On Aug. 21, 2017 the Internet shook when Taylor Swift dropped the first of three short clips featuring snakes. Popularly associated as an ode to her feud with Kanye West, snakes were a staple in the fight between the two stars. As a response to Kim Kardashian releasing audio recordings of Taylor Swift agreeing to a certain portion of West’s lyrics pre-release for his song “Famous,” many took to Swift’s Instagram and bombarded every post – from the most recent to the oldest – with snake emojis.
In 2012 Swift rid herself of the sweet country girl by releasing RED. Now in 2017, Swift reincarnates and slithers into her new form which embraces a much darker aesthetic than ever before. Before before her rebirth, there was a moment of silence for the now dead “old Taylor Swift,” may she rest in peace.
“I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009,” said Swift on Twitter in response to her public dispute with West in July of 2016.
She took the liberty of taking herself out of the narrative when she disappeared from social media shortly after that once she said what she needed to. Whether it is Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, T-Swift was nowhere to be found. All her social media accounts were a blank space.
The pressures induced by both traditional and non-traditional forms of media tend to do this in different ways to many artists in popular culture. Most haven’t gone as far as deleting themselves off social media, but many have used the public eye’s tension put upon them by media to reinvent themselves.
Miley Cyrus’s transformation from good girl Hannah Montana to raunchy Miley is another clear example of this. In 2013, we got our first glimpse of the new Miley as she twerked her reborn self into reality during her performance with Robin Thicke at the VMA Awards.
The media had a clear cut-out of who Miley Cyrus was before this– the innocent girl who simply took off her wig and started making her own music. However, she didn’t want to be held to these standards. Instead, she used media’s intense interest in her image to aggressively change into that of a woman who embraces sexuality, human expression and the need for a good high.
From racy photo-shoots, dance moves and outfits to Instagram posts that don’t conform to what is appropriate for a Disney star, nothing about her lent itself to giving the world the best of both worlds. Alas, the instant craze over the new Miley Cyrus allowed her to bring the public a revitalized version of who she is and the kind of music and art she wants to make.
Swift’s transformation has been no different. Her use of non-traditional forms of media like Twitter, Instagram, among others, has given her a platform for reinvention. What started with snake videos has led to a new single and video release that has acted as a cathartic detachment from every stereotype, image, mean word or artistic box she has ever been associated with.
Musically, the new single is unlike her previous work, but is also nothing to be excited about. Alone, the throbbing bass rhythm is simplistic and trite. People are more interested in how this rhythm works with the spoken word she uses throughout the song. Sounding much like a heartbeat, the rhythm does what it needs to do. It builds up the anticipation of her audience as they are introduced to the high stakes she presents in the phrase “look what you made me do.”
The musical genius of Taylor Swift is not the main concern for most fans and the media. Instead, the drama that forms the foundation of this song has listeners grappling with all the innuendo Swift uses vocally and visually. The most stand out of these really attests to Swift’s connection to popular culture, historical figures and her own humor.
Whether it’s her sipping on tea served by a snake like Kermit in the viral meme, her use of the famous Julius Caesar quote “Et Tu, Brute?” (meaning “even you, Brutus?”) that questions loyalty engraved on her golden throne or reference to a “tilted stage” social media swears is an allusion to the one Kanye used on tour, everything was fair game for Swift as she reclaims her reputation.
This is the greatness of the new Taylor Swift that I am reluctant to recognize. Though in my opinion the song isn’t good, Swift is smart. She is taking advantage of the drama media, social networks and her audience excite in to make fun of any narrative the world has ever given her a role in. The humor and confidence she is serving us in the face of adversity brings her power far beyond the monetary value and massive following she gets in a comeback like this.
It’s the kind of power that shows girls that no matter your past, your future and how people view you is determined by the way you handle previous experiences. If they are going to hurt your reputation and laugh at you, you might as well use your influence to laugh too, turn it into a hit single, make a viral music video and splash around in your diamond filled tub.
“Look What You Made Me Do” and its music video has everyone turned around about who the new Swift will be. We have seen her make fun of herself in songs like “Blank Space,” but she has never used this self-awareness to demand a new era of her brand. With the sixth studio album set to be released on November 10, fans and critics alike are waiting to see where this untamed version of Taylor Swift will take us on her beautifully graffitied plane. Martha Perez-Mendez is assistant entertainment director. Her column, Music Matters, comments on and reviews recent music releases. This coloumn does not reflect the views or opinion of FIU Student Media.
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