Pop star and tabloid fixture Taylor Swift came back in 2018 with a vengeance to defend her Reputation. And judging by the lyrics of her lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” she had specific people in mind when she penned the tune. Before we get to that, however, let’s review the events leading to Swift’s expression of self-vindication.
Prior to Reputation, Swift released her 2014 studio album, the critically acclaimed 1989. Although singles off the album like “Blank Space” were massive hits with critics and fans, Swift found her public image spinning out of control. According to Swift in an October 2015 NME interview, it boiled down to a classic case of overexposure. “I think I should take some time off. I think people might need a break from me,” Swift informed NME of her plans following her wildly publicized 1989 world tour, which included megawatt celebrity guests such as Mick Jagger and Kobe Bryant. That same year, Swift had been accused of everything from glamorizing white colonization to using faux-sisterhood to further her own brand. “Taylor Swift Is Not Your Friend,” read the headline of Gawker‘s Dayna Evans’ piece.
Things only proved worse for Swift in 2016, when the twin forces of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian joined to seemingly expose America’s Sweetheart as a fraud, liar, and inauthentic victim, E! reported. How did Swift’s single “Look What You Made Do” address this? Read on to find out.
Kanye West's 'Famous' lyrics offended Taylor Swift after their brief truce
“Look What You Made Me Do” is most famous for two things — Taylor Swift’s use of Right Said Fred’s iconic “I’m Too Sexy” bass line and her pointed lyrics clearly referencing the not-so-distant feud between the pop star and Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West. To decode the meaning behind Swift’s words, however, one must first know the history of said feud.
In 2016, after a quick respite from their years of awkward tension, Swift and the Kardashian-West’s broke their truce when West released his song “Famous.” The song featured the unflattering lyrics about Swift: “For all my Southside niggas that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b***h famous.” (It is notable that the video for “Famous” features a Taylor Swift look-alike.) Swift first shaded West for it at the 2016 Grammys while accepting the Album of the Year award, when she said, “As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.” The speech itself was problematic for some who argued that Swift continuously capitalizes on feminism for personal gain.
If only the actual Swift-Kardashian-West drama had ended there… Keep scrolling to find out the other half of the backstory behind “Look What You Made Me Do.”
Taylor Swift claimed Kim Kardashian committed 'character assassination' against her
In July 2016, Kim Kardashian released a series of self-filmed Snapchat videos of Kanye West on a telephone call with Taylor Swift. The videos appeared to show that Swift not only had prior knowledge of the line, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex,” despite her initial denial he ever reached out for approval, but had also expressed anticipated delight at the media’s reception. “If people ask me about it, I think it would be great for me to be like, ‘Well, he called me and told me the line before it came out. Joke’s on you guys; we’re fine,'” she said during the recorded with West.
Following the videos’ release, Swift immediately took to her Instagram to call the move “character assassination” in a since-deleted post. “Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me, ‘that b***h’ in his song?” Swift’s caption read. “It doesn’t exist because it didn’t happen (per CoS).” She continued, “Being falsely portrayed as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one I never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”
As of 2016, the beef had become a confusing mess of he said-she said. Swift was not dropping the matter, however. Now, read on to discover how she got her musical revenge via her song, “Look What You Made Me Do.”
'Look What You Made Me Do' all but names Kim Kardashian and Kanye West as its targets
While Taylor Swift never confirmed the subjects of her song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” the clues in both its lyrics and accompanying music video are fairly blatant. According to Harper’s Bazaar, Swift’s opening line “I don’t like your little games / Don’t like your tilted stage” specifically references the type of stage West had used in his 2016 Saint Pablo tour, one which moved above the audience and tilted so attendees could better view the rapper. Another obvious hint at the song’s muses are the last lines of the bridge, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now / Why? Oh! ‘Cause she’s dead!” As Harper’s Bazaar pointed out, this part of the bridge is the only one spoken and edited to sound like a voicemail recording.
It was the music video where Swift really left little guesswork, however. There are symbols of betrayal abound, from the CGI snakes handing Swift her tea, to the words “Et tu, Brute” etched on one arm of Swift’s throne, Bustle noted. In one scene, Swift, while seemingly impersonating a spoiled socialite, is making a recording on her phone, proclaiming that she’s “totally gonna edit this later.” Another “Swift,” wearing her same dress from the 2009 VMAs, utters the words, “Um, I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative,” echoing her July 2016 Instagram caption. It seems as if the singer-songwriter found a way to poke fun at herself while still getting in a dig at her rivals!
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