Taylor Swift is back with her much-anticipated new single, ‘Look What You Made Me Do.’ The pop star defiantly announces the Swift you thought you knew, has left the building. USA TODAY
In this fraught political climate, there are very few things we can all agree on: Wonder Woman is great, Game of Thrones‘ timeline makes no sense, and Look What You Made Me Do is Taylor Swift’s biggest letdown yet.
Late Thursday night, the once-invincible pop star resurfaced with the indignant first single off reputation, her long-awaited sixth album out Nov. 10. But rather than the breathless adoration that met 1989 and her previous countrified efforts, Look What You Made Me Do has so far been jeered on social media and flambéed by critics. (USA TODAY’s Maeve McDermott wrote that its talk-song chorus is “a little too close for comfort to I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred,” but acknowledged that Swift’s cultural ubiquity is impossible to ignore.)
Some of the most ruthless digs:
Frank Guan, Vulture: “For all the serpent-themed hype leading up to the launch of the song, Swift’s words lack venom, fangs, and smoothness. They have the consistency of wet flour, and their meaning could be converted into a series of impotent hisses without any loss in translation. … As far as her archnemeses Kim and Kanye go, it’s completely impossible to imagine them doing anything but laughing, hard, at Look What You Made Me Do. They’ve ‘made’ Taylor Swift release the worst music of her career: What could possibly be less intimidating than that?”
Lindsay Zoladz, The Ringer: “Unleashed on a deeply confused public late Thursday night, the song is a strange collage of retro reference points: mid-aughts Gossip Girl placement pop, the soundtrack to Disney’s live-action Maleficent, and — yes, really — Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy, except devoid of the self-effacing humor and wit. Yes, the new Taylor Swift song just made me compliment Right Said Fred.”
Wesley Morris, The New York Times: “When Taylor declares herself — the old her — dead via phone call, in the breakdown, it gave me the 13 Reasons Why blues. (Good luck with that, America’s middle-school administrators!) I much prefer the violence in a song like I Knew You Were Trouble, where she’s melodically evocative about the physical state of being hurt. … Even in the pain, there’s a kind of ecstasy. I’ve listened to Look What You Made Me Do five times now, and I don’t hear that. I hear Ms. Perry, Peaches, Lorde, Fergie, J.J. Fad, and, lord help me, J.J. Fad courtesy of Fergie. What I can’t hear is Taylor Swift. Just about all her peers can speak electropop fluently. She’s doing remedial exercises on this one, and all I hear is her cramming.”
Meaghan Garvey, Pitchfork: “In her past work, Swift has flexed a real talent for molding real-life experiences into clue-filled allegories, at once personal and universal. Here, she’s uncharacteristically un-nuanced, and when she slips in hilariously artless digs like ‘I don’t like your tilted stage,’ it sounds like the part of a break-up when you start hurling all the banal insults you’ve got left.”
Anna Gaca, Spin: “Her new single Look What You Made Me Do is a hard, cheerless left turn, an unbalanced farrago to accompany the left-to-right top-to-bottom text jumble on the cover of her new album Reputation.”
That said, not everyone looked at Me with disdainful eyes. Taylor’s loyal band of “Swifties” sent it soaring to No. 1 on iTunes less than an hour after its release. And on YouTube, the track has only 98,000 downvotes compared to more than 730,000 thumbs up. Some critics, too, grew to admire Swift’s songwriting and sonic left-turn after a few listens.
Maura Johnston, The Guardian: “Swift’s lyrics are visceral and almost sloppy, with her rhyming “time” and “time” on the Lorde-channeling pre-chorus, and melodramatically declaring that “the old Taylor” is “dead!”. … The songs Swift is borrowing from are superior to Look What You Made Me Do, although its potential for pop catharsis is off the charts.”
Chris Willman, Variety: “This introductory track from her upcoming reputation album (due out Nov. 10; the small R is hers) feels like the un-celebratory flip side to the previous album’s leadoff single, Shake It Off. The catharsis and playfulness are a little harder to pick out in this one, though they’re there, if you listen hard enough, amid some textures and lyrics that sound a little on the grim side on first listen, and maybe second or third play, too.”