Final night time, after a social media blackout that eerily coincided with the eclipse, then a bunch of cryptic posts of snakes, and eventually, the disclosing of her “graphically designed” album cowl, Taylor Swift launched her new single, “Look What You Made Me Do.” It’s a tune that’s, nearly solely and completely, about her longstanding beef with Kanye West, filled with not-particularly refined allusions to the rapper and potshots at his stage design (“your tilted stage”) and trend sense (the lyric video’s stutter shades), supposed as a rebuttal to the year-old controversy over a line from Kanye’s “Well-known.” (“I really feel like me and Taylor may nonetheless have intercourse / I made that bitch well-known.”) You might recall that Swift’s condemnation of that lyric, adopted by Kim Kardashian releasing a video wherein Swift provides Kanye an enthusiastic, verbal okay, briefly ate up music and tabloid headlines for a big swath of 2016.
There was lots extra back-and-forth about this, nevertheless it’s okay when you stopped caring—it’s a petty, performative slap-fight, and that’s solely the purpose. “Look What You Made Me Do” is pop music that’s each about and particularly engineered for the content material cycle, and, lo, it has already created one other one. The only appears largely reviled on Twitter; Swift followers, in the meantime, have mobilized to inundate Kardashian’s Instagram to such a level that she’s issued a agency “no snake emoji” coverage on her web page. (You possibly can nonetheless put up one, nevertheless it’ll be seen solely to you.) Shrewdly, Swift has made certain it’s not simply about Kanye: “Look What You Made Me Do” steps on the discharge of Katy Perry’s new single, “Swish Swish”—a observe that’s itself interpreted to be a diss aimed toward Swift. Following pop music proper now could be a bit like studying by means of an limitless batch of subtweets, attempting to find out who’s shading you. It’s created a kind of karmic cycle of retribution that may solely be accomplished as soon as Kanye releases a sick burn on Katy Perry, thus making the circle complete.
Swift has coyly turned her songs into sly winks at her private life earlier than; just about all of her love songs (learn: most of her songs) are, whether or not subtly or explicitly, understood to be “about” one among her well-known ex-boyfriends. This has all the time been a part of the enjoyable of listening to Taylor Swift—the sense that she’s dishing to you personally. On 1989‘s glorious “Clean House,” she took a extra meta flip, basically singing concerning the memetic high quality of all these tabloid tales: “Acquired an extended checklist of ex-lovers / They’ll inform you I’m insane.” This seems to have been foreshadowing for Fame, which, when you can decide an album by its garish cowl, appears to be fairly actually all concerning the press. (Simply what 2017 America wants; one other public determine demonizing the press.) Swift is, if nothing else, a grasp of promoting and of utilizing her music to perpetuate the “Who might she be speaking about this time?” media cycle.
However whereas Swift has slowly come to undertake the darkness of pop-music-as-press-statement, Kanye was born there. He’s a person who responded to a nasty breakup by reinventing R&B on 808s & Heartbreak. The backlash he acquired to his authentic Taylor Swift incident—dashing the stage on the VMAs method again in 2009—resulted in “Energy,” nonetheless one among his most monstrous tracks, a fire-breathing assertion of celeb id that’s additionally kind of the urtext of 2010s content-cycle pop. Beef, in fact, is inherent to hip-hop, wherein cutthroat competitiveness is a core creative benefit; Swift deserves some respect for splicing this ethos into pop-country, a style that has lengthy been wealthy with character, however that Swift has given hip-hop’s surplus of gossip, too.
But when “Look What You Made Me Do” is supposed to totally enter that fray—and Fame is slated to be launched on the 10th anniversary of the demise of Kanye’s mother, which, if intentional, ought to be thought-about a struggle crime—it’s type of a weak shot. It’s a muddled “heel” flip that awkwardly makes an attempt to take care of her hero picture, not less than to her snake-posting base (“I bought smarter, I bought more durable”). The overwhelming message of “Look What You Made Me Do,” oozing out of even its title, is that she was drawn, towards her will, into this morass—a sufferer of bigger, extra evil forces. However when you’re going to go heel, you must relish in it, not insist upon your individual innocence over a Proper Mentioned Fred pattern. It’s good content material, however a nasty tune, which is strictly the kind of gum-smacking media-industry cynicism she appears to be attacking.