Last week, Taylor Swift broke her silence after her 2014 1989 success, by ironically furthering a ‘visible’ silence; deleting her social media presence and teasing fans with the potential recreation for a new album. A few visual enigmas later, here we are with an album name (reputation) a release date (November 10th) and a choreographed ominous new image.
Taylor has always been on the cusp of reinventing and dissolving her image
Swift’s new single, released Friday 25th August, continues her experimentation with pop, as co-produced by Jack Antonoff, in which Swift previously collaborated with for 1989. Despite a production continuity between 1989 and the new lead reputation single, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, Taylor has always been on the cusp of reinventing and dissolving her image; think back the final track of Red, ‘Begin Again’, her last country pop which preluded the beginning of her synth pop era in 1989. More recently, her collaboration with Zayn for ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’ suggested Swift’s contemplation of a collapse of her previous images; her upbeat ‘Shake it Off’ attitude of 1989 not able to ‘live forever’. Swift’s sharp epigrams are still present in the verses of the single; ‘Honey, I rose up from the dead I do it all the time’, reinforcing a continually flourishing postmodern reinvention.
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ interpolates Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’ for its chorus, the group tweeting that Swift’s new song was a “marvellous reinvention”. The single blurs the lines of pop, dance and house and is new territory for Swift. The single, as co-produced by Antonoff sonically resonates with Lorde’s Melodrama and St Vincent’s move towards a darker melancholy pop sound. Taylor refrains ‘I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me’, subsuming a postmodern anxiety and heightened paranoia of her superstar status, and the ‘drama drama’ it manifests, in reference to the feud between herself, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Swift’s desire for revenge in the single isn’t unheard of in her repertoire; ‘The world moves on…but not for me, all I think is karma’ cycle’s back to Speak Now’s ‘Better than Revenge’. Thus, for fans, Swift’s lyrical notes are a point of continuity.
Swift’s desire for revenge in the single isn’t unheard of in her repertoire
With all Swift’s refurbished hard rock glamour of ‘LKYMMD’ is tinged with melancholic self destruction and passivity. In a phone call conversation, much darker than a similar motif in ‘We Are Never Getting back together’ Taylor declare ‘the older Taylor can’t come to the phone right now’, almost giggling in exclamation that ‘Oh, because she’s dead!’. Despite claiming ‘I got harder in the nick of time’, LWYMMD shows Swift as far more damageable and fragile, now unable to merely dismiss in ‘Shake it Off’ that ‘haters gonna hate’. Unlike all her previous transformations, from country (Taylor Swift, Fearless) to Country-Pop (Speak Now, Red) to synth pop (1989), these all stemming from a active sense of ‘beginning again, Swift’s reputation reinvention becomes an inevitable reaction to her continual public scrutiny.
Did we break her? Are guilty of backing Taylor Swift into a corner? Well, if the answer is yes, then no wonder her new single is aggressive, sarcastic, self defensive and her critics already hate it. Yet, like Swift herself, her fans have embraced her transformation, and her defiant new reputation. Despite an initial nostalgic loss of ‘the old Taylor’, by the final refrain of ‘look what you made me do’ (ending of an active sense of ‘doing’) there is in turn a defiant sense of ownership Swift’s labels from her peers and the media. The old Taylor might be dead…but I’m starting to like this new one a whole lot too.