Taylor Swift's new song might be cringeworthy, but she's a marketing maven
Before critics can begin to analyze Taylor Swift's newest release, they must first acknowledge one fact: Swift has cultivated her brand with meticulous precision. The woman that many love (or love to hate) isn't just an artist—she's a marketing maven who calculates every maneuver with skill and then checks her math twice. Hardcore fans can argue that this designation demeans her talent, but it's become impossible to deny her cunning dominion over the music industry.
Until everyone comes to accept that she's equal parts celebrated songstress and savvy businesswoman, all "informed" opinions will merely seem like the late-night ruminations of some crazed Tumblr user who studies Swift's videos with a fine-tooth comb and magnifying glass in hand. With that in mind, you'll be happy to know that I have no plans to dissect the music video for Swift's latest single, "Look What You Made Me Do."
Instead, let's decode the potential motive behind Swift's edgy reentry into the mainstream pop scene. By the end of her "1989" phase, Swift was undoubtedly recovering from the Kim and Kanye debacle. (For those who've been living under a rock, People's Laura Cohen offers a comprehensive rundown of Swift's tumultuous relationship with Kardashian.) Critics and fans alike agree that "Look What You Made Me Do" was born from Swift's desire to reclaim the narrative. However, "Reputation"-era Swift doesn't seem much different from any other incarnation thus far.
Prior to the release of her new single, Swift's social media profiles went dark. While some initially thought she'd been hacked, it turns out erasing all her old posts was another part of her marketing strategy. Why'd she do this, you ask? Because the old Swift's dead, of course! Swift has always had a flair for the dramatic, but unlike the tongue-in-cheek humor behind "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space," Swift's turn toward the dark side seems out of character and awkward.
If Swift's latest ploy teaches us anything, it's that we'll never know the real Swift, no matter how transparent she might seem. She's intensely familiar with how the media depicts her, her squad, and women in general—all the "dead" Taylors make that blatantly clear—but that'll never stop her from living life on her terms. Women know that it's practically impossible to please everyone at any given time, and in this case, Swift's clearly done trying. (If her new ticketing system is any indication, there's plenty more controversy to come.)
Has Swift lost her mind? Hardly. Has Swift lost her cool? Never.
"Look What You Made Me Do" might not sync up with the Taylors of albums past, but something tells me that was Swift's intention. She's not the type to do something that draws criticism without having an underlying motive. In fact, I'm convinced that there's more to the story than some jaded pop star looking for revenge. You never can tell what Taylor Swift's going to do next and this catchy, yet somewhat cringeworthy song seems like the start of something big.
Images c/o YouTube, Marie Claire