Oooh, what has Taylor Swift done? With one atomic bomb drop of a song, Taylor has reignited an on-again-off-again feud that’s been going on since Kanye West stage-rushed her speech at the VMAs nearly a decade ago. In the years since, Taylor and Kanye have established a cordial relationship that can easily turn cold, depending on who strikes first. For Taylor, that precarious relationship was ruined last year when Kanye sexualized her and took credit for her success on “Famous,” prompting her to cry foul. In response, Kim Kardashian West leaked Kanye and Taylor’s recorded phone call, revealing that Taylor had approved the line all along.
With her reputation at stake, Taylor’s vindictive new song sets the stage for a kill list. The old Taylor may be dead, but the new Taylor still has the old one’s problems to reckon with, starting with her Kanye feud. Here are all the lines on “Look What You Made Do,” and other outside factors, meant to send a message to her greatest foe.
“I don’t like your little games / don’t like your tilted stage.”
Taylor opens the song with a literal reference to Kanye. Strangely, it’s a jab at his stage design. Kanye famously redefined the function of a stage and its proximity to the audience on his short-lived Saint Pablo Tour last year, performing on a moving platform that floated above the crowd, then descended and tilted down into the sea of fans for its grand finale. There is no mistaking whose stage Taylor is talking about, but why’d she get so specific? On first pass, criticizing another artist’s live setup seems oddly narrow, a slight plenty of Swift fans who don’t also follow Kanye’s work might not even catch. But Kanye West prides himself on creative innovation, particularly as it relates to design. Rejecting the widely praised crown jewel of his latest live show on her first single out of the gate might not seem that innocent to him.
“The role you made me play / Of the fool, no, I don’t like you / I don’t like your perfect crime.”
Ignoring for a second that Kanye remixed Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like” and Taylor now uses the line to introduce every single thing she doesn’t like about what her enemies have done to her, the verse that immediately follows her “tilted stage” comment could not be directed at anyone but Kanye (and Kim). Katy Perry hasn’t yet had the ability to make Taylor look foolish, but Kim’s leak of Kanye and Taylor’s phone call publicly embarrassed Taylor and split the seams of her carefully manicured image. In using Taylor’s own words and private persona against her, it also challenged Taylor’s clean record. Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste once aired out all the same knocks on Taylor’s reputation that have since been brought against her, but he didn’t have the proof or the star power. As Taylor says, with a touch of envy, it’s the “perfect crime” where she’s the victim.
“I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.”
To be fair, if we were allegedly recorded without consent and had said conversation broadcast on Snapchat, trust would be out the window for us, too.
“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” / “Why?” / “Oh, ’cause she’s dead!”
Except, does she think Kanye still has her Nashville number saved?
Taylor’s Kanye subliminals don’t end with the lyrics. Apart from co-opting the image of the snake used against her, Taylor’s new merchandise appears to also mock more of Kanye’s design instincts. As many have pointed out, the typeface used on certain items — like a supplementary magazine — resembles the Olde English font used on Kanye’s Saint Pablo merch; her album artwork also copies a similar font. If you’re going to injure a fellow auteur, cut them where they’ll bleed most.
There is, however, a potentially darker side of the narrative that almost feels too cruel even for a feud this long-standing and damaging to both. Some have noted that the release date for Taylor’s album Reputation, November 10, falls on the anniversary of the death of Kanye’s mother, Donda. It’s very possible no one on Taylor’s team noticed the coincidence — remember, most artists are not in complete control of scheduling — but it’s also nearly as possible that was the intent.
With the song’s video set to premiere at the VMAs on Sunday, it’s only a matter of time before we see how far Taylor is willing to take this beef.