You took one listen to Taylor Swift’s new single, “Look What You Made Me Do” and called it petty.
You took another listen and said Swift, one-time friend to everybody in showbiz whose name wasn’t Kanye, Katy or Kim (Kardashian), had sunken to new depths as the aggressor in a nameless fight.
You said it wasn’t normal for her.
You noted her huge platform then questioned, “is this all she had to say?”
You listened again and called it “cringeworthy,” noting that even her less aggressive earlier fare about love lost and found (but mostly lost) was more inspired, lyrically and musically.
Noting her recent feud with fellow pop star Katy Perry (over some damn dancers?), you said she even stooped to taking a page out of Perry’s book with “Look,” particularly the deadpanned pseudo-rap parts and that ridiculously repeated line about not being trusted and not trusting nobody (double negative hers, not mine).
Given your own platform, you wrote think-pieces about it and called it “victim-blaming” – a stark turn of events from the singer who had just won a court battle where an aggressor – that butt-grabbing radio jock guy – was accused (by her) of doing the same thing – blaming the victim.
You even went low, calling “Look What You Made Me Do” the talk of domestic violence perpetrators everywhere.
Even as one of her biggest fans, you speculated – in some cases prayed – that “Look” was only the throwaway track and that the rest of the songs on her upcoming Reputation album would resuscitate the old sweet Taylor.
Then you turned funny – actually a lot of people did – and wrote tweets. In one of the many Beyoncé-appropriation accusations you said it “looks like Lemonade: Crystal Light.”
When the upcoming album’s artwork was released days before the single was, you made even better funnies with memes like this one (my favorite) comparing the old Taylor to the newly transformed one:
Then the video was released – first on MTV’s now-meaningless Video Music Awards this past Sunday, then on music video streaming services everywhere – after which you unleashed more Beyoncé comparisons, calling it too dark and asking “what was the new emo-Taylor thinking?”
Well, here’s what she was thinking: “cha-ching, I got ’em!”
Taylor Swift is clever. Don’t let the good-girl (gone bad?) persona fool you. She’s as savvy in her marketing as any artist of her generation (well, maybe outside of Beyoncé and now Justin Bieber). Who else can release three consecutive days of serpent-themed tweets after clearing her Twitter account and create the kind of buzz she did to preview a single’s upcoming release?
Taylor is aware of her changing status: everybody’s friend one minute, then exposed (by Kanye West’s wife Kim Kardashian) as the snake in the whole she-gave-me-permission-no-I-didn’t “Famous” lyric controversy the next.
You didn’t think that her next release would turn all that around and she’d use it to her own advantage?
And don’t believe for one minute that the single’s release timing was merely coincidental. When all the American music-industry heads and chart watchers were focused on “Despacito,” 2017’s song-of-the-year (except for some odd reason on MTV) tying and potentially breaking the 21-year-old record for longest time spent at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (16 weeks this past week), along comes “Look What You Made Me Do” to put a stop to all that madness.
Taylor’s song couldn’t have been more appropriately, if not ironically, titled.
Label execs know Billboard’s chart cycle. They know what days a single has to be unleashed and which chart dates it will impact.
Heck, artists might even know it. Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey, for instance, famously watched Billboard charts – and their mounting accomplishments on them – to see which records they could break next. It is in fact Mariah’s bacon that Taylor will be saving when the new Billboard singles chart is unveiled Monday and “Look” is sitting on top of it, eclipsing “Despacito,” and preventing it from achieving that 17th record-breaking week (which would have relegated Carey’s and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” to runner-up status).
And don’t you think that Taylor Swift is also relishing the fact that she is the only woman to top the Billboard Hot 100 so far in 2017 (that’s sad by the way), and the first to do it since Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” 15 months ago?
As “Look What You Made Me Do” gets set to top the chart, Taylor Swift is entering that career phase of popular unpopularity.
You know, when you’re so big people begin to hate on you for general purposes. It’s that phase when anything you do – particularly the good – is met with tepid, backhanded compliments. Like her recent court victory for the “butt-grab” incident – a major win for inappropriately groped women everywhere – which was met with “I don’t like Taylor Swift, but…” qualifiers.
But here’s the thing: we’re still talking about her, writing about her and listening to her – now more than ever – whether or not we like her or her music.
“Look What You Made Me Do” will be her fifth No. 1 on the pop chart. It will get there after a full week of sales, streaming and airplay – the three factors in Billboard’s chart calculations – all of which Taylor dominated in epic fashion upon the song’s release. “Look” got round-the-clock first-day radio play (maybe before radio realized it sucked?), broke YouTube and Spotify first-day streaming records (maybe before you realized it did?) and was downloaded on iTunes more times in one day than any song had been in a whole week this year.
So you see, you don’t have to be the most liked artist or even have the most liked song to be No. 1. You could even have the most disliked song and still do it.
The key word is “most,” period. The most played, the most streamed and the most downloaded.
And that, my friends, is why “Look What You Made Me Do” is the new No. 1 song in America…now and likely for the next several weeks.
Now, while we sit back and watch it dominate the charts, can we get back to more important things, like whether that Taylor Swift-Katy Perry feud is really finally over?