Throughout the years, pop megastar Taylor Swift has a notable theme in her songwriting — revenge.
In “Picture to Burn” (2006) she taunted a misbehaving ex: “I’m just sitting here, planning my revenge.” In “Better Than Revenge” (2010), she chastised another girl for stealing her boyfriend. In “Mean” (2010) she took down a music critic. In “Bad Blood” (2014), she brought an entire celebrity army to confront a frenemy who did her wrong. Etc.
So it’s not a total surprise that Swift’s new song — released Thursday night after days of Internet hype — involves vengeance. Titled “Look What You Made Me Do,” off her upcoming sixth studio album “Reputation,” Swift is fired up as she confronts an enemy — one whose own actions are to blame for whatever happens next.
“Oooh, look what you made me do,” Swift intones repeatedly on the pop-dance track, over a beat that sounds a bit like Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit “I’m Too Sexy.” (In fact, they’re so similar that Swift and her co-writer and producer, Jack Antonoff, gave the British pop group a writing credit on the song.) The chorus is simple, but the verses spell out her rage.
“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,” she sings, adding, “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red underlined.”
The lyrics make it clear: You don’t want to be the name underlined on any Swift list. As she’s stated in the past, “There’s nothing I do better than revenge.” When she calls you out, get ready.
With this new song, Swift doesn’t specifically say who’s she’s talking about. She never does. Though the Internet determined that because of the “tilted stage” reference, she’s talking about Kanye West — who used a tilted stage on his latest tour.
West would make sense as the song’s subject, as the two got off to a rocky start in 2009 when he stole her moment at the MTV VMAs. After making up, West name-checked Swift in his controversial song “Famous” last year, something that he said she had approved. When Swift intimated she was caught off guard by the “misogynistic” song, Kim Kardashian released a recording that appeared to show Swift and West chatting about the lyrics during a friendly phone call. Online, people flooded Swift’s social media accounts with “snake” emoji, even as Swift said she was being “falsely painted as a liar.”
Anyway, if “Look What You Made Me Do” is about West, Swift remembers the backlash against her all too well. “The world goes on, another day another drama, drama/But not for me, not for me, all I think about is karma,” she sings. “And then the world moves on, but one thing is for sure/Maybe I got mine, but you’ll all get yours.”
So, not too subtle! She drives the point home later in the song: “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.” Then the kicker is a creepy interlude, in which she deadpans, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh — cause she’s dead.”
Mic drop. RIP old Taylor. Now it makes sense why she deleted everything off her social media accounts last week; she has a new persona. But it’s worth remembering that it’s similar to her old one — because she still really wants her enemies to pay.