Song of the Day #3,340: ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ – Taylor Swift

We’ve had a whole lot of discussion about Taylor Swift on this blog in recent weeks, mostly centering on her choice of subject matter (namely, herself). I maintain that Swift’s obsessive focus on her own personal drama diminishes her as an artist.

Two days ago, Swift released the first single from her upcoming album Reputation, and I’m sorry to say it reinforces that negative impression.

‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is the worst single — maybe the worst song — Taylor Swift has ever recorded. Musically, it is uninteresting and derivative; lyrically, it is repetitive both literally and thematically. It’s not even catchy, and Swift’s songs are always catchy.

All evidence suggests the song is a response to the criticism Swift received following her last public feud with Kanye West.

To catch up the uninitiated, West included this lyric on his last album: “For all my Southside niggas that know me best / I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous (Goddamn).” Swift (rightly) called out the line as misogynistic and claimed she was unaware of it. West countered that he and Swift had talked at length about the song and she was fine with it.

Kim Kardashian then posted a series of Snapchat videos capturing a conversation between Swift and West in which they did discuss the song and Swift did seem receptive, though the word “bitch” was never mentioned. The fact that West talked to Swift on speakerphone while his wife recorded the call is a little fishy, especially as West insists that he wanted to run the lyrics by her so as not to jeopardize their “friendship.”

I think I lost a dozen brain cells just recounting that episode, and I apologize to my readers for having to read it.

But Taylor Swift has apparently been stewing over the dispute for more than a year, and built the roll-out of her highly anticipated new music around something nobody over 15 gives a shit about.

Come on, Taylor! In the year Donald Trump became president of the United States, the most pressing issue you could find to write about is a social media spat with an ego-maniacal rapper?

And with a chorus that simply repeats the title eight times to the tune of Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’?

The song might not be all about Kanye. A couple of Mean Girls references suggest Swift is also taking a shot at Katy Perry, who once compared her to that film’s titular Regina George. But that just makes it worse. Coming off her brilliant, feminist takedown of groping DJ David Mueller, she’s back to trashing a fellow female artist over backup dancers?

I’m harping on the lyrics, but I have to stress that the music is awful as well. I can’t think of another Taylor Swift song this sonically unpleasant. Is this what we made you do, Taylor? Write your first truly shitty song?

Maybe the rest of Reputation will go in a different direction. A Kanye diss track is certainly a good way to generate headlines and sales, so perhaps this is a commercially savvy move in advance of more meaningful material. I sure hope so, because Taylor Swift is so much better than this.

Darker lipstick and an electropop beat don’t equal growth.

In a spoken word interlude during the bridge of ‘Look What You Made Me Do,’ Swift deadpans this voicemail greeting: “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead!”

Well, resurrect her! At least the old one turned her self-obsession into really good music.

[Verse 1]
I don’t like your little games
Don’t like your tilted stage
The role you made me play
Of the fool, no, I don’t like you
I don’t like your perfect crime
How you laugh when you lie
You said the gun was mine
Isn’t cool, no, I don’t like you (oh)

[Pre-Chorus]
But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time
Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time
I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined
I check it once, then I check it twice (oh)

[Chorus]
Ooh, 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—
Ooh, 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

[Verse 2]
I don’t like your kingdom keys
They once belonged to me
You ask me for a place to sleep
Locked me out and threw a feast (what?)
The world moves on, another day, another drama, drama
But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma
And then the world moves on, but one thing’s for sure
Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours

[Pre-Chorus]
But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time (nick of time)
Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time (do it all the time)
I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined
I check it once, then I check it twice (oh)

[Chorus]
Ooh, 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—
Ooh, 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

[Bridge]
I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me
I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams
I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me
I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams
I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me
I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams
I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me
I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams
(Ooh, 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—
Ooh, look what you made me do
Look what you made me do
Look what you just made me—)
“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now
Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead!” (Oh)

[Chorus]
Ooh, 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—
Ooh, 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

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13 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,340: ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ – Taylor Swift

  1. Madison says:

    Lol I think it’s a little absurd to dismiss the song in this way. It’s pretty damn catchy (of course that’s subjective, though my family and friends have it stuck in their head) and she’s responding to the way her fans and haters have gone on and on about the incidents you were able to so precisely rehash. How could she not address it at all? I too hope that Reputation focuses on more than Kimye and Katy crap. I think it would be powerful and badass for Look What You Made Me Do to be the only song that addresses it at all, dispatches it handily and quickly. I believe the “you” is referring to herself and the way she’s handled the situations before. I could be wrong, but I’m excited to find out how this single plays in context with the album.

  2. Amy says:

    I told Maddie this morning that this album better have a Jon Snow style resurrection by album’s end. This song will live or die in the context of the rest of the album. I’m eager – and hopeful – to hear what else she has up her sleeve.

  3. Clay says:

    I agree with you both that we need to hear Reputation before we can fully appreciate “new Taylor,” I just don’t see why this was necessary. It would be more badass for her not to address any of that silliness at all.

    This song is a misstep. I know Swift is a very savvy marketer, and this might be a very calculated misdirection, but I don’t think she intended to release a song that would be so widely panned by critics and fans alike.

    • Amy says:

      Now I was decidedly not a fan on first listen. While it has grown on me quite a bit, I still prefer original Swift, so she better eventually come to the phone.

      That said, are you nuts? I just visited Twitter to make sure I hadn’t hallucinated the response from all those who don’t (and there are a lot of those who do… thus her desire, perhaps misguided, to address them) make it their mission to hate whatever Taylor does, and… the song is NOT being panned by her actual fans. Dana read a couple of positive critical reviews, too.
      One snapshot from Twitter:
      24-hour impact of #LookWhatYouMadeMeDo
      -#1 in 75+ countries
      -Sold nearly 200,000 digital copies
      -Has nearly 19M lyric video views

      Most fans were excited for the release, initially uncertain about what they heard, and now apoplectic with joy.

      So, yeah, I’d say she remains a savvy marketer.

  4. Dana says:

    I wholly disagree with you on this one.

    It seems to me you came into listening to this song with a chip on your shoulder and, as soon as you heard the lyrics, which admittedly carry forward her “own personal drama,” and perhaps listening with certain members of your family ready to pile on to the negativity, you were all torqued up to trash Swift.

    As I argued the last time we got into the Swift debate, your aversion to her lyrics is wholly exacerbated by your awareness (and tiredness) with seemingly every minutia of Swift’s public feuds and controversies. Your post above is Exhibit A as to just how much you know about Swift’s “personal drama.” This simply wouldn’t have been on your radar screen 20 or 30 years ago (as we discussed with the Carly Simon “You’re So Vain” example) and so you wouldn’t have been saturated and, frankly over, all the gossipy drama that is referenced, albeit I think rather subtlety and cleverly, in the new song.

    As to the music–I really couldn’t disagree with you more. I admit, on first listen, the song took me by surprise. As critics have noted, it defies formula with a building pre-chorus that one expects to crescendo into a flourishing chorus (like “Shake It Off”), but instead pulls back. On second and third listen, I came to appreciate the production and structure of the song all the more. It’s a grower, which brings me to my next point.

    What’s with the snap judgment on this one? With every other artist you proclaim to be among your favorites, you constantly note that a song or even entire album did not grab you at first but, after repeat listening, you came to appreciate the direction in which the artist was taking you. Here, you seem to have listened to the song once (maybe twice?) and launch into a blistering attack 24 hours later, without even accounting for the possibility that repeat listening might change your initial impression. Now, perhaps given your hardened bias, you will never come to a place where repeated listening will change your mind–but for the rest of us — repeated listening enhanced our appreciation and liking of the song greatly.

    And, finally, as Amy mentioned, your suggestion that the song is being critically panned or trashed by fans appears to be WAY off base. I’m sure you can find some reviews that accord with your negative opinion, and certainly Swift haters on Twitter will happily pile on, it seems that most of the mainstream music and entertainment publications (Rolling Stone, Variety, etc…) are giving the song a positive review–noting Swift’s musical growth and maturity and, yes, her exploration of a darker side.

    I guess in the end, as Swift herself says, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” but it is disappointing that you have now joined their ranks.

  5. Clay says:

    Here’s a sampling of headlines from the first page of Google:

    Vulture: Taylor Swift’s New Single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ Is Dead on Arrival

    Guardian: Acid gossip that borrows from better songs

    NPR: Taylor Swift can’t be the victim and the villain

    Daily Mail: Taylor Swift’s new single is slammed by fans on Twitter 

    Elite Daily: Fans Are Comparing Taylor Swift’s Single To A Bad Britney Spears Song & It’s Brutal

    The New York Times review says it well: “It’s fury, it’s vengeance, it’s gossip. It’s a horror movie, a fairy tale contorted into a calamity. Musically, it’s a pubescent growth spurt — sudden, jerky and accompanied by a sneer.

    “Look What You Made Me Do” feels like pure calculation: This one isn’t for the moms toe-tapping at the “1989” concert, or the radio stations still chin-scratching over whether Ms. Swift is country or pop. This song is for the base — the superfans on the internet who are always ready for a fight.”

    And I think USA Today captures the dynamic around any new Taylor Swift release pretty well: “Swift’s fans will declare Look What You Made Me Do the greatest song ever made, her enemies will drag it endlessly online, and critics will pore over every breath, word, allusion and production quirk in the song.”
    ….
    But, though I pretty much hate this song, I am not a “Taylor Swift Hater.” I’ll remind you that I like 1989 more than anybody in this comment section (other than Maddie). I just grow weary of her bullshit. And I think you are all apologizing for it because you are superfans, and superfans don’t find fault with anything.

    I say that as a guy who defends the quality of Bob Dylan’s Christmas album, so I know what I’m talking about!

    I leave you with this challenge… name a worse Taylor Swift song than this one.

    • Madison says:

      Just want to say real quick that I’m not apologizing for this song because I don’t think there’s anything to apologize for yet. And I promise right now that if the album is filled with blaming and darkness I won’t be happy with her as an artist and person who should be growing rather than stewing in the past… even if the songs about her revenge are better constructed and written than anything her enemies can come up with.

      • Clay says:

        I appreciate that, and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt… but between this song, the album cover and title, the shade-throwing merchandise, etc., what is there to suggest that the album won’t be more of the same?

        I think this single was a golden opportunity to debut a “new Taylor” that wasn’t so much like the old one thematically. From what I can tell, the new Taylor is just Taylor with a mid-00’s thrash pop sound and a lack of melody.

        As much grief as I’ve given her for her subject matter (probably too much, I admit), I think she’s an outstanding crafter of songs. And I miss that songcraft here.

    • Amy says:

      I am somewhere between the two of you. I find the notion of a super fan rather patronizing, as it suggests an inability to step back and form an opinion about a thing separate and apart from an overall appreciation of an artist. Sure, there are those rabid in any fan base who want to be a part of said artist’s “army” (thus the particular war that erupts when those fans are pitted against one another…. this Lemonade comparison is about to make both the bey hive and the swifties lose their minds), but the grand majority of listeners just listen to what they like.

      I didn’t like this song at all on first listen, much like I didn’t like “Shake It Off” when I first heard it, or “All You Had to Do Is Stay” when I heard that one yesterday (having avoided 1989 more often than not). Now, I don’t think any of those are “bad” songs; they’re just songs I don’t particularly like.

      While I appreciate Dana’s ability to unpack the construction of the songs, I just know what I enjoy, and I enjoy dead Taylor much more than this new iteration. That said, I applaud her for continuing to take chances when she could certainly play it safe. I listened to “Begin Again” a few times yesterday, and it gets me every time… lyrically, musically, all of it. I don’t know why. I just know that I love it.

      I remain eager to hear what comes next (a great song Daniel wrote, by the way 🙂

    • Dana says:

      I am far from a Swift “super fan.” I enjoy much of her music, but certainly not all of it. As you point out, I wasn’t a big fan of 1989, though I like some of it.

      As to your challenge, I don’t really see how this song is worse than something like “Shake it Off.” Like Amy, I wasn’t a big fan of that song when I first heard it and it still is far from a favorite. I’m not a big fan of “22” either.

      When I first heard “Look What You Made Me Do,” I confess that I didn’t know what to make of it, but I did find it musically interesting and incredibly well produced, and have come to appreciate it more on repeat listening. I don’t think you came into this song with an open mind. Frankly, I suspect as soon as you saw the title, you were ready to hate it.

      • Clay says:

        Ever since our last Taylor Swift debate, I’ve been waiting for the new material to see how it would further that conversation. As somebody who finds her talented and wants to see her grow, I was hoping it would be her most mature and expansive work yet. As an internet shit-stirrer, I was hoping she’d go back to the well and prove me right. The shit-stirrer won.

        I’ll give you that if the same song had had completely different lyrics, I might give it a pass for trying something new musically (even if I’m not a fan of the style). But couple the off-putting sound with the same-old-same-old lyrics and you have what I consider her worst moment.

        I’m not a ‘Shake It Off’ fan either, but it’s certainly fun and infectious, so it has that going for it. ’22’ is great.

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