Taylor Swift’s comeback may be a bad song but it is at least interesting. A pop song without a great hook, an EDM song without a drop, this is Taylor Swift’s attempt at a mood piece.
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is full of lines ripped straight from the Nutshells guide to Othello. Betrayal! Dishonour! This is Taylor’s attempt at setting a mood, an ambience, a vibe, for her comeback. Surely, more pop-savy tracks are yet to come. Think when Rih set the foundations for the Anti era with the release of ‘American Oxygen’.
A doomy, deathly vibe hangs over ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. According to Tay, that is. Listener experiences may vary. The song is about professional suicide, or just regeneration – ushering in the new version of Taylor Swift, one that wants to be taken seriously and wants us to forget that time she sang the refrain “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.”
Taylor establishes this context with real decorum- by faking a voicemail message. “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now…why? (dramatic pause) Oh, cos she’s dead!“. Move over Orson Welles this lady has it.
Over a synthpop framework, Taylor lays out her burdens, the many quandaries of being an attractive twenty seven year old millionaire. The production is actually pretty tight, with some weird and fun little touches; the track borrows the cadence of ‘I’m Too Sexy’. This serious tone seems par for the course – the hilariously try-hard cover for her awaited album looks like a new edition of Capote’s In Cold Blood.
You can read this as a reaction to the increasingly public attacks from Katy Perry – who whipped up the supposed Perry v. Swift beef to flog her new album. You could read this as an appeal to the music-going public, whose response to her has become increasingly vitriolic.
Certainly the context Taylor Swift now finds herself in is difficult to capitalise on. Much has changed since the 1989 album cycle ended, with Swift the biggest pop star in the world. There is now a public perception of Taylor that may be unfair, and perhaps even misogynistic. Successful women are often targeted.
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is lovingly produced filler, full of quirks and interesting nuances that are in service of a shoddily written tune, one that wants you to understand that Taylor’s problems like, really matter. Unfortunately this comes off as embarrassing schlock, little more than insubstantial, cloying, and pathetic high school drama.
Taylor Swift may consider herself to be a serious artiste but she may struggle to find people who agree with her.