Review: Taylor Swift returns with fiery new single

The pop superstar takes her musical style darker than ever.

By Ashley Dorf | Sept. 9, 2017

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Here lies Taylor Swift, in her grave, away from the public eye that killed her off. Her victim playing is over. Her career is just … dead.

At least that’s what she wants you to think.

Swift’s highly anticipated single “Look What You Made Me Do” was released on Aug. 24, almost three full years since her last release, 1989. “Look” serves as the lead single to Swift’s upcoming sixth album Reputation. Fans, or Swifties, knew a new cycle of music was upon them as Swift’s social media accounts went blank, then displayed cryptic, futuristic videos of a snake, a label given to Swift through her conflicts with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.

“Look” references past Swift songs, beginning with a twisted, repeated sequence that sounds like the evil twin of Swift’s hit “Love Story.”

But that’s about it with similarities. Following the hauntingly soft introduction, a heavy synth pop beat kicks in as Swift throws some harsh words at her enemies: “I don’t like your little games.” In the pre-chorus, Swift explains how she rebounds from criticism: “But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.” This line is perhaps the most reminiscent of Swift’s past work. It is a line with lyrical fluency and relatability to the audience, two points that qualified Swift as an exquisite singer-songwriter in the first place. The line reads as if it came straight from the page of a journal.

The chorus clearly shows Swift’s change in artistic direction. She sarcastically talk-sings, “Look what you made me do,” with various background shouts to complement.

The familiarity of the chorus is intentional. Swift gives songwriting credits to members of ‘90s one-hit wonders Right Said Fred for the resemblance to their 1991 smash “I’m Too Sexy.” The band praised Taylor on Twitter and in a Yahoo! interview for her use of the song and how it introduced “Sexy” to a whole new generation. The interpolation of “Sexy” is Swift’s clever way to ease listeners into her new, darker style.

“Look” repeatedly mentions the “death” that the media and public assigned to Swift’s name. During the bridge, Swift sings that the “old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now,” because she’s “dead” and mentions how she is able to weather intense criticism. Swift has not only been called out for her interactions with celebrities like West, Kardashian and Katy Perry but also for her social media silence on issues like feminism.

Although “Look” has received relatively mixed reviews from critics, fans have contributed significantly to the song’s success. Both its lyric video and music video broke YouTube records and the song will officially hit #1 Wednesday on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, ending the summer reign of Justin Bieber and Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito.” The video received a positive response for its significant symbolism and final moments in which various Swifts from different eras argue with each other.

Yet the critics overlook the most important part of the song: It is laced with satire. By no means is Swift saying she hates the world or men or the media. She’s cleverly giving it a taste of its own medicine.

It is also important to note that “Look” is not a musical or lyrical masterpiece. It is evident, however, that Swift no longer has interest in the public’s opinion, whether about her personal life or her music. Swift released a more traditional song called “...Ready For It?” less than ten days later. It carries a modern, pop feel that resembles her 2014 hit, “Bad Blood.” However, “Look” opens up many possibilities for Swift to further develop her darker style with more substantial lyrical content on Reputation, which drops Nov. 10.

Edited by Claire Colby | ccolby@themaneater.com

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