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The complex connection between Joni Mitchell and Taylor Swift


For those who aren’t all that up-to-date on Taylor Swift’s whereabouts, there’s no need to sweat. It seems as though she’s always doing something new, and people have the tendency to deliver relentless hot takes on her current goings-on, including folk stars like Joni Mitchell. Well, maybe.

Taylor Swift might seem like an odd choice to engage Joni Mitchell’s critical side, especially considering the similarities that the two artists share. They both began their careers with slightly more basic songwriting styles that reflect their roots, although Swift has taken a turn for the pop direction in recent years. However, even that can be called into question given her most recent album (aside from her sea of re-releases), which saw an unlikely collaboration with Bon Iver, taking her in a stripped-down, folky direction that seems like it might be right up Mitchell’s alley. However, it isn’t that simple, so what gives?

To start off simply, people compare the two artists on an unrelenting frequency. There are plenty of headlines floating around about whether or not Swift is as good of a songwriter as Mitchell. The comparison makes sense, what with them both being such prolific confessional songwriters. They both write music from emotional depth and discuss personal experiences in vulnerable ways, and that can lead to some comparison.

However, Joni Mitchell doesn’t usually take well to being compared to anyone, even contemporaries of her own. Just take a look at how she reacted to being linked to Bob Dylan: “Musically, Dylan’s not very gifted; he’s borrowed his voice from old hillbillies,” Mitchell said. “He’s got a lot of borrowed things. He’s not a great guitar player. He’s invented a character to deliver his songs, it’s a mask of sorts.” 

Now, where does Taylor Swift come into all this? Well, it all started out with whispers that Swift could potentially portray Mitchell in a biopic (which, by the way, has yet to come to fruition). When asked about the possibility in an interview, Mitchell responded by saying: “I’ve never heard Taylor’s music. I’ve seen her. Physically, she looks similarly small-hipped and high cheekbones. I can see why they cast her. I don’t know what her music sounds like, but I do know this — that if she’s going to sing and play me, good luck.”

Although this might sound like a bit of snark, it actually isn’t as serious of a jab as some people make it out to be. Considering Mitchell admits to never having heard her music in the first place, it isn’t so much a critical response as an ambivalent one. Taylor Swift’s team also confirmed that the rumours were false regarding the biopic anyway, so Mitchell has nothing to worry about.

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