From the ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ video to raining on Katy Perry’s ‘Witness’ release parade, the ‘Reputation’ singer totally embraced the snake emojis this year.
They say I did something bad -- then why's it feel so good?
That line leads the chorus to “I Did Something Bad” off of Taylor Swift’s Reputation album, an endlessly listenable 15-song affair that careens back and forth between diary entries about dreamy Joe Alwyn to burn book-like drags of her enemies -- from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to Katy Perry, to her exes, and even herself for good measure.
For someone dogged for most of her career with accusations of playing the victim, Taylor spent a fair amount of 2017 exploring her dark side, and in particular seeming to embrace those snake emojis that slithered their way into her narrative after Kim’s infamous Snapchat story and killed “Old Taylor” once and for all.
With that in mind, here’s a list (in red, underlined) of six of Taylor’s shadiest moments of the year.
Check it once, check it twice… OK, you get the idea.
1. The “Look What You Made Me Do” Video
The lead single off of Reputation wound up being a bit of a red herring for the music to come, both in its hookless progression and how savagely and specifically she confronted her foes, with lines like “I don’t like your tilted stage” -- an obvious reference to the unique stage picture for Kanye's Saint Pablo Tour -- to “Old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.”
Main moments of shade include Taylor made up in a way that could be described as “Katy Perry-esque” and wrecking a car (complete with a Katy-cat in the front seat). Elsewhere, Taylor bathes in a bathtub of jewelry, which… while not necessarily meant to rub salt in the whole “Kim robbed at gunpoint in Paris” wound is undeniably evocative of it in an uncomfortable way.
No matter where you land on the song and video, you’ve got to hand it to Taylor, it did a hell of a job getting our attention.
2. Releasing Her Discography on Spotify the Eve Katy Perry’s Witness Dropped
Oh, come on…
Taylor removing her catalog from streaming services (save for Apple Music) was not surprising, in that many bigger artists are still grappling with how best to handle the fundamental shift in how people listen to music. Also not surprising was the eventual move to return her discography to Spotify and elsewhere. But the timing of it -- right when Katy's Witness album dropped, is such an unbelievably shady move.
To be fair to Taylor, she didn’t necessarily draw first blood in this one. “Swish Swish,” one of the main singles of Katy’s album, is thought by many to be a response to “Bad Blood.” We probably don’t need to recap the entire Taylor Swift vs. Katy Perry saga, but let’s just say that Regina George would be proud, sheep’s clothing and all.
3. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is a sort of upbeat sister track to the darker “I Did Something Bad” and “Look What You Made Me Do” (when she’s mad, Taylor’s song titles get super long), and something about the anthemic melody and how she rejoices, “Did you think I wouldn't hear all the things you said about me?” puts the pettiness of this track SO far in another class.
“Friends don't try to trick you/ Get you on the phone and mind-twist you,” Taylor sings. “And so I took an ax to a mended fence.”
The dig, pretty obviously a callback to Kim and Kanye again, is doubled down on with “I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately,” which…. imagine someone saying that to you, and how deeply that would break your soul.
It’s also rooted in truth, as last year, Kanye’s relationship with longtime mentor and collaborator JAY-Z was in a contentious place (something JAY-Z indicated in a recent interview seems to be getting better).
But why “Nice Things” earns a special distinction as Taylor’s shadiest move of the year is that laugh. As the song rolls into its final chorus, Taylor sings, “And here’s to you, ‘cause forgiveness, is a nice thing to do,” before busting out into a biting laughter, adding, “I can’t even say it with a straight face.”
No subtlety here. Taylor goes IN on “Nice Things.”
4. Reputation’s Tabloid-Trolling Magazine Covers
It’s not just other famous people Taylor threw shade at. She went in pretty hard on gossip rags, too.
The back covers of the Reputation magazines that accompanied her album release for Target purchasers feature scandalous full headlines like “Who is Olivia’s real father?” (Olivia, for the record, is Taylor’s cat.) You can’t really call it a coincidence either, as some of the fake headlines are heavily reminiscent of and/or downright ripped from real rumor pieces about the 27-year-old singer.
5. Proving She and Kim Are Still Not Friends
Let’s not forget that Kim is a professional shader, too.
Just when we started busting out the holiday decorations, thinking all the celeb feuding was over for the year, the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star, out of nowhere, re-Instagrammed a photo from the super-NSFW art installation from her husband Kanye’s “Famous” video, which features, among other stars, including himself and Kim, Taylor’s likeness depicted on a naked wax statue.
Whether it was shade or pure randomness, Taylor seems to have taken it as a slight, firing off a post of her own that quoted a line from “I Did Something Bad”: “I never trust a narcissist, but they love me.”
To be fair, there’s really no proof that the two posts are related, but…. Come on.
6. Saving Some Shade for Herself
All right, with all the shade we’ve put Taylor on blast for, it’s only fair to point out that one of Taylor’s favorite targets has been… Taylor Swift.
The aforementioned “Look What You Made Me Do” video begins and ends with Taylor being able to poke fun at herself, from the tombstone that reads “Here lies Taylor Swift’s reputation” to the fascinating battle of Old Taylors, where characters from the singer-songwriter’s past music videos hurl insults at each other for a solid 15-20 seconds.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t dish it if you can’t take it, and Taylor’s taken a lot of heat in the past couple of years. What makes her 2017’s Queen of Shade is pretty much summed up by her refrain in “I Did Something Bad,” where she says, “And I’d do it over and over again.”
Look what we made her do.