Taylor Swift Reveals ‘Dorky’ Way She’s Been Secretly Categorizing Her Music For Years

Taylor Swift singing Lover on Saturday Night Live in 2019
(Image credit: NBC)

With Taylor Swift gearing up to release her tenth studio album, Midnights, next month, it’s fair to say that the singer/songwriter has become an expert at writing hit songs. Whether she’s singing about love, breakups, writing music for movies and TV, or many other subjects in between, she’s written a lot of incredible music to soundtrack Swifties lives. When the singer accepted a major award at the Nashville Songwriter Awards, she revealed the secret way she’s been categorizing all her music for years. 

Swift was honored with the Songwriter-Artist of the Decade award on Tuesday and during her acceptance speech, she shared that there are three genres she personally organizes each of her songs by. In Taylor Swift’s words: 

I’ve never talked about this publicly before, because, well, it’s dorky. But I also have, in my mind, secretly, established genre categories for lyrics I write. Three of them, to be exact. They are affectionately titled Quill Lyrics, Fountain Pen Lyrics and Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics. I know this sounds confusing but I’ll try to explain. I came up with these categories based on what writing tool I imagine having in my hand when I scribbled it down, figuratively. I don’t actually have a quill. Anymore. I broke it once when I was mad.

Oh, don’t worry Swifties, the singer didn’t stay cryptic this time around. (I’m looking at you, All Too Well.) During her speech (via Billboard), Taylor Swift broke down each of her lyric genres along with some examples of songs that fall into them. 

What Are Quill Lyrics? 

The first of Taylor Swift’s personalized genres is her “Quill Lyrics.” Here’s how she defined it: 

If I was inspired to write it after reading Charlotte Brontë or after watching a movie where everyone is wearing poet shirts and corsets. If my lyrics sound like a letter written by Emily Dickinson’s great grandmother while sewing a lace curtain, that’s me writing in the Quill genre. I will give you an example from one of my songs [‘Ivy’] I’d categorize as Quill.

Alright Swifties, now it’ll be our turn to come up with more of her songs within the Quill genre. Personally, I’d categorize many of her newer songs from folklore and evermore as Quill lyrics. On to the next one…

What Are Fountain Pen Lyrics? 

Then, there’s “Fountain Pen Lyrics,” which Swift shared “most” of her lyrics fall under. In her words: 

Fountain pen style means a modern storyline or references, with a poetic twist. Taking a common phrase and flipping its meaning. Trying to paint a vivid picture of a situation, down to the chipped paint on the door frame and the incense dust on the vinyl shelf. Placing yourself and whoever is listening right there in the room where it all happened. The love, the loss, everything. The songs I categorize in this style sound like confessions scribbled and sealed in an envelope, but too brutally honest to ever send.

Taylor Swift’s prime example of these songs the singer gave was All Too Well, which she re-released last year as a ten-minute song which she then directed a short about starring Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink. I imagine a lot of songs from Fearless and Red fall into this category since so many of them seem focused on a particular narrative. 

What Are Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics? 

Lastly, Taylor Swift explained “Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics.” Before likening “Shake It Off” as part of the genre, the singer said this: 

Frivolous, carefree, bouncy, syncopated perfectly to the beat. Glitter Gel Pen lyrics don’t care if you don’t take them seriously because they don’t take themselves seriously. Glitter Gel Pen lyrics are the drunk girl at the party who tells you that you look like an angel in the bathroom. It’s what we need every once in a while in these fraught times in which we live.

These seem to be the more poppy happy tunes within Taylor Swift’s library. I imagine “22,” “Welcome To New York,” and “ME!” are among this collection. While Swift was quick to call her method “dorky,” learning more about the singer’s writing process and the things she thinks about as she puts out music is really creative and interesting. I honestly can’t wait for Swifties to latch on to this and try and figure out which songs are which. 

Ahead of Midnights being released on October 21, Taylor Swift is among the cast of David O. Russell’s Amsterdam. The upcoming 2022 movie hits theaters on October 7. 

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.