With her new single, “Look What You Made Me Do” (Big Machine), the long-simmering Taylor Swift-Kanye West beef has apparently boiled over again, just in time for the MTV Video Music Awards this weekend.
Though Swift doesn’t come out and blast the rapper by name on the hard-edged dance track, which arrived on iTunes and all major streaming services late Thursday night, she certainly drops plenty of hints about who the target of her anger is.
There’s the reference to a “tilted stage,” which West used on his recent “Saint Pablo Tour.” There’s the vocal effect Swift uses on the line “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? ’Cause she’s dead” to make it sound like a recorded phone call. That’s a likely nod to the phone call between West and Swift that Kim Kardashian West secretly recorded and then released online to show how her husband had discussed the controversial line in his song “Famous” about making Swift’s career. The song’s spare musical backdrop and hard-edged beats -- interpolated from Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” -- almost make “Look What You Made Me Do” sound like it came from West’s “Yeezus” album.
And, of course, there’s the timing of the single’s release, in time for the weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards, where in 2009 West famously crashed Swift’s acceptance speech at Radio City Music Hall to declare that Beyoncé’s video was more deserving, the interruption that started the beef in the first place. The video for the song is set to debut during this year’s ceremony.
Her decision to make “Look What You Made Me Do” the first single from her much-anticipated album “Reputation,” set for a Nov. 10 release, lets us know she is still angry about “Famous.”
(“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” is her opening verse.)
But the song, co-written with Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff, doesn’t really tell us much about what to expect from “Reputation,” though she does seem to be continuing her move toward dance music, similar to her pal Lorde’s recent album.
When she sings, “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined,” does she mean that literally? Is “Reputation” simply going to be a string of songs that settle scores?
Swift is too smart for that. “Look What You Made Me Do” is, in part, designed to get attention and it has succeeded, already hitting No. 1 on iTunes’ singles chart and racking up 13 million views for its lyric video on YouTube in less than a day. The rest of “Reputation” should likely have more focus on the music.
Swift announced Thursday night that limited editions of “Reputation” sold at Target will include two different 72-page magazines featuring Swift’s own poetry and artwork as well as photos from the video shoot for “Look What You Made Me Do.” She also laid the groundwork for an upcoming tour, urging fans to enroll in Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program, which attempts to get more tickets to fans rather than brokers by using a lottery system.