Like the rest of the world, I exclaimed “There she is!” every time the camera cut to Taylor Swift during Super Bowl LVIII.

Some of us said it angrily, peeved that we can’t even watch professional sports without her showing up like an IRS agent to ruin the fun. Some of us said it with religious devotion, as if Travis Kelce had put on the jersey in the first place for the sole purpose of currying her favor. I, for one, said it with a tone somewhere in between, a tone of one resigned to – but not completely uninterested in – the inevitable.

The last few years have been the exclusive property of Taylor Swift.

She’s released seven albums (if you count the re-releases) since the summer of 2020. She’s worked with just about everybody, her collaboration with Bon Iver proving that no genre is safe from her sprawling grasp. The Eras Tour was the highest grossing tour of all time, selling over four million tickets at record prices, the sheer demand making pulp of Ticketmaster’s infrastructure.

When describing Taylor’s persona, my friend put it this way: she does everything with an eye toward the camera. She knows she’s winning, and she knows you’re watching. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is part of what makes her such a fascinating figure: the unattainable larger-than-lifeness, set in juxtaposition with a fierce self-awareness. There’s no worldly luxury of which she doesn’t own ten, and there’s no critique you could level that she hasn’t heard a thousand times. She’s fully in the spotlight, and she spends her time there looking in the mirror, simultaneously at herself and at all of us standing behind her with bated breath.

The cynical among us will call her self-awareness a publicity stunt. To that, I can only reply “Of course it is!” In a life without privacy, she has no choice: either use fame to her advantage at every turn – even the self-reflective turns – or be destroyed by it. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were in her position? And wouldn’t your songs be worse?

This is why “The Last Great American Dynasty” is her best song ever.

At this point, the song is as buried in her discography as any. But I think we should dig it out again and set it on the podium where it belongs (with “All You Had to Do Was Stay” on its left and “I Almost Do” on its right, in case you want even more of my opinions). It puts the paradox of Taylor Swift on full blast, with masterful lyrical craft and a storyteller’s knack for specifics.

I’ll summarize it, for those unfamiliar. It tells the story of the house in Rhode Island that Taylor bought, at which she presumably spends a lot of non-touring time. The house was originally owned by a woman named Rebekah, a former divorcee, who lived there with her new husband Bill, the “heir to the Standard Oil name and money.” According to the song, most people, especially the locals, thought Rebekah was crazy, annoying, and in over her head. “She had a marvelous time ruining everything,” flying in her big-city friends for Gatsby-esque parties. Nobody knew exactly how she swung her success. “Who knows if she never showed up what could’ve been.” She didn’t care; she just kept winning, against the odds and the haters.

Sound familiar yet?

After a wild and controversial life, Rebekah dies, and the house sits vacant. But the song turns in the bridge:

50 years is a long time
Holiday House sat quietly on that beach
Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits
And then it was bought by me

Who knows if I never showed up what could’ve been?

The curtain is pulled back. In fact, Taylor ripped it down herself, not allowing anyone else the pleasure. Just like the previous owner, she thrives under the gun of controversy. Just like the previous owner, she can be petty, extravagant, condescending. But, just like the previous owner, she is magnetic, genius, and above all, invincible. She’s self-aware, she knows it, and she wields it like Excalibur. This song is her confession, her If I Did It. She knows that you know that she knows that you know, and it doesn’t bother her an ounce.

It’s the perfect crime, as the song suggests:

I had a marvelous time ruining everything

If the last few years are any indication, she is clearly having a marvelous time.