After Kanye West insulted Taylor Swift in one of his songs, and Swift was caught in a lie, the bad blood between these two manifested in the form of Swift’s new song, “Look What You Made Me Do” for her newest album, “Reputation” (2017).
Unlike Swift’s usual array of pop hit break-up songs, “Look What You Made Me Do” is heavily techno, and the chorus is more of a rap than anything. Unfortunately, this dip out of Swift’s genre comfort zone contributed to the overall poor quality of this somber yet unintentionally hilarious song.
“Look What You Made Me Do” is mostly electronic, backed by heavy percussion and some piano. During most of the song, almost all of the instruments are played very rhythmically with very little variation in notes, save for the piano that plays before the first verse and during the bridge. These instruments are treated more as extra percussion than anything, reinforcing the strong beat of the song and emphasizing the vocals rather than establishing a melody or harmony.
This is fairly effective for most of the song, creating an eerie, foreboding backdrop for Swift’s voice, which achieves the vengeful, haunting tone it was aiming for. However, the song begins to fall apart in the chorus.
Swift does at least vary her inflections a bit, but other than that, the whole chorus is incredibly repetitive and bland. It consists solely of Swift saying “Look what you made me do,/ look what you just made me do,” over and over again, all on the exact same note. Only when the lines are occasionally broken up with an “Ooh” does Swift’s voice go up a few notes, only to go right back down. The music during the chorus is even less melodious than during the rest of the song, and it also stays on one note the entire time. There isn’t even a baseline.
The end result is that this chorus sounds more like a rap than a chorus, and it barely even sounds like a rap. If anything, it just sounds like Swift reading the lyrics out loud while pressing the same piano key over and over. It’s debatable whether or not it could even be considered music.
The song never counterbalances this incredibly bland segment, but it at least gets better once the chorus is over. The second verse and pre-chorus are as good as the first–although it’s much harder to appreciate them the second time, since they’re practically the same. The melody during these parts of the song is simple and repetitive, like the chorus, but it’s still catchy, and the lyrics are well-written. Special mention goes to the bridge, which uses the somewhat discordant piano melody from the song’s opening behind some appropriate vocals to great effect.
At the end of the bridge, though, comes this song’s lowest point. During a brief breakdown in which only the muffled chorus and some percussion plays in the background, Swift picks up a phone and says into it, “I’m sorry, but the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. / …Why? / Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!”
This line is absolutely horrendous from a technical standpoint, but more importantly, it doesn’t fit the place, time, or person it comes from. Perhaps if Taylor Swift were a thirteen-year-old boy at Hot Topic in 2007, this could’ve been chilling and hard-hitting like she clearly meant it to be. As a grown woman in a published song in 2017, though, Swift couldn’t sound more ridiculous. The fact that this is not Swift’s usual genre couldn’t be more obvious: she’s so clearly dead serious that she comes across as unintentionally hilarious, as if she were performing an exaggerated parody of this very style of music.
Ultimately, “Look What You Made Me Do” had potential, and it was delivered well in parts, but the parts Swift botched were botched beyond repair. The lyrics were occasionally repetitive and monotonous, and eventually dipped into a level of stupidity too deep to escape. The instrumentation was fitting and catchy–when it was actually playing–which was far too seldom. Swift’s voice fits the verses and bridge perfectly, but turning the chorus into a monotone rap was just a poor decision.
The irony of this whole situation is that Taylor Swift, who wrote an entire song about not getting hung up over harsh words, ended up ruining another song by getting hung up over some harsh words. Was Kanye West’s comment about making Swift famous ― which he explicitly asked permission from Swift to include ― really worth causing such a fuss? Perhaps Swift should take her own advice and just shake it off.