There’s no denying that despite her divisive reputation – the aptly named title of her upcoming album, Taylor Swift has the canny ability to write a damn good pop song. Love her or hate her, with a back catalogue filled with hits such as ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Shake It Off’ and the snappily titled ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, it’s hard to argue her skills when it comes to crafting the perfect break-up anthem or revenge song, which is what makes her latest offering a little harder to swallow.
2016 was arguably the year Swift truly fell from grace, with a plethora of feuds with everyone from Katy Perry and Kimye to Calvin Harris she became better known for her tit-for-tat public persona and boyfriend-bashing than she did her music. Consequently her self-enforced hiatus made a lot of sense and when she teased of new music on her Instagram just over a week ago it seemed her fans were ready to welcome her back with open arms and an all-is-forgiven attitude. With darker imagery playing up to her newly labelled snake persona (courtesy of a certain Mrs Kardashian-West), Taylor’s new sound seemed to be gearing up to be a stark departure from her previous offerings. And oh boy it is – but not in the best of ways.
With virtually no melody or bass in the verses, and a chorus ripped straight from Right Said Fred’s 90s cringe-classic ‘I’m Too Sexy’, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is lyrically a similar formula to most of Taylor’s previous hits with its references to being wronged and hurt by others (presumably Kanye West, if her ‘titled stage’ reference is anything to go by). But it is without the catchy melodies and hooks she’s become known for – disappointing for an artist who has had so many critically-acclaimed hits as well as commercial ones. With a sound that seems more suited to her good friend Lorde on the pre-chorus, despite proclaiming “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now […] because she’s dead”, it seems that Swift’s new persona more of a caricature and an amalgamation of other artists, than an expression of her true self.
With the music video already earning the title of most YouTube streams (an astonishing 43.2 million) in 24-hours – a title previously held by PSY’s 2013 ‘hit’ ‘Gentleman’, and the song itself becoming the fastest selling download since Ed Sheeran released ‘Shape of You’, there’s no arguing that Taylor knows how to draw a crowd and is one of the industry’s best business women, but can she sustain her popularity for much longer? ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is undoubtedly a response to Kayne West’s now infamous song ‘Famous’ that reignited their feud, and though Swift is more than entitled to a musical response of her own when that response comes nearly 17 months later, you can’t help but feel the whole debacle is becoming incredibly petty.
No doubt reputation will feature plenty more diss tracks aimed at Kanye and co., and seeing as it’s what Taylor is good at she should never try too hard to change that too quickly at risk of alienating her fan base. But with such a polarising response to her first single off the album, it’s starting to seem like some of the world (at least) are tiring of this particular feud, so maybe, Taylor and Kimye, it’s time to put down the pitchforks and just agree to disagree. After all, there are plenty more feuds in the sea.