New Music Friday: Taylor Swift’s New Empowered Persona
“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.”
“Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!”
Or is she? Taylor’s new single Look What You Made Me Do from her latest release, ‘Reputation’, opens with a classic Swift-esque Hollywood-style melody that is reminiscent of earlier songs such as The Lucky One, which immediately lets her listeners know that this song is all about Hollywood. The social media blackout, the week-long snake gifs teasing us have all turned out to mean exactly what we thought. Swift is hitting back at all those who commented snake emojis under every single one of her Instagram photos, shedding that image and creating a new image for herself. And, let’s not lie, Swift is the queen of reinvention from her pure country image to her new, bolder, peroxide-blonde look.
For those who were hoping for a new Swift will be disappointed, however, as the music is reminiscent of her earlier work and has all the ingredients of a chart topper. It’s the same old Taylor that we saw in Shake It Off who hit back at her haters but the sunny, upbeat tunes have been replaced by darker melodies. Bad Blood from her previous album 1989 seems like a fun, children’s song in comparison to Look What You Made Me Do, especially the eerie, repetitive delivery of the chorus. By the way, if you think that sounds familiar, the duo behind the 1991 hit I’m Too Sexy have received some unexpected writing credits for her new song and the comparison between the two choruses is somewhat obvious once you’ve heard it. And it is not only their work she alludes to; the song plays as an homage to Swift herself using similar lyrics, imagery and themes in order to put across her message successfully. She leaves just enough hints to keep listeners guessing as we always have, except now it is about the identity of her enemies as opposed to her lovers.
So, whilst there may be some disappointment following the release of Swift’s new album, I think she has delivered exactly what we should have expected. It’s clear that her main aims have been to create her own narrative, show that she should not be messed with and create a pop song that will top the charts by being so catchy that we will probably find ourselves unwillingly singing it under our breaths in the weeks to come. And this is where the genius of Taylor Swift lies. Really, we are listening to the same girl who released her debut country album all those years ago. The reason for her initial success was her ability to write from a point of view that we had never heard before. She carefully portrayed every role she has had, from child to sister to lover to pop star to friend to enemy, so that the world cannot help but respond. She releases songs that are listened to by the entire world so that, without realising, we are the ones responsible for spreading her message. Every fan, every hater, every news outlet is actually helping Swift to fight back her haters.
Every media story that has surrounded her elevates her platform a little more so that those in the industry can never get away from the force that is Taylor Swift. That is why this album is a purely catchy chart topper. Swift wants the Wests, the Perrys and even the DJs who think they can exploit her to know that she will let the world know what they have done. And by outing them, she is getting the revenge that she promises so clearly in her song. Look What You Made Me Do may not be the song we were expecting but it’s the song Taylor wants us to listen to.