Before reading Lily Gould’s op-ed on the transformation of Taylor Swift, be sure to watch the embedded video, her newest release, “Look What You Made Me Do.”
If you are a fellow Taylor Swift fan, you may be confused as to why she hasn’t been in the news recently. However, all of the pieces fell together after her song release, “Look What You Made Me Do.” If you have been looking in on Taylor’s whereabouts, you may have realized that she has been M.I.A for a while now. For someone who would post cute candids with her friends on a regular basis, that’s a significant change. Some thought that she could be hidden away either writing or recording. Yet, all of the confusion became even more prevalent when her 102 million Instagram followers found that she had deleted all of her photos. On August 21, she posted a short video of, oddly enough, a black screen with a snake. She proceeded to post more of these videos, but finally posted a picture labeled, “First Single Out Tomorrow Night.” The posts that followed were focused directly on her new album, Reputation, which is set to release on November 10.
The first premiere of her newest song was on a Sunday night at MTV’s Video Music Awards, and it certainly is a lot to take in on your first watch. It is chock full of different sorts of controversy, hidden references, and, again, lots of snakes. In the first scene, she transforms into a zombie in a graveyard. The tombstone on the left side holds her song-writing pseudonym, Nils Sjoberg, which she used to ghost write a song, “This Is What You Came For,” about her boyfriend Chris Harris last year. In my opinion, this symbolizes how she is going to take credit for everything she does from here on out. She will own it and not let anyone take credit for her accomplishments and successes. In addition to that, her zombie outfit symbolizes how 1989 Taylor is dead because it was what she wore in her video “Out of the Woods.” The graveyard scene, loaded with bizarre imagery and metaphor, ends when she is lying in the graveyard wearing her 2014 Met Gala dress, representing the death of the 1989 era.
The next scene transitions into a bathtub full of sparkling jewelry. To the right of the tub, there lays a $1 bill. To me, it is clear that this moment is representing symbolism on how she was rewarded for her recent trial against Radio DJ, who was accused of gropping her at the 2013 meet and greet. This scene also has been rumored to have a political twist. In fact, people have said that this is a visual representation of Melania Trump, and how she is a hidden Trump supporter.
In the third scene, Swift is sitting in a throne with a phrase from Julius Caesar which says, “Et tu Brute.” This translates to “Even you, Brutus?” the famous line that Caesar uttered before being slain by his friend. If you are unaware of the story, Brutus betrays Caesar. This is where the shade is really revealed; this could be towards Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, or Katy Perry.
From there, the video transitions into snakes and everything that they unravel about Taylor Swift’s oldest and most recent drama. You can see them used as her accessories and even one pouring her tea. Taylor is dressed in a Balmain gown, which is popular in the Kardashian and Jenner family. If you are a follower of Kendall Jenner, who’s half sisters with Kim Kardashian, she posted an Instagram a couple of days after the phone conversation with Taylor and Kanye that was made public. The picture shows Kendall in an identical stance and outfit as Swift. Not to mention they are both sipping tea. The popular term, “spilling tea” has become widely used to refer to spreading gossip, and that is exactly what they are doing.
The fifth scene is Swift in a car crash where she crashed her car into a light pole. This anecdote holds meaningful symbolism as she is holding a Grammy, but all the media cares about is the crash. There is no one shown helping her or seeming to care about her wellbeing. This is clearly a bash to the social media world and how their top priorities are towards getting the most drama-filled, headline-grabbing stories instead of thinking about the effects it may have on the celebrity.
The video then shifts into a cage where she disses Katy Perry by showing a rodent while singing, “locked me out and threw a feast.” Katy Perry recently released a song called, “Bon Appetit,” and this brief moment is in direct reference to that single. The next reveals Swift with several people in catsuits, and I found this to be directed towards Spotify because it shows them stealing Steam Co. Swift had stopped selling her music to Spotify in order to give repayments to other artists. However, she was bashed for this because others believed that she just wanted more money.
The following scene features Swift, the leader of these robotic dolls. These dolls are meant to represent female celebrities, a representation of her best friends. Many people believe that these friendships are fake, and this is Swift shutting the stereotypes down.
All that said, Swift couldn’t make a video without referencing an ex-boyfriend. In one scene, she has a row of eight boyfriends; the famous, high-profile boyfriends include Hiddleston, Calvin Harris, Harry Styles, Conor Kennedy, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner, and Joe Jonas. Swift’s men rip off their shirts to reveal the words, “I Heart TS.” Once she snapped her fingers before the T-shirt was revealed, I automatically knew what she was trying to get across. We all know Taylor has been labeled as boy crazy, and this is a representation of people thinking she “brainwashed” her ex-boyfriend Tom Hiddleston and made him wear it.
The next and almost final scene is what pieces it all together. There is a mountain of old Taylor Swift’s including the classic high-schooler from the “You Belong With Me” music video, the dress she wore to the VMA’s when the incident with Kanye West happened, the innocent one wearing pajamas, and the swan costume from the “Shake it Off” video. They all fight to reach the top, but the new Taylor remains at the very top wearing her “Rep” shirt for her new album. She created all the different archetypes for each era, but her individuality is something that isn’t portrayed fully on the media and she is forced into the background. Still, she wants to show that she is the one and only Swift, and that she should not be defined as these characters.
Finally, a total of fifteen old Swift’s come together–including the “new” Taylor–and stand in front of a plane marked, “Reputation.” My personal favorite part of the video is when one Swift holds up her phone and announces she’s “getting receipts” and she will “edit them” too. This is an open reference to Swift’s belief that Kim Kardashian edited that ruthless audio of her. And last but not least, 2009 VMAs Swift says she would “very much like to be excluded from this narrative.”
It is difficult to understand what this all means: Is this just a way to promote herself and get more money? That may be partially true, but I do know that she is getting a lot of publicity and attention from this pseudo reference circus. Despite those factors, the one major thing she got was finally getting her voice out there.
From a fan’s perspective, all I know is that the old Taylor’s have expired, and a new Taylor has been born. We just have to wait and see what her future as an artist holds.