Following the “Bad Blood” attack on Katy Perry, and the self-parody of “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift has a new song inspired by her clickbait-headline-friendly behavior. Whether it’s another breakup or her inspiring and validating sexual assault testimony, we just can’t look away. Unsurprisingly, she couldn’t follow through with her earlier attitude toward her reputation and just “Shake it Off,” so now we have “Look What You Made Me Do,” and we love it anyway.
Right away, the song is intriguing with its dark and almost threatening list of boxes Swift resents being forced to fit. Figurative or literal, you can’t help raising your own hackles at the list of injustices and suddenly feeling the courage to bite the hands that have been beating you. Between bridges and choruses, the percussion behind the verses snaps like the individual threads in a rope. When that last thread goes, we should be in for a chorus that blows us away.
But the beat drops, and we land in what almost sounds like a Black Eyed Peas song. Swift sings, “Ooh, look what you made me do,” but it’s hard not to think of Fergie’s voice chanting “my humps” over and over. It’s a lackluster change of pace that feels spliced in from another song, but everything around it is still enthralling enough to keep us singing along.
Unfortunately, the spell of the song is broken by a few self-referencing lines. “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s dead.” At first, it feels like a badass anthem for anyone looking to cast off an old persona and be more of the person they feel they truly are. But once the lyrics sit in your mind for a while, it’s clear the song is the same old Taylor. And she knows it.
Just before that break in lyricism to deliver what reads like a passive-aggressive tweet, Swift sings, “I don’t trust nobody, and nobody trusts me.” Of course we don’t; Swift’s music has become more and more an outlet for indirect responses to the public. Some celebrities ignore the gossip while others release statements to set the record straight. Swift just chooses a new target for her side-eye shade and picks a beat to go with it.
It’s entertaining, but the novelty of the act is wearing off. As the lyrics say, “Honey, I rose up from the dead./ I do it all the time.” At this point, we know she’s only faking her Lazarus Effect party trick; for all the heat she gets, her career and reputation have never been close to dead. Not that it matters; the song is still going to be stuck in our heads until she releases the next one.