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Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” Considered

September 21, 2017

Austin Carmichael and Jaclyn Barnes square off in their reviews of Taylor Swift’s latest release.

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“Look What You Made Me Do” Rings In New Era for Taylor Swift

For more than three years, Taylor Swift has been riding the wave created by her extremely successful album “1989.” The pop album spawned seven singles and sold over six million copies in the United States alone. Songs such as “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” “Bad Blood,” and “Style” were played repeatedly on radio stations everywhere. However, after “1989” ran its course and faded into the background, Swift fans began to wait for new music. For over half a year, the only new song Swift recorded was “I Don’t Want to Live Forever”, a collaboration with former One Direction member Zayn, which was released in December 2016. Finally, after almost 3 years since the release of “1989”, Swift announced that her next album, entitled “Reputation,” would be released this November. Along with the announcement of the album, the first single was released: “Look What You Made Me Do.”

“Look What You Made Me Do” is a pop song that strays from the style of Swift’s past works by using darker instrumentals, vocals, and lyrics. The beginning of the song features mainly bass, percussion, and Swift’s vocals. The music in the pre-chorus starts to build up an atmosphere of tension, which a normal chorus would release, but instead of having a normal chorus, the song drops into a simple repetition of the words “look what you made me do.” The song feels overcast and dramatic. The lyrics have sparked many fan theories involving Swift’s rivalries and feuds with other artists, including Swift’s controversy with Kanye West. Lyrics such as “I don’t like your tilted stage” seem to reference West’s tilted stage that he used while on his Saint Pablo Tour, and the line “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” appears to be a nod to the infamous recorded phone conversation between Swift and West. The verses are demanding, the chorus features a taunting tone, and it all comes together to create an un-Swift-like song that many did not see coming.

“Look What You Made Me Do” has received mixed reviews from critics. While some praised it for its stylistic change and edgier take, others rejected it as a below-average song with no originality. The song is inarguably popular, no matter what critics’ say; the song jumped to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts less than two weeks after its release. What makes the song so great is the melody of it; it’s easy to sing along to and the instrumentals not only give the song a dark atmosphere but also make the song catchy. It can get stuck in the listener’s your head and stay there for hours but you never get tired of it. Swift did a fantastic job of incorporating the song “I’m Too Sexy” into the chorus; if you’ve heard the song before, you’ll notice it, but it blends seamlessly into the rest of the song. The lore surrounding the song’s lyrics creates a whole story about West and Swift’s phone conversation for the listener to find out, and it brings a whole new dimension to the song. Instead of being a typical radio pop hit, “Look What You Made Me Do” is a tale of how Swift became the dark persona she portrays herself to be these days. The music video also expands the story and gives it more depth, with loads of hidden references carefully placed around the set to give fans something to search for.

The music video for the song premiered at the MTV Video Music Awards. The video, along with the original song, contains many references to Swift’s feuds with other artists, but the video expands on the original references and adds in some new ones. The video begins by paying homage to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” with a scene where Swift crawls out of the ground as a zombie. The next scene shows Swift in a bathtub filled with diamonds, and in the corner of the bathtub lies a single dollar bill, which is theorized to symbolize the single dollar she won in the court trial against DJ David Mueller last month. The trial significantly affected Swift’s public image and demonstrated Swift’s ability to stand her ground. The most significant references in the video, however, come in at the bridge of the song and at the end of the video. Over the course of her career, Swift has gone through numerous changes in her public image. She started out as an innocent teenage country singer and, over the course of the last ten years, she has evolved to become the person she is today. Every different version of Swift from the last ten years of her career appears in the video. In the bridge, today’s incarnation of Swift is shown to be standing on top of all the past versions as they try to climb up and meet modern day Swift. At the end of the video, all the versions of Swift are shown talking with each other. They all argue with each other and repeat insults that critics have spat at Swift in the past. The goal of the appearance of the many different Swifts appears to be so that fans know that these incarnations are no more; there’s a new version of Swift out now, and everyone better get used to her. These appearances complement some lyrics from the bridge, which state, “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s dead!” Swift is definitely setting the stage for a darker era with the “Look What You Made Me Do” video.

While other critics have given “Look What You Made Me Do” mixed reviews, the song is actually rather catchy and is already extremely popular on Spotify and YouTube; on the day of its release, the song broke streaming records on Spotify and viewing records on YouTube. On Spotify, the song was streamed around 8 million times in twenty-four hours, breaking the previous record held by Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” On YouTube, the song’s official lyric video amassed nineteen million views in twenty-four hours, breaking the record for most views on a lyric video in a day. Finally, the official music video for the song commanded a staggering 43.2 million views in one day, smashing the previous record by over ten million views. No matter what critics say about “Look What You Made Me Do,” the the song has already become a smash hit and the public clearly loves it.

What makes “Look What You Made Me Do” so good isn’t just the fact that it’s a catchy pop tune with some edgy stylistic changes that no one was expecting; the story within the song serves to create a detailed explanation as to how Swift became the persona she’s showing herself to be. “Look What You Made Me Do” has opened the door to a new, darker era of Taylor Swift, and when “Reputation” hits stores on November 10, we’ll see what else this new iteration of Swift has to offer.

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    Swift’s New Song May Damage Her “Reputation”

    I went into hearing “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift with an open mind. I thought the artwork looked clean, mature and cool. That along with the album name, “Reputation,” made me think that her new song would be powerful and inspiring. However, I think this is one of the worst songs she’s released. It’s uncreative, below average, and immature.

    The sound of the entire song is uncreative and below average. From a musical aspect, it has the same pattern as almost every pop song. There is nothing that suggests the people involved in creating it went above and beyond; there is nothing that suggests they wanted to make music because that’s what they love. Surprisingly, when an artist releases a song that sounds as if he or she wanted to make it for enjoyment, it sounds a thousand times better than a song released by an artist wanting to put out another single (which is what Swift’s song sounds like).

    I — along with many others — dislike is the overall sound of the song. As many people pointed out on Twitter, it sounds much like another song: “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. Many people and fans think that Swift’s song sounds way too similar. Though it is common for artists to base songs off of other popular pieces, it would be an unwise decision to base it on one that conveys a completely different meaning, has laughable lyrics about being too sexy for a piece of clothing, and reminds everyone of “Shrek.”

    Speaking of song meanings, “Look What You Made Me Do” obtains a negative tone. It has been called a “blame song.” The chorus is a repetitive line that says, “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” (Swift). In other words, it is basically someone saying, “Hey! You made me do this! It’s all your fault, not mine!” Nothing is worse than an adult forwarding his or her actions on another person and constantly victimizing his/herself. Your actions are yours. No one is in charge of how you act and respond. No one is in charge of what you say or what you do. Sure, people may provoke something, but we all have a choice as to whether we do something or not. Instead of placing the blame on someone, take responsibility for your own actions. Are we adults or five-year-olds? Blaming your actions on others seems like something the latter would do.

    Revenge is also a major topic discussed in the song. While many believe revenge to be sweet, does it reflect one’s maturity in a positive way? Nevertheless, all of us are guilty of placing the blame on someone else and wanting revenge. However, should you really make a song solely dedicated to that?

    The music video is also raising some questions. I’ll admit, it is extremely creative. The way all of Taylor’s old personas came in and tried to tear down the “new” Taylor Swift was a positive for the video. The directors and masterminds behind it should be applauded. Nevertheless, there are some flaws. Many people on the internet are forming conspiracies, but they most likely lack truth. However, some of the theories make the video seem like Swift is being pretty insensitive about some things (i.e. Kim Kardashian’s traumatic Paris robbery). However, since those are just theories, I won’t go too into that topic, but Taylor is known for call people out like that and directing songs and music videos toward a person.

    At the end of the video, though, all of the different forms of Taylor are lined up and saying hate comments from their era. Sure, some may find it funny and “savage,” but many others view it as another act of immaturity. It’s obvious Taylor gets hate – every artist does nowadays – but should she point it out? She should not use this to draw more attention to herself. Instead of thinking, “Yes! Call out the haters, Tay!” what comes to my mind is more of, “Please grow up.” How many other popular artists do you see calling out hate comments and drawing attention to themselves like they are the only person receiving them? That being said, such hateful words should not be said to anyone. That – believe it or not – is worse. So in a way, maybe Taylor does have a point with calling them out.

    In my opinion, “Look What You Made Me Do” shouldn’t be getting as much attention as it is. It should not be hyped up just because it’s Taylor Swift. The song is nothing new; in fact, it’s below average. And if you haven’t before, try not to think of “I’m Too Sexy” and Shrek while listening to the song. I dare you.

    Let’s just hope this song doesn’t represent the rest of Swift’s “Reputation” album well.

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