Look What We Made Her Do: Taylor Swift Plays Dead
‘There's something about Taylor Swift that makes her more than averagely irritating’ – my Dad.
Everyone knows that a pop culture character who enters the paternal reference book has truly Made It. If the Dad tribe also know you're a snake, however, you've got PR problems.
Queen of playing the white victim, Taylor has been courting controversy longer than our collective patience has allowed. She lied about Kanye, charged into a battle of reputations on uncomfortable lines of race and gender, and fell at the contoured sword of Kim Kardashian. Snake emojis abounded, Swift sulked off into silence, and karma came for her in the form of one giant side-eye from her once adoring public.
Mean girls getting their comeuppance is a uniquely satisfying phenomenon, and never more so than for the ‘Regina George in sheep’s clothing’, with a string of offences ranging from faux-feminism to blatant cultural appropriation. In an atmosphere of simmering scandal and a public mistrust, what Taylor did next was bound to be interesting.
But then she served the tepid mess of a ‘revenge’ track, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. The title alone is a pathetic attempt at redirecting the blame of her fall from grace, and not insignificantly alarming. ‘Look what you made me do!!!!’ is what your ex screams after murdering your gerbil.
For a woman who wanted to ‘very much be excluded from this narrative’ (thanks for the quote T, very reusable), she used her first opportunity for redemption to play a petty victimised hypocrite. I could almost get on board if it was well executed, in the wake of hounded Britney’s ‘Piece Of Me’ or disgraced Bieber’s ‘Purpose’ album, but ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ doesn't hold up the standard of great pop comebacks.
Lyrically, Taylor has exposed her mediocrity. Pop lyrics don't need to be cerebral, and Swift’s best bangers revolve around repeating ‘haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate’ and ‘we are never ever ever getting back together’. On a track like LWYMMD, however, without the support of solid catchy melodies, the lyrics fall so so so far short. Particularly gross moments include rhyming ‘time’ with… ‘time’ in the pre-chorus, the absolutely devastating diss of ‘I don't like you’ (burn, T, burn), and a weird admittance that ‘all I think about is karma’ (see above re: gerbil murder).
As if that’s not enough, what strange music are these lightweight lyrics resting on? That'd be a deeply weird and unnecessary cadence sample from ‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred. Just. Why. Sure, it makes the chorus catchy, but for exactly the same reason that you'll be muttering ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt…’ in the shower later. Musically, the attempt by Swift and producer Jack Antonoff to use a more electronic sound to represent a darker, edgier vibe is such an unimaginative cliché, and no pop superpower should be paying royalties to Right Said Fred in 2017, identity crisis or otherwise.
Then there’s the VOICEMAIL interlude. In 2017!!! When Britney included an insane Titanic voiceover in ‘Oops… I Did It Again’ it was cute and irreverent. It was also 2000 and Y2K had us frazzled. Modern pop has no time for such stupidity, and I'd take a lame Titanic role play over ‘I'm sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now… ‘cause she's DEAD!’. Ridiculous.
What we’re left with is a very weak lead single. Ironically, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is just old Taylor risen from the grave, desperate to be seen as the victim, hypocritically diving back into the drama that she was so keen to remove herself from. A Kanye attack or not, Swift knows this track will be interpreted as such, and in turn has let down all the fans she urgently encouraged to ‘shake it off’.
I had little time for the 2014 Taylor, but I'll admit to being able to bop along to ‘Blank Space’ with the best of them. Taylor’s new ghost is - appropriately - transparent, insubstantial and irrelevant, and we could perhaps all do with being excluded from this impending narrative.
Taylor Swift’s new album Reputation will be haunting your calendar on November 10. Girl, bye.
Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarah_margetson