"I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now."
Three years after Taylor Swift released 1989 and following months of near-radio silence from the star, the singer returned this week with Look What You Made Me Do, the first single from her forthcoming new album Reputation.
The album's title is a little on-the-nose, considering that Swift's reputation is among the most notorious in pop music. She's a polarizing figure in the same vein of her rival Kanye West, in that her defenders will never stray from her side and her detractors will never be won over, her every move inspiring breathless commentary.
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Between her tabloid-grabbing dramas and a few questionable choices of singles (like the anemic Bad Blood), it's been easy to forget that Swift is one of her generation's best songwriters, and 1989 is a very good album. Look What You Made Me Do leans even further into the Top 40 impulses of Swift's last release, going full Britney Spears in its verging-on-madness psycho pop — with a talk-sung chorus that's a little too close to comfort to I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred.
The real question is whether Swift can change any minds with her new narrative. Swift's fans will declare Look What You Made Me Do the greatest song ever made, her enemies will drag it endlessly online, and critics will pour over every breath, word, allusion and production quirk in the song.
Even listeners who declare not to care about the singer are, by making that statement, showing their active participation in the Swift-osphere. Similar to the people who brag about not watching Game of Thrones, it takes a willful effort to ignore such a ubiquitous cultural force as Taylor Swift.
So considering fans have such entrenched opinions, will Look What You Made Me Do change anyone's mind about Swift? The artist sure doesn't care, with the track's pounding beat and willfully provocative lyrics signaling a new era characterized by danger, paranoia and power-grabs. Swift uses the song as an elegy for her former persona, declaring that "the world goes on, another day, another drama," telling the world that she doesn't give a damn about her bad reputation.
Look What You Made Me Do is the first moving part of what's sure to be an extended rollout for Reputation, and the track may be getting a live premiere this weekend, with Swift rumored to be performing at Sunday night's VMAs.
Fans can now pre-order the full Reputation album, available here.