Taylor Swift’s new music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” debuted last Sunday during the MTV Music Video Awards. While the singer was unable to make an appearance, the video premiere itself was a self-proclaimed “event” and was a preview of her upcoming album, “Reputation.” It has also had the highest debut of a music video in YouTube history.
Unfortunately, the somewhat ego-free awards night was overshadowed by the ego of a singer eager to continue feuds and premiere a generally over-complicated and forgettable temper tantrum.
Swift seems to be channeling the other pop star who made music video premieres an event by referencing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the first few seconds, coupled with a large “TS” in the grass. Later references to Kim Kardashian’s recent jewelry robbery in Paris, and Kanye West’s tilted stage, come off as self-indulgent and mean-spirited.
What’s continued to develop with this video is a skewing of Swift’s priorities as a performer; she now cares more about herself than her fans. Case in point is her recent “Taylor Swift Tix” promotion.
Tickets for Swift’s upcoming tour were recently posted on Ticketmaster. Fans were then encouraged to register for tickets ahead of time so that they would be sent a code when tickets were available. A ticket-selling algorithm then determines whether the buyer is a bot, scalper or genuine fan. It should be noted that Swift is not the only musician who sells tickets this way.
Swift took it one step further with her promotion that improves fans’ place in line if they perform “boost” activities, such as purchasing Swift merchandise or pre-ordering her album. She claims this approach will improve ticket access “in a really fun way.” Needless to say, many fans were unimpressed. To date, no other musician has required merchandise purchases in exchange for increased chances of getting a ticket.
Any pop star or musician in the public eye is encouraged to renew his or her image periodically to remain interesting and relevant. The truth is, this new image of Swift’s is destined for failure. Declaring the old “Taylors” as “dead” in this video is a dangerous, creative cul-de-sac to be cornered into, especially when the new image seems to be based on an old feud and general vindictiveness.
The finale of the video shows a pile of the singer’s alter-egos fighting to claim their place as the rightful carrier of the carefully crafted, social media image that is Taylor Swift. Among them is the classic curly-haired, and sequin-dressed Swift of the Fearless Tour era– the time when her playing guitar and singing country-pop songs were seamlessly tied to her image.
The Taylor Swift from 10 years ago could encourage young people to take up music performance with her genuinely well-crafted pop songs and easy approachability. And now it’s painful to think of little girls who see that being the center of attention and picking high-profile feuds will land you 80-plus million views, and more popularity than ever before.