The Problem With What Taylor Swift Is Doing Right Now
In order for this to not sound like trash-talk, I need to be clear on one thing: I love Taylor Swift.
I truly love her. Big fan. Huge. Historically I would go so far as to say that I’m obsessed with her music. I know every word, to every song, on every album she has ever written and – unfortunately – that is not an exaggeration.
Which makes it all the more frustrating to admit that I really, really hate what she is doing right now.
The demise of the original Taylor Swift brand – a brand that she spent more than a decade building – and the brand she has since replaced it with is quite devastating and, dare I say, petty.
After a solid year out of sight, but not out of mind (*cough* Kanye), Taylor re-entered the spotlight on August 18th by deleting her entire social media history, including her Instagram feed. And what should have felt like someone simply asking for a clean slate, instead felt like pure rage. What followed was a series of cryptic snake videos, the release of “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Are You Ready For It?” (which we were shooketh to discover we were not) and an Instagram picture captioned, “There will be no further explanation. There will be only reputation.” This all led us to believe that days of album listening parties, surprise fan moments, cat videos and general over-sharing were now but a distant memory.
There is no denying that the last 18 months have been hell for Taylor Swift. Between the ongoing Katy Perry feud, a sexual assault trial, the Kanye West he-said/she-said/Kim-secretly-recorded-it-all nightmare, and the demise of a few serious relationships, it’s understandable that Taylor would feel flat. But Taylor isn’t flat, she is pissed, and she’s also trying really hard to make us realise that she’s pissed. The problem I have is that it seems in her attempt to show the media just how pissed she is, she’s lost sight of who she makes her music for.
The change in trajectory from as recently as 1989 to the two songs from her new album, Reputation, is mind blowing. When did her inspiration for song writing stop being about the intricacies of love and loss, and start being an attack on any bad press she’s ever received? “Look What You Made Me Do” is quite literally the opposite of “Shake It Off”. The latter was an anthem about feeling comfortable in your own skin, drowning out the haters, letting go of the bullsh*t and just being okay with yourself. In LWYMMD, not only is she engaging with the opinions of the tabloids but she’s making it almost entirely about them and thus disengaging a lot of her diehard fans who hadn’t been deterred by the bad press anyway. And the irony of making music for your haters is that most of them won’t even bother listening.
I’m not interested in watching Taylor Swift use her platform to give a big F-U to anyone who’s ever crossed her. I’m not interested in an album that feels more like a Vanity Fair exposé than a body of work three years in the making. Couldn’t she have just surprised us all with a BANGER album that paid homage to the crap she endured last year but ultimately rewarded her devoted fans with some damn good music and great lyrics? Because right now all she’s trying to do is punish her haters and it’s the fans who are paying the price. Which is quite literally what her fans will be doing when the album drops on November 10th. Because that’s what Taylor Swift fans do. They buy the album anyway. Praying there is a slither of nostalgia, or a Harry Styles reference, to be found somewhere on the track list.
It seems to me, for her to announce the “death” of her former self was a mistake. None of her fans actually wanted to see that Taylor leave.