The first reviews are in for Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" and critics see the buzzy track as a petty way to gain attention.
"The song is her return to the spotlight, three years since the album “1989,” and, more crucially, a year since the prime-time showdown of her feud with Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West. Recall that Kardashian West posted recordings of a phone call in which Swift appeared to give the go-ahead on Kanye West's now-infamous “Famous” lyrics: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? / I made that bitch famous.” (To this day, Swift claims that she never approved the word “bitch.”) Swift emerged from that debacle seeming like a two-faced operator, willing to play the victim and the naïf for her own reputational gain," The New Yorker said.
The revenge song is one of 15 tracks on the album, which will be released November 10. The lyrics certainly seem to be in direct response to her very public feuds with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian and how they've all played out in public.
"Well, it's not just the lipstick that got darker. Taylor Swift sounds like she is never, ever getting back together with her old ingénue image in “Look What You Made Me Do,” the first piece of fresh solo music she's released since 2014," Variety said.
Take a look at what some of the top critics had to say about the 27-year-old pop star's diss track.
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. She claims to have gotten harder, but only comes off as brittle; she says that defeat made her smarter, but sounds if she's endlessly smarting. It's impossible for anyone but her most die-hard fans (which are, to be fair, legion) to think that the song represents Taylor in a position of strength; more-casual listeners accustomed — over the course of five good to very good albums — to the high floor and medium ceilings of Swift's compositions will be appalled at the depth to which she's fallen. 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?
But it's not exactly a victim song. "Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time" is the ultimate I-eat-feuders-like-you-for-breakfast line. And it's a sign that, besides undoubtedly being legitimately angry, she's still having a bit of fun here. "Look What You Made Her Do" makes the superstar sound like a tougher chick than the tougher chick we were already getting to know, but there's also the undeniable element of Swift being a girl who just wants to have fun… the fun, that is, of playing around with her own fury.
Sonically, "Look What You Made Me Do" is one of her darkest turns. There's no big, hopeful chorus like the empowering 1989 lead single "Shake It Off," that addressed a more general assembly of haters and tabloid drama. She's more direct, addressing her enemy with few subtleties. "All I think about is karma," she threatens over an ominous beat that features elements of spooky carnival and horror-movie sound effects. It's also Swift's first song to interpolate music from another artist, when she references Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" creepy-sexy delivery on the chorus.
"Look What You Made Me Do" would like us to believe that we are experiencing an entirely new Swift. "I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now," she says in a spoken-word refrain. "Why? Oh, 'cause she's dead!" And yet "Look What You Made Me Do" is more of the same: Swift has been manipulating tabloid story lines—her relationships with famous men, her feud with Katy Perry—in her lyrics for years now. And, as much as she is clearly enjoying stepping into the role of the bad girl, this turn is still premised on victimhood. After all, the song isn't called "Look What I Did." "I don't like your little games / Don't like your tilted stage / The role you made me play," she sings. "All I think about is karma." As for the exact form that Swift's retribution will take, we're still left wondering.
She's also a savvy businesswoman who knows which way the wind is blowing, and how simply drawn narratives can often seem more important than artists' actual bodies of work – and she's very aware of how the perception of her has shifted since the calendar flipped to 2016.
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 chorus borrows its cadence from Right Said Fred's 1992 body-shaker I'm Too Sexy, a ridiculous touch that at least cuts the acid a bit. There's also a callback to Britney Spears' similarly metatextual 2007 track Piece of Me, which made oblique references to the tabloid-chronicled problems that had plagued her earlier that year.
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.
By shedding her social media skin and owning her snake affiliation in one fell swoop, Taylor somehow managed to upstage the solar system. It was the ultimate attention grab, scheduled to overshadow an awesome moment of scientific scene-stealing. Who cares about the dumb moon blocking out the sun when Taylor Allison Swift just released a 10-second video of a snake and is probably about to drop the white girl Lemonade nobody asked for?
The problem with "Look What You Made Me Do," leaving aside its questionable musical merits, is that it continues to shift the blame. The very title implies that Swift's reinvention was forced on her by a cruel, conniving world. In fact, this whole upcoming album is just another testament to the singer's marketing savvy. Already, Swift is hyping the world premiere of "Look What You Made Me Do" at Sunday night's VMAs, the site of her and Kanye's first showdown. She's also selling $60 gold snake rings and Reputation tees, because of course she is. The old Taylor Swift isn't dead and gone — she's just exploring new revenue streams.
This is the Taylor Swift who's dealt with so many extra-extra-XXL-dramatic headlines over the past few years — feuds! Receipts! The internet being the internet! — we literally have to put on a face mask and take a nap if we think about it for too long. You should know by now that she's no longer Juliet crying on the staircase or even a nightmare dressed like a daydream. She's the "actress starring in your bad dreams." She's slicing through zingers in courtrooms with badass precision. She's back with new music after three years, and her brand of venom is not necessarily something you want to be on the receiving end of.