Taylor Swift has mastered two performance techniques: vengeful lyrics and making an entrance. Last Sunday, she debuted the video for her new, dark and vengeful single “Look What You Made Me Do” at the MTV Video Music Awards. It’s unlike anything she’s done before.
Swift teamed up with her frequent video director Joseph Kahn for the first single off her upcoming album Reputation. Kahn and Swift worked on “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood” on 1989. If fans thought those videos were even a bit darker than her usual upbeat style, “Look What You Made Me Do” raises the bar tenfold.
She takes this song as an opportunity to vent about all the people who have wronged her since her career began, and takes a stab at the “victim” image the media often portrays her as. The video opens in a very Michael Jackson “Thriller” inspired graveyard with a tombstone that reads “Here Lies Taylor Swift’s Reputation.” She climbs out of the graveyard as a zombie, face sunken in and covered in dirt, and wearing her “Out of the Woods” blue dress. Then, the old 1989 Taylor buries 2014 Met Gala Taylor in her own grave. She’s out for blood.
The rest of the video portrays different Taylors throughout her career thus fur, and their ultimate demise. She even makes a stab at her friends the media popularly coined her “squad.” A room of hundreds of models line up as she stands in the front in a black latex leotard, ready to judge who’s model-like enough to make her squad.
She goes for a dark and sexy look in the scenes where she’s not killing her old personas, donning all black leotards, fishnets, and red cutout gowns. Long gone are the days of wholesome, hold-your-tongue Taylor. She triumphs her new self in a scene where she stands dominantly on a large pile of her former selves, backlit by a giant glowing “T.” Iconic Taylor looks claw their way to the top, including a circus marshall from the Red tour, her nerd look from “You Belong With Me,” and a silver sequin dress and guitar from her Fearless ear. The new Reputation Taylor kicks them all off as she answers the phone and says, “I’m sorry. The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh. She’s dead.”
This dramatic scene sets off into a Beyonce-tinged dance sequence with backup dancers, which had a lot of Bey fans drawing stark comparison to “Formation.” But the end of the video is the best representation of her efforts to kill, and mock, her old reputation. A line of old Taylors stand in front of plane and quote each persona’s image to each other, like “I’d very much like to be excluded from this narrative,” and “Stop making that surprised face. It’s SO annoying.”
Taylor proves she’s not naive to what everyone has been saying about her all these years. It’s clear she’s out to seek revenge, and win.