Taylor Swift returns “from the dead,” releases two new singles in advance of sixth album

Fri, 2017/09/08
Ethan Castro

If anything else, the music artist Taylor Swift is undeniably ubiquitous. One of the most commercially successful artists of modern times, Swift has certainly come a long way from teenage country music days. Her last released album, “1989”, was her first official pop album, fully embracing this new style. Now, after a very elusive and cryptic marketing campaign (containing many teases of snake motifs), Swift has officially announced her next album, “reputation,” due for release on November 10. From the limited information available, including promotional materials, album art, and two singles, Swift seems to be going in a much darker direction- a contrasting analog to her country origins.

The first single of the album to chronologically be released, “Look What You Made Me Do,” certainly lends credence to this darker tone both lyrically and from its accompanying music video. Instead of any references to love or romance, Swift instead chooses to sing about her many sensationalist media altercations with figures such as Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Kanye West. Swift’s persona in this song is best described as vengeful, going as far as to claim her all her enemies will “all get yours.” Another notable lyric occurs during the song’s bridge, during which Swift coldly declares that “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” because “she’s dead.” Whether Swift is properly declaring this new album as a departure from her past self or is just satirizing her media personas remains to the discretion of the listener.

However, the music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” and all its extravagant visuals add some credibility to the satirical nature of the track. Rising from her own grave at the start of the video, Swift shifts between a series of self-satirizing (and extravagant) scenes, including a queen sitting upon a throne room of snakes (referencing her popular media persona as a deceiving “snake”), a bathtub full of diamonds (complete with a $1 bill in reference to her recently-won sexual assault case against David Mueller), a Katy Perry lookalike crashing a golden sports car (likely due to the supposed rivalry between the two artists), a robbery of a company known as “Stream Co.” (a reference to her controversial decision to temporarily pull her discography off many music streaming services), and finally the tower made out of former selves (with versions of her in outfits from past music videos all present). However, the most tongue-in-cheek portion of the video has to be the self-deprecating slew of insults by herself to herself after the song ends. A line of Taylor Swifts, past and present, all stand in a line following the ending to the song and engage in a back-and-forth series of self-satirizing remarks, concluding with her unanimously telling herself to “shup up” after asking to “be excluded from this narrative.” Fans who have been following Swift’s life in the mainstream media will know the significance of that statement, and Swift is showing a full awareness of her negative portrayals and is declaring an ability to own them for the sake of songwriting.

Just as “Look What You Made Me Do” shows Swift’s ability to own her negative media personas for the purpose of creating a song, the album’s second single to be released, “…Ready For It?” demonstrates that her old self is not completely dead, despite what she may have said. A much more traditional electronic pop song that once again uses Swift’s love life as inspiration for its lyrics, even going as far as to contain vague sexual imagery in a much more positive and upbeat delivery.

“reputation” is set for release on November 10. The Illinois Tech student radio station, WIIT 88.9FM Chicago, also has a weekly show dedicated to Taylor Swift and her discography. Titled “no its becky,” the show is live every Thursday 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. CST on the station’s digital stream at radio.iit.edu.