A slightly exaggerated and political take on her new song
Our favourite multimillionaire Taylor Swift has released her latest Kanye West diss track, “Look What You Made Me Do.” Swift has been more-or-less dormant since the release of her 2014 album, 1989. It seems in that time Swift has been unable to “shake it off,” and has somehow become even more vindictive.
Her peers and superiors are creating intelligent, unique-sounding and politically-motivated music that has had a decisive impact on popular culture, such as Harry Style’s “Sign of the Times” and Kendrick Lamar’s album, DAMN . Meanwhile, Swift decided to release a self-absorbed song about her “tortured” past.
The track has a minimalist, electronic-pop sound, similar to songs on her last album. The song’s primary focus is its vocals and downright terrible lyrics. Diss tracks have always had a place in pop music—Justin Timberlake’s 2002 diss track about Britney Spears, “Cry Me a River,” being a notable example.
However, Swift just doesn’t have the bite to pull it off. With lyrics like: “The role you made me play / Of the fool, no, I don’t like you,” Swift hits as hard as a 15-year-old on LiveJournal whining about high school. At the same time, she delivers the lines thinking they are badass and well-crafted disses, but in reality, the lyrics are as vicious as the average Tumblr post. The music video is much worse.
In the video, Swift is standing atop a pile of more than a dozen Taylor Swifts from different eras of her career who are fighting to get to the top, dramatically casting her arms to the side as they fall into the void. When I first watched it, I paused and took a short walk.
Last year, Beyoncé released her seminal album, Lemonade—an album that was a socially-aware commentary on blackness and femininity. In contrast, after seeing that scene in Swift’s video, I questioned the artistic value of any and all music. Swift has always had a tone-deaf approach to her music and public persona, lacking any sign of self-awareness or tact—this new Taylor has multiplied that approach tenfold.
Her silence during the 2016 United States presidential election was deafening. She has a massive platform, millions of fans and has cultivated a feminist public persona, yet refrained from standing up for what she believed in during such a divisive time—actions that directly affect her fans who are people of colour, women and part of the LGBTQ community. As the recent Video Music Awards showed, many of her peers are actively engaged in politics, even though their music may not be particularly political. Swift has refrained from the slightest mention of politics, maybe out of fear of causing controversy. I don’t know.
But what I do know is music is released into a world dominated by politics, and people’s public perceptions are not separate from that. Swift has released a song in a post-President Trump world – of course people are going to react politically. Over the summer, Nazis openly marched in Charlottesville, Va., trans service people have been denied the right to serve in the U.S. military, and Trump pardoned a racist sheriff convicted of violating civil rights laws. While all of that is happening, Swift decides to release another grueling, self-indulgent track.
With all the political events that have transpired over the summer, I can’t help but criticize the song’s irrelevancy. I can’t consider the song some kind of escapist anthem either, because the beat isn’t fun and the lyrics lack depth. This track dwells on the drama Swift hasn’t let go of, while the rest of the world has moved on. It’s absolutely fine if you enjoy the song, it reflects nothing about you, but the song certainly reflects Taylor Swift’s lack of self-awareness.
Graphics by Alexa Hawksworth