GRAPHIC BY YING YANG
By JUSTIN YEH
Your favorite “victim” has come out with yet another song about her “Bad Blood” with fellow celebrities, once again disappointing fans with her subpar music.
Released on August 24, Taylor Swift’s new song “Look What You Made Me Do” is the lead single for “Reputation,” her first new album in three years.
Swift’s song contains many references to karma, suggesting that those who have wronged her in the past are about to experience the backlash of their actions. The song’s music video, released on August 27 during MTV’s Video Music Awards (VMA), embodies a fantasy that casts Swift as an undead overlord standing over a collection of her former personas from past music videos. In less than twenty-four hours, this video has racked up over 43.2 million views, claiming the title as the most-viewed video within a twenty-four hour period.
However, despite the popularity of its music video, “Look What You Made Me Do” is an overrated song with the same exhausted message about Swift’s petty conflicts with other celebrities.
To start, the entire song is mostly spoken, with very minimal singing. Swift is a singer, not a rapper, and her lackluster lyrics only foreshadow how disappointing the rest of her album will become if she continues to stray away from her roots as a singer and songwriter.
By repeating the line “Look what you made me do” thirty-two times throughout the course of the song, Swift certainly does get her message across, but she sacrifices her musical abilities to do so. While the song may be catchy, a majority of the music consists of electronic, throbbing-bass rhythms, pushing Swift further away from her roots in country music. Swift has undoubtedly dropped the ball in her musical ability with a song that is little more than a paranoid pop-melodrama about karma.
Yet again, Swift’s repetitive lyrics have become wearying instead of catchy, with many lines alluding to the singer’s long-standing feud with rapper Kanye West. Although Swift never directly states West’s name, she references West multiple times through lyrics like “I don’t like your little games / Don’t like your tilted stage,” which perhaps relates to West’s iconic performance on a tilted stage during his Saint Pablo tour. Instead of playing the victim and blaming her actions on others, as reflected by the song’s title, Swift should take some responsibility and work to resolve the feud instead of completely recreating her image.
In regard to the music video, it is as unoriginal as the lyrics are repetitive. For instance, one scene features Swift posing with her hands on her hips alongside a row of male backup dancers, a concept very similar to Beyonce’s “Formation” music video. Swift’s use of fishnet tights and black ensembles strikingly resembles Beyonce and her group of similarly dressed backup dancers during the “Formation” performance at Super Bowl 50. Beyonce is not the only artist Swift imitates in her music video, though. In another scene, Swift can be seen sporting bold red lipstick and biting jewelry, which is very reminiscent of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” music videos. The “old Taylor” may be dead, but the new Taylor doesn’t seem very unique.
However, one cannot deny that the change in style is definitely something new. Whether Swift’s fans love or hate her new song, the dark, sinister mood is apparent and presents a sharp contrast to her previously uplifting, encouraging musical tone. The singer seems to have taken a complete turn in her stylistic choices and, as a result, has drawn millions of listeners to her latest single.
While Swift’s musical style may be changing, it seems almost impossible to recall the last time Swift wrote a song about more than just her lust for revenge. A majority of the singer’s songs, ranging from “Mean” to “Bad Blood” to “Innocent,” express the same childish conflicts that follow her wherever she goes.
With Swift seemingly dropping subtle diss tracks left and right and never acknowledging the sources of the conflict, her audience is left craving for a song with more substance. Where is the Taylor Swift who, just one month ago, was advocating for sexual assault victims? In the past, Swift had her dedicated fanbase of country-loving fans, but the current direction Swift is heading toward is not what her fans signed up for. Swift’s music should serve as a platform to discuss more pressing matters such as mental health and equal rights, not revenge and petty feuds.
All in all, Swift has lost her musical identity and has resorted to writing mainstream electronic pop songs that are no longer meaningful. Swift would have been wise to continue writing innocent country songs and to maintain her unique country-pop reputation. “Change” is not always beneficial, and Swift has yet to accept that fact. One can only pray that the remaining songs in her new album convey a message “Better than Revenge.”