On “Look What You Made Me Do,” Taylor Swift Sets the Scene for a New Era


“I don’t trust nobody, and nobody trusts me,” Taylor Swift sings in the bridge of her much-anticipated, much-discussed new single, “Look What You Made Me Do.” And it’s hard to blame her. There is no pop-culture figure at this moment whose every action is picked apart in the way that Swift’s is. Nothing she does can just go quietly remarked upon. It’s either the greatest song ever, or the worst outfit you’ve ever seen, or the most inspiring message, or the least relatable facial expression. An entire news cycle was recently spent dwelling on the question of whether Swift was . . . hiding inside a storage box in a photo that circulated on a wire service.

For most of 2017, Swift has been carefully silent, out of the public eye. The impulse is easy to understand; as she sings in the single, “The world moves on, another day, another drama, drama / But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma.” While there were enough reports and rumors swirling during her “hiatus” that it was clear Swift was brewing up something, the shape of her sixth album didn’t become clear in any tangible way until earlier this week, when she announced, via Instagram post, that she would be releasing Reputation on November 10. (This came after several semi-cryptic posts of a snake, in which she seemed to be “reclaiming” the snake imagery that had been targeted at her following Kim Kardashian Snapchat-gate.) The album art features Swift amidst floating newsprint. It was immediately clear that Swift was going to be pushing back against the narratives that have permeated the Internet discourse over the past few years—perceived feuds with fellow artists, high-profile relationships, and the rest. Would reputation be a way for Swift to annotate the headlines of the past few years, like the musical version of a Genius post?

Well, after hearing the first single, it’s too early to tell. “Look What You Made Me Do” is brash and laced with angst and frustration in a way that Swift singles generally are not (“Shake It Off” seems even more impossibly chipper now by comparison). But, aside from a lyric here or there (Twitter has decided Swift’s reference to a “tilted stage” refers to the stage of Kanye West’s Life of Pablo tour), there isn’t much specificity here in the way of a “Dear John” or “Out of the Woods” or “All Too Well,” where it was easy to piece together the timing and circumstance related to what she was addressing. “Look What You Made Me Do” could be about an ex-boyfriend, or a fellow pop star, or a rapper, or a reality-television star married to a rapper, or some other celebrity entirely. More likely, it’s about all of them at once—or, rather, the general underlying set of circumstances existing on the Internet and elsewhere that results in Swift getting placed in a photo composite opposite another celebrity again and again and again (sometimes by this very Web site).

If anything, the first single almost seems to function as the prologue of a musical. She’s setting the scene here for the 14 (!) tracks to follow. She’s fed up. She’s not thrilled about what she perceives as what “you” have done, what “you” have forced her into doing, how “you” have created the twisted environment she inhabits—and, yes, she’s going to tell you why. She has a “list of names,” as she explains in the song, and there’s a very good chance we’re going to be hearing about a lot of the people on it!

While many have noted that Swift appears to be moving in a different, perhaps surlier direction, based on the one song (produced by Jack Antonoff, with whom she collaborated on three 1989 tracks), there is much here that seems similar to previous Swift album cycles. She is releasing her music with familiar timing (single in late summer, album in the fall). She’s working with Antonoff and frequent music-video collaborator Joseph Kahn again. She’s teaming up with a whole lot of brands. She is associating with Shonda Rhimes television shows. She is carefully rolling out her materials.

While the tenor is different (there is no cheery Yahoo livestream this time around, and the captions on her social media are written in a distanced third person instead of the conversational tone of previous cycles), it’s safe to say we are going to be hearing a lot more from Swift soon—the music video premieres this Sunday night at the Video Music Awards—and you can be sure it will be exactly in the way she wants us to hear it. Even after stepping back for the past year, if there is anything Swift has achieved time and time again, it is taking hold and constructing a narrative.

Full ScreenPhotos:Taylor Swift’s Bold Fashion Evolution, from Cowgirl to Couture

At the 2006 C.M.A. Awards when she was just 16, Taylor Swift was a fresh face. Her curls were slightly 80s, but she definitely stood out.

Photo: by Rick Diamond/WireImage.

By 2007, Swift started gaining fame and with it a nomination as one of the A.M.A.’s favorite female country artists. Here, she paired cowgirl boots with a satin shift dress—not quite a clear winner (nor was she, in the competition) but a definite step in the right direction.

By 2007, Swift started gaining fame and with it a nomination as one of the A.M.A.’s favorite female country artists. Here, she paired cowgirl boots with a satin shift dress—not quite a clear winner (nor was she, in the competition) but a definite step in the right direction.

Photo: by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

Aiming for a glamorous look for 2007’s Country Music Association Awards, Swift’s southern-gal gown didn’t so much say, “Belle of the ball,” as “Belle from *Beauty and the Beast.*” Still, her elegant hair and jewelry were making definite strides.

Aiming for a glamorous look for 2007’s Country Music Association Awards, Swift’s southern-gal gown didn’t so much say, “Belle of the ball,” as “Belle from Beauty and the Beast.” Still, her elegant hair and jewelry were making definite strides.

Photo: by Frank Mullen/WireImage.

At 19, Swift snagged a best-new-artist nomination from the 2008 Grammy Awards—and a demure lavender gown custom-made for her by Sandi Spika.

At 19, Swift snagged a best-new-artist nomination from the 2008 Grammy Awards—and a demure lavender gown custom-made for her by Sandi Spika.

Photo: by Steve Granitz/WireImage.

Swift began another year of style (and hair) transformations at the 2016 Grammys in an Atelier Versace bandeau top and floor-length skirt, while also debuting her new blunt bob.

Swift began another year of style (and hair) transformations at the 2016 Grammys in an Atelier Versace bandeau top and floor-length skirt, while also debuting her new blunt bob.

Photo: From .

While walking the red carpet at *Vanity Fair*’s Oscars party, Swift showed off what may be her sexiest look to date. Her couture Alexandre Vauthier gown included a thigh-high slit and a neckline that just barely missed her belly button.

While walking the red carpet at Vanity Fair’s Oscars party, Swift showed off what may be her sexiest look to date. Her couture Alexandre Vauthier gown included a thigh-high slit and a neckline that just barely missed her belly button.

Photo: From .

After chopping off even more of her hair for her May 2016 *Vogue* cover, Swift took it to the next step by dyeing it bleach blonde. She kept up the edge for her hosting duties at the Met Gala, where she wore a silver cutout Louis Vuitton dress, paired with lace-up sandals and a dark lip.

After chopping off even more of her hair for her May 2016 Vogue cover, Swift took it to the next step by dyeing it bleach blonde. She kept up the edge for her hosting duties at the Met Gala, where she wore a silver cutout Louis Vuitton dress, paired with lace-up sandals and a dark lip.

Photo: From .

At the 2006 C.M.A. Awards when she was just 16, Taylor Swift was a fresh face. Her curls were slightly 80s, but she definitely stood out.

by Rick Diamond/WireImage.

By 2007, Swift started gaining fame and with it a nomination as one of the A.M.A.’s favorite female country artists. Here, she paired cowgirl boots with a satin shift dress—not quite a clear winner (nor was she, in the competition) but a definite step in the right direction.

by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

Aiming for a glamorous look for 2007’s Country Music Association Awards, Swift’s southern-gal gown didn’t so much say, “Belle of the ball,” as “Belle from Beauty and the Beast.” Still, her elegant hair and jewelry were making definite strides.

by Frank Mullen/WireImage.

At 19, Swift snagged a best-new-artist nomination from the 2008 Grammy Awards—and a demure lavender gown custom-made for her by Sandi Spika.

by Steve Granitz/WireImage.

For her 2009 best-female-video win for “You Belong with Me,” Swift wore a sensational Kaufmanfranco dress to the MTV Video Music Awards, guaranteeing that she belonged on the red carpet. Forget pop princess—here, she’s a Grecian goddess.

by CHANCE YEH/PatrickMcMullan.com.

As the queen of red-carpet rebounds, Swift wore this sultry, midnight-blue Kaufmanfranco gown post-breakup with actor Taylor Lautner. Despite her angst, Swift swept up four awards at the 2010 Grammys, including album of the year and best country album.

by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

For her red-carpet appearances, Swift has been known to alternate between soft and structured silhouettes. For the 2010 Met Ball, Swift arrived in a lacy Ralph Lauren gown with exposed shoulders, revealing a sweet yet seductive side to her fans.

By BILLY FARRELL/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Showing more red-carpet versatility and the ability to work a train, Swift chose this dramatic J. Mendel Couture gown for the 2011 Met Ball.

By CHANCE YEH/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Swift made a daring risk at the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party by shedding the conservative hemlines in this Zuhair Murad mini-dress—a win indeed.

From Fairchild Archive.

After the success of her 2010 album, Speak Now, Swift was awarded entertainer of the year by the Academy of Country Music. She accepted the prestigious award in a flowing, embellished Elie Saab Couture gown perfectly fitting for her triumph.

by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic.

Ever a red-carpet chameleon, Swift mixed it up in this peach J. Mendel mini-dress for the 2011 People’s Choice Awards.

by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic.

At the following year’s Academy of Country Music Awards, Swift was awarded, yet again, Entertainer of the Year. Swift’s single “Mean” was also nominated for best video at the ceremony. Note the white-hot J. Mendel gown, the bangs, and how the fierce waves of the dress match her blond hair.

by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

Emboldened to take risks in her old age (that’s a joke, people), Swift chose this sleek J. Mendel suit for the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards.

by ANDREAS BRANCH/patrickmcmullan.com.

Starting off her year right, Swift was nominated for a Golden Globe for her original song for 2012’s The Hunger Games. The odds were in her favor in this sultry Donna Karan Atelier gown.

From Fairchild Archive.

In this plunging Ralph Lauren gown, Swift makes bold moves toward a sexier red-carpet appearance—a new look for the 24-year-old singer.

by ANDREAS BRANCH/PatrickMcMullan.com.

Embracing this new boldness, Swift rocks a short, beaded Elie Saab dress in a silhouette that works extremely well for her, at the 2013 N.R.J. Music Awards in Cannes.

by Francois Durand/.

The former country-music heroine secured her status as a worldwide music and style icon by accepting the International Artist Award at the 40 Principales Awards 2013 in Madrid.

From Europa Press/.

At the 2013 Grammys, Swift gave us a return to full-on Grecian glamour in a pleated J. Mendel gown. It’s hard to believe that someone can look this flawless in the aftermath of a breakup—but we guess that’s why they write breakup songs, isn’t it? For all kinds of closure, except the type that gets in the way of a fierce, revealing dress.

by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

At the following year’s awards ceremony, Swift wore a Gucci chain-mail gown, paving the way for Bella Hadid and Kim Kardashian West to follow suit years later.

From .

After dropping her music video for “Shake It Off,” the lead single from her now platinum album 1989, Swift arrived at the MTV Video Music Awards a week later wearing a surprising Mary Katrantzou bodysuit. But 1989-era Taylor Swift was just getting started.

From .

After performing at the 2014 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Swift brought sexiness and glamour to the pink carpet, while also doing her best Angelina Jolie leg.

From .

For the 2015 Grammys, Swift turned in her crystal gowns for a teal ombré Elie Saab dress with magenta heels.

From .

Continuing her 2015 style transformation, she arrived on the red carpet for the Billboard Music Awards in a white Balmain jumpsuit, featuring a plunging neckline and multiple cutouts.

From .

Then there was the 2015 V.M.A.s, where Swift went home with the most awards of the night, including video of the year for “Bad Blood.” With her squad in tow, she sparkled in a matching Ashish crop top and cinched pants.

From .

Swift began another year of style (and hair) transformations at the 2016 Grammys in an Atelier Versace bandeau top and floor-length skirt, while also debuting her new blunt bob.

From .

While walking the red carpet at Vanity Fair’s Oscars party, Swift showed off what may be her sexiest look to date. Her couture Alexandre Vauthier gown included a thigh-high slit and a neckline that just barely missed her belly button.

From .

After chopping off even more of her hair for her May 2016 Vogue cover, Swift took it to the next step by dyeing it bleach blonde. She kept up the edge for her hosting duties at the Met Gala, where she wore a silver cutout Louis Vuitton dress, paired with lace-up sandals and a dark lip.

From .





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