Words || Erin Christie
I’d like to make a public service announcement: Taylor Swift’s new single, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, isn’t the ground-breaking, self-deprecating anthem she wants you to believe it is. Eight whole years have passed since Kanye West took to Taylor’s stage during an acceptance speech and snatched the mic away. The old Taylor might be dead, but the new one still seems to be up to the same old tricks. She thrives on drama, using her continued feud with West to drive her image, the exact image she incongruously appears to be trying to shed in ‘Look What You Made Me Do’.
The single is odd at best, both lyrically and structurally. The titular lyric, ‘look what you made me do’, reminds me of Annie Wilkes screeching at Paul Shelton in Misery after she breaks his ankles so he can’t escape. It’s a common phrase for anyone trying to shift blame off themselves for their own mistakes. The lyrics that follow are nothing impressive either. Swift refers to having her enemy’s name written on a list ‘in red underlined’. She checks it once, then she checks it twice, like a quasi-Santa Claus. The real kicker comes as Swift pauses mid-song with a random voice-over, stating that the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead!
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is attempting to acknowledge the way the media portrays Swift and allude to the fact that she isn’t who we think – whoever that may be by now. Swift is playing to the same old celebrity reinvention narrative which already killed off old-Katy Perry and old-Miley Cyrus. However, the references to Kanye in the song show that Taylor’s still blaming the feud for the way she is perceived.
Then there’s the music video. My Facebook feed exploded with it, as more and more people delved further and further into its many hidden symbols and meanings like misguided detectives. I wasn’t too interested in the painting of the locket on the floor just under the bathtub beside the word ‘no’, but there was one hidden reference that did stand out – a dollar bill, sitting in a bathtub full of diamonds.
Recently, Swift counter-sued a radio DJ for battery and assault, claiming that he inappropriately groped her at a meet and greet – an incident that cost him his job. Although he sued her for millions for defamation, her counter-case only asked for a symbolic dollar. After winning the case, Swift promised to donate to charities to
help women who may be in her situation but cannot afford legal representation.
Sexual harassment is an incredibly real problem, and I don’t negate the trauma faced by Swift. I even feel pretty gross drawing attention to it for this review. However, the symbolism of the case, and the message Taylor was spreading here was beginning to signal a favorable turnaround in her public image. Unfortunately, Swift announced her new album only a week later, coming right off the back of the media attention she’d already been receiving. The video followed a few days after the announcement, with some sources claiming that it cost a whopping $12 million to make. The sexual assault case was swiftly swept under the rug of public consciousness. Do you see how there might be a problem here?
Taylor – imma let you finish – by giving your new album a good listen, but I’m not going to do it from an unbiased position. I’ve gone from an eleven-year-old Swifty, changing the name of the romantic hero in ‘Teardrops on my Guitar’ to match that of my brother’s best friend, to a cynical semi-fan attempting to take all my admiration back. Rather than the vulnerable sincerity that made her famous, Swift’s songs now seem to be steeped in narcissism and a sense of faux rebellion. I’m mourning the death of old Taylor, because new Taylor kind of sucks. And I miss that old angle, I really do. My girl Taylor has finally gone out of style.