. And let’s not forget that Windu and all those podcasters literally failed to predict the rise of Trumpism/an emperor happening right in front of them, and then were pretty ineffectual at trying to stop it. 
  • Mitt Romney, like Jar Jar Binks, negligently allowed a racist to spew racist theories in support of his campaign and/or empowered an evil lord through democratic channels.