New album Reputation just makes her look like bad girl wannabe strutting out in leather pants that are too big, highlighted by a swagger that’s not in character.
To be fair, Miss Swift has always been annoying, even from her country days. Too much singing about boys, and perhaps worse, boys who have wronged her, visualised by even sappier, cringier music videos of her crying in bed with her guitar in what she must have imagined as a princess dress.
However, she catered her music to a very specific demographic of fans back then and that relatability made her, well, human. At the very least, she tapped into teen angst and heartbreak, something that is a rite of passage for many (as it probably was for the budding singer songwriter finding herself in the music world) and while it may be corny, it was real. It was genuine and from the heart. She used her lowest points and turned it into her strength, made art out of it and no one can pick a bad bone with a survivor like that.
In my feminist eyes, she even began to redeem herself of all the croony lovestruck sounds of Fearless and Speak Now come Red. For a moment, she began to show her prowess as a singer and role model. Gone along with the golden wavy locks and mismatched cowboy boots were the constant play of the victim card and trademark, if not overdone, acoustics. The result was refreshing.
For a short while, she was likeable for her call for girls’ confidence, to love yourself in your own skin and going after what you want. Her stark change was marked also with a new hairdo and change in wardrobe, which were again, a pleasant and welcomed rejuvenation. Then these changes got too often, almost as if a premonition – she would come to shed her image as often, as drastically, as superficially as would she continually bank in on antagonism from different parties.
Turns out, she was still playing the victim card but in a whole new snakepit.
Here was a girl who carried around wounds that never healed and chose instead to plaster them over with revenge.
Fast forward to 2014 when 1989 was released and slivers of her pettiness began to show through the cracks of her squeaky clean music persona. Yes, petty – there isn’t a more apt word for her eye for an eye formula of disillusioned justice.
It’s no secret Miss Swift often sang about real experiences and made hits out of past relationships but Taylor circa 2014 came tinged with a somewhat malicious undertone. She parodied critics, she put down ex lovers, she called out peers in the industry as if she’s never heard of a little healthy competition.
She smirks and squints into the camera while doing this, hair always perfectly rustled and the clean sharp outline of her red liptick never once smudged.
Then dropped her fallout with Katy Perry, which filled the air of Swift-dom with static before stealthily culminating into an explosion following the scandal with Kanye West.
This is perhaps what is going to be the most important turn of arc of Swift’s career – already failure doesn’t seem a possibility in her books. Most adversities that came her way, from the time West notoriously stole an award from her in 2009, to the time she lost a couple backup dancers to Perry, seemed to only work in her favour. They only got people to feel more for the darling songwriter, relate more to this singing sweetheart, love her more for rising above it all to top charts with album sales.
With the release of Reputation last weekend, however, she seemed to want to abdicate all the above.
The album itself opens with a grim Swift bent on settling scores and does so by hashing blow after blow at some grudges that go so far back, we hardly remember them anymore. Where once her coy hinting may get fans rallying behind her as she subtly points fingers to those who wronged her, she now outright surges ahead to dismantle them by her own fingers.
While credit goes to her nonetheless for weaving such a successful marketing campaign out of her many feuds, it all feels almost try-too-hard. It paints her as a bad girl wannabe who strutted out in leather pants slightly too big, highlighted by an overexaggerated swagger that’s not in character. The cherry on top of it all is her swearing on an album for the first time – watch out, we have a bad ass over here.
Taylor Swift had a really strong formula for success but she chose to apply it in all the wrong ways. She shot to fame by being the underdog and now here she is stepping on others to get to the top. She won fans over by being forgiving to previous boyfriends and using the hurt as lessons and material for new songs and now she’s refusing to let go. Here was a girl who carried around wounds that never healed and chose instead to plaster them over with revenge. To be honest, spite is never a becoming look on anyone.
What happened to “shaking it off”, Miss Swift?