As we’re all nonstop deluged with media content we need to consume Right Now!, perhaps you’ll be relieved that rushing to hear Taylor Swift’s new single is wholly unnecessary. I don’t say that because you’ll likely hear it a thousand times through radio and TV outlets in the coming weeks, or because it’s a bad song (though it is). No, it’s not worth your time to play Taylor’s “Look What You Made Me Do” because, without ever spinning this record, you’ve already heard it before.
The new super “OMG” edgy and vengeful rebrand Taylor seems keen on going through with (Who wronged Taylor again? Oh right, the faceless and fabricated HATERS. My apologies. How could I forget?) exposed its derivative makeup with this new single. “Look What You Made Me Do” isn’t derivative because Taylor dipped into the Max Martin mega-pop single factory one too many times or anything of that nature. Its electro-clash, Yeezus-lite production sounds borrowed as does Taylor’s phoenix pose of rising from the ashes of (made-up) celebrity drama.
It’s almost like Taylor watched the massive successes of contemporaries like Rihanna’s middle-finger flippancy on ANTI and Beyoncé’s unhinged-yet-poised Lemonade airing out of dirty laundry and Lorde’s, yes, Melodrama and assumed that’s where her career should go next. Though make no mistake—Taylor previously had constructed a convincing formula of drifting into celebrity relationships and dramas she could later use to contextualize her music. Whether you believed any of it as genuine is irrelevant. It worked.
That narrative relied upon Taylor playing the good-girl victim somehow caught up in negative situations. She didn’t want to be the heartbroken, she didn’t want to be the awards-stealer, and didn’t want bad blood with other celebrities; that’s just how it happened to go. But she presented herself as striving beyond it, finding a stronger attitude in these adverse environments, which is what so many found relatable and why they rooted for her.
Two important moments occurred, though: a) within the past year everyone realized that Taylor seeks the drama, instead of the other way around, thanks to one-to-many, so-blatantly-fake romantic dalliances (Hiddleswift, really?) and b) Taylor tried to outmaneuver Kim Kardashian, a celebrity savant mastermind, and got played on a very public stage. The latter event reinforced the former notion—you can’t play the victim when everyone knows that’s your intention.
I mean, goodness. How damaging was it to hear Taylor tell Kanye, “It’s like a compliment,” regarding the reference in his song “Famous” that went “For all my Southside n—– that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex”? Kim releasing that footage bankrupted her long con of victimhood.
So of course Taylor struck back on this single. Small shots like “I don’t like your tilted stage” (Kanye’s Pablo tour featured a floating, tilting stage) and the voicemail recording that interrupts the bridge of the song: “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now / Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead!” clearly calling back to her Kanye-Kim feud. Other lyrics reference the long-standing, why-is-this-still-going-on beef with Katy Perry, all of which aren’t worth dissecting.
Because this whole song sounds so entirely forced. It’s like Taylor Swift casted herself to replace Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, and it’s unbelievable because the audience knows she’d die in the first moment of violence. You know Taylor isn’t a bad ass bitch because she’s spent her entire career reminding you otherwise. That doesn’t mean she isn’t strong. Far from it. Look at it this way: She’s a survivor, not a killer.
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And since Taylor can’t naturally manufacture the character she wants to portray on “Look What You Made Me Do,” she borrows from other, more credible acts. I mean this quite literally. For some reason Taylor doesn’t attempt to hide the assembly line of influences to build this Frankenstein song.
That chorus of “Ooh, look what you made me do” is like a bad Fergie impression, but if done by Gwen Stefani cover artist. Listen to Fergie’s hook on “My Humps” and tell me otherwise. There’s a dash of Meghan Trainor’s “No” in there, too, except after hearing “Look What You Made Me Do” I’m certain Taylor couldn’t pull off the bland, aggrieved attitude Trainor can in that hook. But the song Taylor’s chorus most reminds me of is Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.” Once you hear it, it’s kind of undeniable.
At least when you hear this knockoff trash zombie song a thousand times over the next two months you can giggle imagining Taylor singing “I’m too sexy for my shirt” instead of “Look what you made me do.” Because no one made you do anything, Taylor. In fact, most of us really wish you hadn’t done this song.