Is Taylor Swift is Dead?
And should we just shake it off?
I listened to KCRW’s most recent episode of “Left, Right and Center” this morning and heard Vulture’s Mark Harris declare Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” the “first piece of Trump-Era Pop Art.”
And with a President impervious to shame, tagging his blame stained tweets #MAGA as he schils merchandise made in China, you hear Swift’s lyrics and watch a music video blurring the line between homage and ripoff and you can, fairly, interpret them as another blameless screed of self victimization.
But Swift has never been one to hold her tongue in the face of her critics. Few have the cojones to successfully counter sue a defamation of character suit brought by an individual accused of sexual harassment, for example.
And the truth is, upon deeper reflection, “Look What You Made Me Do” isn’t as big a departure from her previous hits as it might seem on the surface.
A common theme in Swift’s previous songs is the unfairness of the world, and the people dwelling in it, but her protagonists typically rise above the fray to succeed in spite of the odds stacked against them. From the young lovers of “Love Story” to the Swift avatar in “Shake It Off,” the one, unshakeable belief the artist conveys through her music is resilience.
Now consider these words from “Look What You Made Me Do:”
But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time
So, yes, while Swift takes her critics to task for their failings, she isn’t absolving herself of responsibility for her trials or for handling the fallout from them, as a certain orange-hued executive is apt to do.
Don’t get me wrong. “Look What You Made Me Do” is, charitably, not a very good song. In the absence of the hope expressed in many of her previous tunes, we’re left with simple vengeance, leaving us to feel not so much empowered by Swift’s lyrics but simply worn out by the pettiness of the dispute.
And in that respect, Swift’s tune is, indeed, symbolic of an era when a president, holding the power of life and death in his hands, soothes his ego by venting his id like a pop star in front of the entire world, 140 characters at a time.