Fourteen years ago, when Taylor Swift was just 12, a woman named Whitney Houston asked for the receipts. It was a simple request. Journalist Diane Sawyer had asked Houston to comment on an alleged $730,000 drug problem.
"I wanna see the receipts." Houston calmly replied, daring Sawyer to come up with an itemized list of purchases from Houston’s alleged dealer. She repeated: "I wanna see the receipts."
The logic: No matter how off Houston might have seemed at the time, she wanted to see proof that she was consuming enough illegal substances to pay for a one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. Sawyer could not manifest that proof. And even if Houston was most likely not of sound mind, no one had the receipts to pin her down.
On that glorious day, the concept of receipts — the damning, smoking-gun evidence that something occurred — was created. It wasn’t common to demand "receipts" yet, but it would be. Taylor Swift, then 12, had no idea that Kim Kardashian would one day release the most damning pop music receipts in recent memory: Taylor Swift lied about Kanye West, and there’s video to prove it.
Kim Kardashian released THE conversation between Kanye and Taylor Swift on Snapchat
On Sunday night, Kardashian posted a series of videos on Snapchat in which West, her husband, was talking to Swift on the phone about his song "Famous" — a song that Swift has labeled as offensive and derogatory. Because Snapchat is a strange beast and everything on the social media platform is temporary, here is a (hopefully more permanent) video of what Kim posted, as recorded by a Kanye West fan Twitter account:
In it, you can hear West clearly talking to Swift about his song in a really polite voice. She’s pretty cordial too.
"I really appreciate you telling me about it. That’s really nice," she says. "It’s all very tongue-in-cheek either way."
If you’re just tuning in to the ongoing drama between Swift, West, and Kardashian, the video looks like two friends chatting. To unlock the full, swirling vortex of feuds you actually have to go all the way back to the beginning of the year.
In February, Swift and West had a very public fight over lyrics he rapped in "Famous," then a new song. During West's fashion show/album drop live event at Madison Square Garden, he dropped a verse about having sex with Swift someday, because he believes he made her famous:
I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous
I made that bitch famous
Swift took offense to this. In a statement to the press, her team said the lyrics were inappropriate, noting, "Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single 'Famous’ on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message."
West responded with a series of Twitter posts saying that Swift’s statement was bullshit and that he had specifically told Swift about the lyrics prior to the song’s release. He added that he even got approval from Swift, saying the lyric was her idea:
The fight between the two became a he-said-she-said version of events that culminated in a Grammys speech wherein Swift famously shaded West, implying that he was trying to take credit for her success.
"As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there, there will be people along the way who will try to undercut your success," she said. "Or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame."
Essentially, this new video from Snapchat shows that Swift is being inconsistent, or not telling the entire truth. This video contradicts Swift and her publicist's claim that West didn’t call Swift to get her approval of the "Famous" lyrics, and that she tried to talk him out of releasing the song and the verse.
"If people ask me about it, I think it would be great for me to be like, ‘Look, he called me and told me about the line,’" she says in the recording — a sentence that’s so out of line with the public feud we’ve been watching ever since, you'd think it would be made up.
Swift says the video only tells one side of the story
To be clear: The video that Kardashian posted is edited. Due to the nature of Snapchat, which limits the length of continuous video you can post, there are several jump cuts and stops and starts. It’s possible that Kardashian could have simply omitted any portions that were unfavorable to West. But for the most part it doesn’t appear that Swift’s words are spliced together or edited in a misleading way — the videos use her full sentences.
After Kardashian posted the recording to Snapchat on Sunday, Swift posted a response on Instagram, explaining that though she was cordial and encouraging when West called her to discuss the song, West ultimately pulled a bait and switch on her:
Swift’s story changes a bit. In that initial denial, she made it sound like there was no conversation with West — just a plea for her to release the song on Twitter. If you go by that account, all the politeness that's seen in the video isn't supposed to exist.
But now that Kardashian made Swift and West’s conversation public, Swift’s new story is that when she and West talked, he didn’t tell her he was going to call her a "bitch." She says he didn’t give her the full story on the phone. In the recording, she and West discuss the line "I think me and Taylor might still have sex" and West saying that he made Swift famous, but not the part where West calls her "that bitch."
"While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ of a song you haven’t heard," Swift wrote on Instagram on Sunday. "Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination."
This fight is really about Taylor Swift’s image
Taylor Swift and her success are a strange phenomenon. Critics and her biggest fans will openly tell you that she doesn’t have the best voice or the best technical skills. Her songwriting, while impossibly catchy, isn’t mind-blowing or complex.
What she’s fantastic at is creating songs that crystallize a messy, usually teenage feeling that somehow speaks to everyone, even people who have never felt it, and weave it in with slips of her personal life. The personal life part of that skill is crucial.
Every song she’s released throughout her career, every post she’s shared on social media — it’s all helped paint a portrait of Swift as your best friend. Her latest album, her tour, her Instagram photos, and her Facebook posts are all wrapped around the fantasy of being her pal and joining her coven of female friendship. With some pop stars, you want to be them; with Taylor Swift, you just wanna hang out with her.
Kardashian’s Snapchat video cuts through that veneer — throwing doubt on what your BFF Taylor Swift is telling you, making you wonder, well, if Taylor could lie about that conversation with West, what else could she be lying about?
"She totally approved that," Kim says, shaking her head in annoyance. "She totally knew that that was coming out. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn’t. I swear, my husband gets so much shit for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved." Kim is on a roll now, speaking faster and more animatedly than at any other point during our time together. "What rapper would call a girl that he was rapping a line about to get approval?"
And on Sunday’s episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, this interview was teased out. To be fair, Kardashian isn't just releasing this video to clear her husband and her name — she (and her team) knows how to market a video-fueled scandal.
Further, Swift’s ex, Calvin Harris, had some not-so-nice things to say about Swift after it was revealed that she co-wrote one of his songs. It was implied that Harris never gave her the credit.
"I know you're off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy [Perry, who was part of a feud with Swift and the alleged subject of Swift’s song "Bad Blood"] but I'm not that guy, sorry," Harris tweeted. "I won't allow it."
Harris paints Swift as cold and calculating. Her fights, Harris suggests, aren’t organic, free-range fights that happen out of nowhere. Instead, he implies they are actually planned out in advance, as marketing stunts.
Swift’s celebrity hinges on the air of authenticity, which means her feuds are supposed to be real. They’re supposed to be genuine stories of her being wronged. They’re supposed to involve her showing all of us that even our best friend can get angry, and that we need to stick up for her.
And when it comes to Swift’s feuds, none of them compare to her ongoing feud with Kanye West.
Swift has, since that infamous Video Music Awards interruption in 2009, cast Kanye as a bully to her innocence, a liar to her truth teller. At the 2016 Grammys, she accused him of trying to take credit for her fame. Now she’s been recorded not only being nice and cordial to him about his song but also insinuating that it’d be good marketing for her and Kanye.
"You guys wanna call this a feud, you wanna call this throwing shade," she imagines herself saying to reporters and fans. "But right after the song comes out I'm gonna be on a Grammy red carpet and they're gonna ask me about it and I'm gonna be like, he called me."
Hearing Taylor Swift think out loud about how to spin the story, to me, is more damaging than learning that Taylor Swift lied about Kanye West. It’s very possible that she thought taking offense to "Famous" would be better for her career than showing the public that she and Kanye have patched things up. Harris’s Twitter outburst also makes that point — that there’s no hard feelings, just a savvy album and marketing strategy.
Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat video reveals a Taylor Swift and Kanye West interaction that we didn’t know existed. But it also confirms that underneath the thick coating of bubblegum pop known as Taylor Swift, there’s a shrewd, savvy woman who puts a lot of effort into shaping and maintaining her public image — a person who we sort of knew existed but never really had the proof. Until now.