AN AIRING OF GRIEVANCES AGAINST TAYLOR SWIFT AND REPUTATION
My relationship with Taylor Swift and her music is long and conflicted. When she first came on my radar in 2008 (I missed the country era), I despised her because I felt like her single, “You Belong With Me,” sounded suspiciously like an earlier hit by Columbus-based band, Saving Jane, called “Girl Next Door.” I hated the singles from 2010’s Fearless. I will concede that, when Red came out in 2012, you could find me bopping my head along to “We Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together” along with the rest of America. I even liked “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and this goat version of that song makes me laugh tears of mirth to this day.
But when 1989 came out, she won me over, and the transition was…swift. (Sorry!) Give me a breakup album full of bangers and I am HERE FOR IT—it was, and therefore I was. 1989 forced everyone from Pitchfork to NPR to take her seriously, and she deserved it. Throughout it, Swift seemed self-aware and smart and fun. She took self-deprecating jabs at herself in videos like the one for “Blank Space,” which depicted her as the maneater the media made her out to be. And it worked! “Shake It Off” was an instant hit. “Bad Blood” had #girlsquad cameos from every famous person who was anyone. Even B-sides that got cut, like “New Romantics,” were stellar.
From 1989’s release on, T-Swift was on top of the world – she became known for her Insta-worthy parties with guest lists made up of her “squad” full of other famous white women, posing in red, white, and blue at the beach for the Fourth of July. Despite this lacquered aesthetic of female empowerment, her silence during the 2016 Presidential Election was deafening. Unlike rival Katy Perry, Taylor Swift didn’t say shit, save a last-minute Election Day post on Instagram, encouraging her followers to vote. I get it—Trump fans listen to Top 40, too; they shop at Target, too; and they buy special release versions of pop albums, too. But if Eminem can pick a side and alienate a huge portion of his fan base, one of the greatest, most successful pop artists of our time can take the hit. And for someone who readily co-opted feminism when it suited her, she wasted a huge opportunity.
Still, her political silence was not the only egregious thing Taylor did in the summer of 2016. After years of weird tension with Kanye West, their “feud” bubbled after the release of Kanye’s The Life of Pablo. For the final (??) installment of the Kanye-Taylor story, America wondered for weeks whether or not Taylor really gave Kanye “permission” over his controversial lyrics to his song, “Famous.” She said nah; Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian, said yah. Kim *also* claimed to have the receipts—and damn, did she!
Kim threw major Twitter shade in essentially calling T-Swift a snake, but soon after, she did us one better and outed her as such on Snapchat. In the videos Kim shared there, it sure sounded like Taylor had in fact verbally signed off on Kanye’s lyrics—just like Kim had said, despite Taylor’s denials in the press. And the second the proof came out, everyone turned on Taylor Swift, who’d been caught in a lie in a massively public, embarrassing way.
And with that, a woman who seemed like she might die from lack of exposure without constant media attention (#Hiddleswift)…disappeared. For a year.
And like, part of me kind of gets it. If I’d been caught in a lie about something stupid on the scale at which she did, I’d have probably ducked out for a while, too. But I like to think that I’d have spent that time doing some real soul searching, self-examination, therapy, WHATEVER, to dig into just how bad I messed up.
I’m not gonna lie, I got real excited back in August when I saw the weird, static-y snake footage Taylor started posting on social media after wiping her accounts clean. I thought, yessss! She is gonna really lean into the villain role. No more playing the victim.
Instead, Taylor is still—STILL!—so self-righteously indignant that a story got out of her control that she can’t even own up to her own shitty behavior. It’s kind of wild to see such a lack of understanding on her part. If she thought keeping out of the spotlight for so long would endear her to us once again, she was wrong. Literally the only thing she could have done was admit she messed up and apologize (and, you know, give us at least a handful of killer singles).
But the album’s first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” is just another re-telling of Taylor’s version of events from a year and a half ago: She was framed, she swears! Kim and Kanye are the real bad guys!
But in the Year of Our Lord 2017, we’ve all got bigger shit to worry about. No one cares about the Kim and Kanye feud anymore, least of all Kim and Kanye. The fact that she thinks people still give a shit about this proves that she has been asleep to the horrors of the last 15 months. The “new” Taylor Swift is just as tone deaf as the old.
(Related side note: Reputation is coming out on the 10th anniversary of Kanye’s mom’s death, which is *probably* a super unfortunate coincidence, but ooof, someone at her label can’t check for shit like that?)
Four boring singles later, I have lost all hope that Reputation is Taylor’s apology/redemption tour. And as Vulture points out, it’s one thing to put out a single or two before an album’s launch—but four? That’s almost a third of the 15-track album. I’m sure if this album flops, she can cry into her millions/on the shoulder of her hot model British boyfriend, whom I assume “Gorgeous” is about (unless it’s about Karlie Kloss—in which case, I’m into it).
Look—part of me will maybe always have a soft spot in my heart for the woman who wrote “Out of the Woods” and “Clean.” But right now, she’s being fucking ridiculous.