Sequinned ballgowns are officially out of fashion.
Taylor Swift is back, and it turns out there’s nothing she does better than revenge – snake rings on her online store included. After a break of three years, the old Taylor is dead in the water as we arrive at ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, a fact acknowledged within the track itself in chilling voiceover perfected from her previous singles.
Opening with a choral esque buildup worthy of a vampire resurrection in a Tim Burton movie, the track quickly drops into a heavy bass line and Swift’s biting vocals come forward. As snake imagery goes, you can taste the venom here, dropping in classic Swiftian references to a “tilted stage” and a “perfect crime” to make it abundantly clear who her new arch-nemesis is. (Spoiler: Kanye West regularly performs on a less than horizontal stage.) As celebrity kingdoms go, Swift had been ruling untouched for a considerable time before 1989, but when West and Kardashian’s snakes came slithering for Swift, she was the perfect target.
For better or worse, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is Swift’s revised return statement, and the choice to embrace her own controversies is song craft at its best. The single is a sonic playground of rises and falls, Swift giving a masterclass in how to duet and build around her own voice, only to drop back for the chorus, keeping her leading maxim the focus until the bitter end. The only relief comes just at the last minute where Swift notes, amid a return to the strings of the opening twenty seconds, that “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me”. It’s a sentiment that reminds us of the darker side of fame Swift’s long tried to expose but has never quite distilled into a lyric as direct as this. It is a darkness that the track – and now Swift – is determined to inhabit.
‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is out now via Big Machine. Her sixth album, Reputation, will be released on November 10th