In her latest desperate attempt to cast herself as the victim in the most annoying celebrity feud of the decade, Taylor dropped her comeback single "Look What You Made Me Do" last night and set the internet ablaze.
With the gusto of a pouty high school cheerleader who's daddy bought her an Audi instead of the Mercedes she wanted, Swift's faux empowerment anthem comes across as more vindictive and childish than liberating. Sampling the 1992 one hit wonder, "I'm Too Sexy," Swift whisper-sings about her enemies lying on her and karma coming to get them in the end. The 27-year-old's lyrics even reference the burn book from Mean Girls, casting herself as Regina George, "I've got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined/I check it once, then I check it twice/oooh, Look what you made me do."
The single is the first song off her upcoming album Reputation, which seems to comment on the media's unfair coverage of her. If that sounds eerily similar to a certain 45th President of the United States, you wouldn't be the only one seeing the connection as right-wing websites are using her image to scream even louder about fake news. That, combined with Swift's off-putting snake reclamation, all just leaves a really salty taste where once was sweet. The Swift we've grown to love is no more.
Swift's underwhelmingly edgy rebrand is apparently a direct result of last summer's tiff with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. While the Kimye drama might be fresh in our minds, how exactly did all of this drama even begin? As all the best things in life, it all comes back to Beyoncé.
It's 2009. Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are both nominated at the MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video with "You Belong With Me" and "Single Ladies" respectively. Swift wins the award and walks onstage to accept her Moonman, saying "I always dreamed about what it would be like to maybe win one of these some day, but I never actually thought it would have happened." Just as she gets into her speech, Kanye West storms the stage and grabs the mic out of her hands, "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'll let you finish, but Beyoncé has one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!"
We won't get into who rightfully deserved the award, but Taylor, Kanye, or even the omnipotent Beyoncé knew what a pivotal moment that would become in pop culture history. Kanye's public opinion quickly plummeted and even President Obama called him a jackass. Swift penned "Innocent" on her third album Speak Now in which she forgave the rapper, but despite her kind words in the song, repeatedly joked about the incident in interviews and public events, refusing to let the public forget about it and move on. When she performed the song at the next year's VMAs, she replayed the footage on stage to complete her "I'm the victim" narrative.
Throughout her career, Taylor has used star-studded conflicts to start media conversations around her and push her celebrity, much like her many #1s about her famous ex-boyfriends. Who can forget when she put on Harry Styles' British accent during the Grammy's performance of "We Are Never Getting Back Together." Or her uncharacteristically on-the-nose track "Dear John," written about her relationship with John Mayer.
Taylor's relentless victimhood narrative began to jump the shark in 2014 when her feud with Katy Perry became all anyone could talk about. Upset about some backup dancers who left her Red Tour to join Perry's Prisimatic World Tour, Swift penned "Bad Blood," a diss track she revealed was about a fellow pop star who "tried to sabotage an entire arena tour." Casting herself in the music video as an operative fighting the good fight, she takes on a black haired vixen who quite literally stabs her in the back as she croons "band-aids don't fix bullet holes/, you say sorry just for show/if you live like that you live with ghosts."
Perry was not happy with the accusation and made her opinions of Swift public with multiple cryptic tweets:
Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing...
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) September 9, 2014
Her next feud came with Nicki Minaj in 2015, when the Anaconda rapper tweeted her frustration with lack of VMA nominations in a system that historically favors a certain kind of pop star. "If I was a different 'kind' of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well," Minaj wrote. "If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year."
Swift, who's "Bad Blood" video streams had just overthrown Nicki's "Anaconda," took Minaj's tweets personally and literally inserted herself into the narrative. "@nickiminaj I've done nothing but love & support you," she said in since deleted tweets. "It's unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.."
Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn't say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this. @taylorswift13
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
Nothing I said had to do with Taylor. So what jabs? White media and their tactics. So sad. That's what they want. https://t.co/AfcwoyDvpg
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
Then Nicki retweeted this:
.@taylorswift13 stop using "support all girls" as an excuse to not be critical of racist media that benefits and glorifies you
— b (@coffee__dad) July 21, 2015
Swift apologized on Twitter and the two made-up on stage at the VMAs. But the exchange showed who Taylor Swift looks out for, and that's Taylor Swift.
Here re-enters Kanye West. West and Swift had long since made up in the public eye since 2009, and in 2016 Kanye releases The Life of Pablo, a self-proclaimed gospel album which features the track "Famous." The song features the lyrics "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous" and the video shows a naked wax mannequin of the country superstar. Swift fans were outraged, and the rapper received overwhelming media backlash. Kanye claimed he had run the line by Swift and that she was okay with it, but then Swift's representatives denied the claims, saying "Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single "Famous" on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, 'I made that bitch famous.'"
Swift won Album of the Year at the Grammy's just days later, and she alluded to West's claiming her stardom: "There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame."
Kanye West hosted Saturday Night Live soon after that and while ranting before the show, someone recorded the rapper without his knowledge calling Swift "fake ass." Kanye's public opinion quickly tanked once again.
Everything changed when West's wife, Kim Kardashian, stepped in. The reality TV mogul stuck up for her husband in June of 2016 in an interview with GQ. "[Swift] totally approved that [line in "Famous"]... She totally knew that that was coming out. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn't. I swear, my husband gets so much sh*t for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved... [She] totally gave the OK."
On National Snake Day, July 17th, 2016, Kim shared footage on Snapchat of Kanye West talking on the phone to Taylor Swift about the line in "Famous." "It's like a compliment," Swift chuckles. While Swift was aware of the lyric, at no point in the conversation does West bring up the "I made that bitch famous" line. Social media exploded as fans believed Swift had been exposed as a liar and began to post snake emojis on Taylor's Twitter and Instagram.
— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) July 18, 2016
Swift quickly hit back on Instagram in a since deleted post. "Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me 'that b*tch' in his song? It doesn't exist because it never happened. You don't get to control someone's emotional response to being called 'that b*tch' in front of the entire world. Of course I wanted to like the song. I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. He promised to play the song for me, but he never did." She ends the letter with the now infamous line, "I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009."
As her public opinion plummeted, Swift promptly vanished from social media and took herself out of the public eye.
In what one can only assume to be a fumbled publicity stunt, Katy Perry decided to rehash her beef with the star in the club kid inspired diss track "Swish Swish." "Your game is tired/You should retire/You're'bout as cute as/An old coupon expired/And karma's not a liar/She keeps receipts."
On an episode of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Perry confirmed the backup singer stealing drama to be true, but was a huge misunderstanding and claims she wanted to bury the hatchet with Swift. However, the day Katy released her 4th album Witness, Swift re-released her entire music catalog to Spotify in what seems like a devious move to eclipse Perry's album premiere. A bewildered Perry responded, "I can only do me."
Fast forward to today's clap-back, eight years in the making. Many had hoped Swift was ready to bury the hatchet and move on, or at least acknowledge that she did something wrong. "Look What You Made Me Do" now makes that wishful thinking seem unlikely. She calls out Kanye, Kim, and even Katy on the track that sounds an awful like a song from Mean Girls... She's even selling snake merchandise that looks uncomfortably like Death Eater memorabilia.
Swift's music video is premiering this Sunday at the MTV VMAs, of which Katy Perry is the host.
This feud has gone out too long. Taylor Swift refuses to take any kind of criticism, grow up, and learn from her mistakes. She's repainted herself as the victim once again. Lashing out at all of her "haters" with an "edgy" "comeback" all just feels like a heavy handed publicity stunt. But will the Petty Swift rebrand help or hinder her legacy?
Swift might be in trouble. Initial reviews of the song have been overwhelmingly negative. In perhaps the most cringe-worthy moment of "Look What You Made Me Do," Swift seems to reference the notorious phone call to Kanye, "I'm sorry the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Cause she's dead."
Just like your career, sweetie.