By: Jordyn Tilchen//
As I sat there on my computer late Thursday night, not so patiently waiting for time to pass until the release of Taylor Swift’s new single, I actually found myself very excited. This excitement stemmed from a long history that spans 10 years back— a history that proves that if anyone in the music industry can deliver a hit song, it’s Taylor Swift.
After four long years of no new material from Taylor, fans everywhere, including myself, were more than ready to hear what she’s been taking so long working on. Would she dip back into her country roots, or would she continue to lean in tight to standard pop? Curiosity among her fan base reached its peak when Taylor blacked out all of her social media last week and began to brilliantly market the start of a new era, which would begin with her latest single, “Look What You Made Me Do.”
While the marketing for the song and the forthcoming album, Reputation, were executed brilliantly, the lead single, however, was not. As a 24-year-old woman, I found the 3 minute and 32 second song horribly spiteful and impossible to sympathize with. The song, clearly an ode to Taylor’s ongoing feud with rapper Kanye West, showcases the global superstar as both the victim and the villain, essentially blaming Kanye for forcing her to use this song to lay claim to the reputation that she, herself, has earned as “a snake.”
The problem here is… she earned that reputation because she got caught in a lie. If you recall the release of Kanye’s song, “Famous,” and the drama surrounding it, Kim Kardashian tweeted out video proof of Taylor approving the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that alluded to the idea that her and Kanye “might still have sex.” Not only did the video proof confirm the fact that Taylor knew about the raunchy lyrics all along, but they also proved that she was excited about them and grateful to Kanye for having reached out for her opinion at all. Unfortunately, upon the song’s release, Taylor was singing an entirely different tune, taking to Instagram to say, “Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me ‘that bitch’ in his song? It doesn’t exist because it never happened.”
Taylor went on to say, “He promised to play the song for me, but he never did. While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ a song you haven’t heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.” The thing is, though, she was supportive of the song on the phone call. There is video proof of her outwardly expressing support and excitement over the phone. Unfortunately, Taylor, you can’t exactly slither your way out of this painfully obvious lie, and that’s the exact reason you felt compelled to release “Look What You Made Me Do” as your comeback single, so that you could look bad, but Kanye could look, well, worse.
The most puzzling thing for me personally is this idea that she ever wanted to be “excluded from this narrative” in the first place. While it’s true that one of the many reasons Taylor’s fans adore her is because she’s an expert at “reclaiming” the narrative, I’m not so sure it’s working as well for her here as it has in the past. I mean, let’s face it, for 10 years the girl has been able to completely milk the role of the victim, and for 10 years, we LOVED every second of it. As fans, we ate it up, we sympathized with her, and we understood her. Not only that, but she understood us! Suddenly, upon the release of every new Taylor Swift album, we were all victims because some boy broke our heart, or a friend was—womp, womp—mean to us.
My point is, Taylor has a long history of releasing spiteful songs as revenge while simultaneously depicting herself as an innocent little butterfly. By doing this, she’s not trying to exclude herself from the narrative. Not at all. Instead, she’s taking the narrative, exploiting it in any way that she can (I mean, seriously, why are we still talking about the Kanye feud when it began in 2009?), and—SHOCKER—making millions off of it. Even worse? We’re letting her do it!
Look, I’m not naïve to the fact that “Look What You Made Me Do” is going to sit pretty at the number one spot on the Billboard chart for who knows how many weeks, but make no mistake, it’s not sitting in that spot because it’s good. It’s going to be sitting at the number one spot because when faced with the decision to release an actual piece of art that was completely unrelated to the feud versus selling out, she did just that. She sold out. She knew fans wanted gossip and drama, so gossip and drama is what she gave them. Unfortunately, she will find that villain and victim often don’t go hand-in-hand, that she can’t be both, and that when she no longer wants to be associated with being a snake, it will have already been too late.
To be clear, I’m not saying there haven’t been times in the past 10 years that Taylor hasn’t been completely justified in taking on the role of the victim, because the truth is, many times she has been the victim. In fact, I’d venture to say that she has been one of the most targeted pop stars in the media over the past decade. However, it’s that fact that she’s gotten so comfortable in that role that it almost comes off as though she is a narcissistic do-gooder who can’t possibly make any mistakes at all. In her narrative and in the world she wants us to live in, she’s always right and everyone else is always out to get her, and that’s simply not true.
I’d end this by telling you not to bother listening to the song, but you’re going to anyway… that is, if you haven’t already. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the album leaves a better taste in our mouths and somehow restores our faith in the Taylor Swift we’ve all come to know and love over the past 10 years. Oops! I almost forgot. The old Taylor can’t come to phone right now… she’s dead.