The "Shake It Off" singer talks to PEOPLE about her new album, 1989, and her "realistic" new take on love

“Maybe you’re not meant to fit in. Maybe you’re supposed to stand out,” says Taylor Swift, eyes twinkling.

At 24, she’s channeled the hopes and angst of young women across the galaxy, won Grammys and acquired a wardrobe supermodels would kill for.

But right now, in a London hotel room after a grueling day promoting her new album, Taylor Swift is a girl from Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, cozied up in a chair with one leg tucked beneath her, puzzling out life as a generation’s icon.

“People are going to talk about you,” she continues. “But maybe you’re having more fun than them anyway.”

Maybe Swift has got it all figured out.

Not long ago there were boyfriends and breakups, and hit songs about both. But, weary of tabloid headlines, she made some changes, chopping off her long blond hair and – for now – cutting guys out of the equation altogether.

These days, nights are spent with a group of female pals and days revolve around her Manhattan apartment, where her companions are her two cats, Olivia Benson and Meredith.

“I used to be fascinated by romance,” she admits. “Now I’m more realistic.”