Look What You Made Me Write

We have very few rules here at Soft Core Sophistry, but one of them is that when Taylor Swift drops a new single after a long hiatus, our hiatus must also end.

Her new single “Look What You Made Me Do” is out, and with the release of her new music video on Sunday, it’s time to give it a full accounting.

Let’s delve deep into what some unnamed someone made Swift do.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the music video we’ll be talking about forever, or until her next single is released, whichever grants us sweet merciful death first.

The first thought you may have about that is “Wow those are some high production values!” That’s true, but we’re here to focus on the song itself.

But, I mean, holy crap, those were some high production values. I half expected to see Tay Tay riding in on a dragon, burning her enemies to a crisp. What was that in the front seat of the car she crashed? An ocelot? An ocelot NOT WEARING ITS SEATBELT?

Babou

Safety first, Babou. It’s like Meowschwitz in there.

Okay, no, let’s focus.

In the time between the release of her incredibly successful album 1989 and this song, Swift has been through a lot. She’s had public feuds, seen her reputation take multiple hits, and been sued for alleging that a guy grabbed her ass despite having no proof other than a picture that seems to show exactly that happening.

Right off the bat, this song shows it’s out to right some of these wrongs. All right, Taylor: bring it.

I don’t like your little games
Don’t like your tilted stage

Yes, we’re off to a rollicking start. This opening is a clear reference to Kanye West, who recently went on a tour with a tilted stage, and who has had a long, ongoing beef with Swift, and has involved Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian.

There’s a lot of fodder to work with here. Kim has long been a punching bag for being vapid and self-absorbed thanks to her various reality shows that follow her being vapid and self-absorbed, while Kanye is a notorious narcissist. South Park did an entire episode about them. Go get it, Taylor!

The role you made me play
Of the fool, no, I don’t like you
I don’t like your perfect crime
How you laugh when you lie
You said the gun was mine
Isn’t cool, no, I don’t like you (oh!)

Oh. Um. That’s less than I was hoping for. You don’t like that you were made to play the fool, and it “isn’t cool” that they said the gun was yours, and all you can say to these rather serious problems is “I don’t like you”? You’re gonna need to hit a little harder, sweetie.

Still, maybe she’s just setting things up. A slow build to burns of epic proportions.

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

Yes, that’s what I want to see. Get smarter, get harder. Rise up from the dead to wreak your terrible vengeance. Although I’m not sure how you got smarter and harder in the nick of time if you still wound up dead, but that’s not important. Lay into them, TS!

I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined
I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!

Yes, you have a list of names! You’re Arya Stark, you’re reciting your list of names, and you’re going to go rain fire and blood upon those who wronged you and wait why are you just checking it once and checking it twice? These names are burned into your soul, a soul of hatred and vengeance, just go do something to them. This just makes you sound like an off-kilter Santa Claus.

But we’re in the middle of the chorus. Let’s see what she has in store for this unnamed (wink wink) nemesis or nemeses.

Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me
Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me do
Look what you just made me do

Believe me Tay Bae, I’d love to look at what they just made you do. But all your video shows is you crashing a car. Is that what they made you do? Because that seems more like you’re, I don’t know, trying to guilt them into feeling bad rather than actually doing anything.

Maybe things heat up in the next verse. Roll it!

I don’t like your kingdom keys
They once belonged to me
You asked me for a place to sleep
Locked me out and threw a feast (what?)
The world moves on, another day, another drama, drama
But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma
And then the world moves on, but one thing’s for sure
Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours

I’m still feeling let down. Sure, this one ends with the vaguely threatening “you’ll all get yours” bit, but it comes after she says she thinks about karma. But you can’t threaten someone with karma because that’s something that just happens without your intervention. Is that all you’re offering, Taylor?

karma-portioned-by-cosmos

But the song is really picking up in energy here. I’m excited for where this is going. Keep picking up the heat and maybe eventually even Taylor Swift can lay a mean diss track. Let’s see what this builds to!

Oh damn it, it’s just the chorus again. It’s so slow and boring. It kills all of the energy that was building up in the last verse.

This time what we’re looking at what they made Taylor do is dress in a black S&M outfit, and in a black fishnet stocking outfit, and cut the wing off a plane. Did she destroy a bunch of vehicles in the last few months while I was unaware? Is that what she was made to do?

lwymmd_plane

What do you have against safe transportation, Taylor?

The next “verse” if we want to be so charitable as to call it that is just Taylor repeating that she doesn’t trust anybody, nobody trusts her, and she’ll be the actress starring in the recipient’s bad dream. I gotta tell you girl, unless you’re Freddie Kruegering this situation, threatening to haunt someone’s dreams isn’t much of a threat.

Then we get easily the best part of the song. Taylor beautifully returns to the spoken word idea that was comically bad in “Shake It Off” and it is laughably terrible here.

“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.”
“Why?”
“Oh, ’cause she’s dead!”

The construction of this is bad from the start. By saying “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” she’s suggesting that the caller on the other end specifically asked for “the old Taylor” which no one would ever do.

Then she uses a trope that is prevalent throughout bad movies, which is to repeat an unheard question to make sure the audience can hear it, but which is something that humans don’t do in their normal, human lives. If you were to answer the phone and say the person they requested couldn’t come to the phone, and the caller asked “why?” you would never repeat the question.

Then the way she gleefully says “Oh, ’cause she’s dead!” is hilarious and I will never get tired of it. She’s trying to show this hard edge the whole time, but it’s like she’s revealing right there that it’s all laughable. That’s something I can only agree with.

lwymmd

We can’t be expected to take this seriously, right?

Ultimately, this is a very disappointing song, failing on a couple of different levels.

First of all, if there’s one thing Taylor Swift could always do it would be to sing a catchy song. This time, the lines from which the song gets its title seems like it should do the trick, but they’re oddly disjointed. After singing “Look at what you made me do” twice, she changes it up ever so slightly by including the word ‘just’ which is jarring as it tries to get stuck in your head.

Secondly, it’s bad as a diss track. The worst things she ever says are “I don’t like you”, “you’ll all get yours” (implied to be from karma rather than from her), and “look what you made me do”. None of those are very harsh.

Swift is obviously trying to signal a change in herself. The opening of the song shows her crawling out of a grave with a headstone reading “Taylor Swift’s Reputation” and ends with her hating previous versions of her public persona.

In the time leading up to the release of this song, and then again in the music video, she’s made frequent, heavy use of images of snakes. It’s clear she’s trying to say that like the snake sheds its skin, so she is shedding her old ways and becoming something new, something darker.

But she’s still Taylor Swift. When a snake sheds its skin, it doesn’t become a new snake. It has the same appearance, the same personality, the same everything. It’s the same snake.

She’s still the same Taylor Swift. The same girl who was exhorting all of us to just shake it off.  Her transformation is just as shallow as another famous one, done to much catchier music.

greasers

If she really wants to show us darkness and scare us, she can just go back to singing that creepy “You Belong With Me” song. Now that was disturbing.

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