Thursday night, I played the new Taylor Swift single “Look What You Made Me Do” a few times and snapped on Twitter that I couldn’t figure out what it was that she’d been made to do.
It’s not a diss track, because those require crudeness and specificity, and Taylor, for all the times she’s written a song that maybe makes someone specific look bad, prefers to keep her writing slippery enough to be relatable to any person who might happen to be listening.
The video is a colorful stream of winks and nods to old Taylor beef and old Taylor eras that offers up devilish acknowledgment that she knows what everyone has been saying about her all these years.
In the video’s closing moments, 15 different incarnations of the “Old” Taylor quibble in front of a jet plane.
As a stand-alone piece, the last 40 seconds of “Look What You Made Me Do” reckon snarkily with the fact that everyone has been sick of Taylor Swift faking being squeaky clean for years now.
Like Phaedra, Taylor doesn’t fully commit to going dark, because the real supervillain thing to do would be to say, “Yeah, I did what I did. What are you gonna do about it?” Phaedra gave up stone-faced silence instead of truth.
If Taylor wants us to believe she’s canny enough to know what terrible things people think about her, then she also knows they’ll read her new snake-emoji fixation as Kim K. slander, and the gravestone for the pseudonym she used to write “This Is What You Came For” as a jab at the time Calvin Harris said that she hated Katy Perry because she’s bored and looking for someone new to bury.
“Look What You Made Me Do” is a flubbed attempt at turning bad press into good music, a too-soft shot back at people who damn near ruined her reputation, and a too-late acknowledgment that Taylor Swift is not the character she plays on TV. We knew that already.