Has Taylor Swift gone and become a completely new person, bitter and enraged by her exes, the media, and the ill treatment she has undergone — or is her new song commentary on all of the above (as in “Blank Space”)?
When I first got to the chorus of LWYMMD, I was appalled with Taylor’s new music style. The lyrics seemed to scream bitterness – as a friend of mine commented, when it came to harsh treatment from the media and people in her life, she didn’t seem to be able to “Shake It Off” anymore. The lyrics that shook me the most are probably, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh… because she’s dead.” The instagram post on which Taylor captioned, “There will be no further explanation. There will just be reputation,” only seemed to confirm my fears. And then that music video starting with a zombie Taylor Swift… *shudders* It wasn’t looking good. But after following Taylor’s career for so long, and seeing her appear to lose that sweetness and enthusiasm she used to have, perhaps I was just too emotionally involved and that blinded me.
I think these reviews (which I got from Wikipedia) describe best how I felt about the new song…
Maura Johnston of The Guardian wrote a mixed review of the song, saying: “The pop star’s return is full of visceral disses, but it’s not clear whether she’s playing a role or being herself”. Hugh McIntye of Forbes was critical of the change in style, saying that it “didn’t sound like Taylor Swift” and that it “may have some kinks to work out.”
What’s the evidence for this NOT being the case? There’s a lot of it, but I’ll just mention some of my favourites and cite the rest of the articles at the end of this post.
-> Taylor in the bathtub looks awfully like the Taylor in “Blank Space.” This song (and the music video) also mocks how the media portrays her by… well, just putting the fake rumours into video form.
-> There is a $1 bill in the bathtub. This probably referencing the court case Taylor just went through, wherein she was payed $1 for winning the case (because it wasn’t about the money for her).
-> “Et Tu Brute” is inscribed on Taylor’s throne – referencing the backstabbing media and “friends” Taylor has had?
-> Taylor swings inside a gigantic cage as bodyguards stand outside. Could this be a metaphor for how Taylor is trapped inside the life of a celebrity and the fame that comes along with this kind of life?
-> The plastic models who looked as they have been factory made… the fact that Taylor has many celebrity girl friends has been turned into criticism that she essentially leads a squad of drones.
-> At the end of the music video (the most brilliant part, in my mind), we see various version of Taylor from this music video and others. Several of the Taylors have insults hurled at them, referencing abuse Taylor has gotten herself. Behind the other Taylors, in the shadows, the real Taylor stands – or so the fans have speculated.
-> the fact that Taylor has sung several songs in the past that criticize the media and its portrayal of her (e.g. “Mean” from Speak Now, “The Lucky One” from Red, “Blank Space,” and “New Romantics” from 1989)
I’m still not a huge fan of the song or the revealing costumes. Taylor standing on top of all her previous selves still seems very weird and ominous to me. I am, however, still looking forward to seeing what else Taylor is coming up with in this next album. Perhaps the rest of the music will be good, perhaps not. All we can do is wait and see. However, it would be nice to see a Taylor who once again forgives instead of exhibiting vindictive behaviour (e.g. back when she wrote the song “Innocent” for the drama around Kanye). She needs to move on from the past at some point. Criticizing the media in an endless repeating loop once something negative happens to her again will not lead her anywhere.
Speaking of which, I can’t help but remember Laci Green’s tweet regarding the new song:
the phrase “look what you made me do” makes my skin crawl. was a fav line of abusers i worked with. and yet, nobody *made* them do anything.
Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble similarly notes that “look what you made me do” could just as easily be Eve’s words in the Garden after she followed the Tempter’s advice.
I think, ultimately, this blame game is what makes me feel so uneasy about the new Taylor Swift song. Anyone who knows me well will know that I love songs that critique the media and the society we live in – this is why I love Fall Out Boy so much (see their album Folie à Deux for prime examples). But Taylor isn’t critiquing the media and pointing out the lives it ruins so much as complaining about what they have done to her. “Look what you made me,” this song seems to say. But the media didn’t make Taylor anything. While backstabbing friends and false rumours hurt, they don’t change an individual. It’s only by giving in and deciding to stop fighting that the individual is changed.