Oh, Taylor, Where Did You Go?

Taylor Swift has recently come under fire for her new single and rebrand. However, it doesn’t stop there, and it didn’t start there either. For years, the pop princess has amassed a large fan base but has simultaneously polarized members of the public because of her personal actions. Obviously, not everyone can be unproblematic, but with TSwift’s new image and songs — well, let’s just unpack the receipts.

Since the beginning of her career, Taylor has been known for her love songs. Primarily, songs that have been written about her famous partners. We all know the joke that if you Google Taylor Swift, you’ll just get suggestions for who she’s dated. But, that’s really none of our business. The fact that she’s had an active dating life is no concern to the public whatsoever. The only exception for public commentary is when she writes a song about someone she dated and then puts that song and that S.O. on blast in public interviews. Most of her songs about previous beaus do not reflect the best of them. So, when she brags that a song is about someone and everyone knows who it is then it’s almost a form of public humiliation, or publicity — it is Hollywood. Over the years, people have noticed this PR/hateful-love-song theme and it’s become a gimmick for Taylor. What can she do to stop the fuss? Well, she’s definitely not going to stop writing songs, and she shouldn’t. Love, hardships and experiences inspire music, but we don’t need to know the specifics.

Another topic specific to Taylor is artists’ rights, especially with her previous dealings with Apple and Spotify. However, in 2014, she reposted an artist’s watercolor fox with her lyrics on it. The artist posted on social media how she wished Swift would give artistic credit to her or take it down. Swift’s legal team and the artist have gone on record debating over who made initial contact, how much credit the artist deserved and the arduous process of taking care of the ordeal. Inevitably, Taylor deleted her post and the artist was given a four-figure reimbursement. Around the same time in 2014, Blue Sphere clothing company sued Swift for infringing on their trademark with her “Lucky 13” merchandise. She eventually settled that legal battle, too, but now trademarks phrases from her songs specifically for her merchandise. What would’ve made a difference in these cases from the start is just giving credit where credit is due, especially after she herself made a big deal about artistic attribution and compensation.

Around that same time, Taylor released her “Bad Blood” music video. And with “Bad Blood,” her infamous squad was born. At first, even I thought this was a song about a guy she’d been with, but it has been speculated that it was directed at Katy Perry for an old feud. (Katy Perry followed that, supposedly, with her new single “Swish Swish.”) The main reason people had beef with Taylor’s squad was because it was a result of pitting women against each other. Not to mention, all its members were strikingly similar: thinner, traditionally pretty and mainly white. Taylor Swift had just rebranded herself with the drop of 1989 as a more pop feminist version of herself. But, her idea of supporting women didn’t seem very inclusive. She didn’t really speak about any feminist issues. It was a very white feminist form of feminism. And even now, in the era of Trump, she has yet to make a statement about the political or social climate for women. Now, it’s no one’s place to tell someone how to live or what they should believe in or stand up for, but Taylor could do better. She could be more inclusive. If she really felt strongly about issues involving feminism and women’s rights that were less self-serving then she could take a stand and publicly address them.

Speaking of what Swift should publicly address, one of the larger issues people have with her new rebrand is that she has been off social media and almost underground since before the 2016 presidential election, and all she came back with was snakes. She deleted everything off all her accounts except for the accounts themselves. A lot has happened since the election, but she was one celebrity who had nothing to say. While it’s actually refreshing to not have to listen to another celebrity’s opinion on what they’re not educated on, this was an opportunity for Taylor to use her platform to stand for something. But she didn’t. Instead, it was like she took the time to write down everything she was upset about and everyone who had done her wrong and then base her next album on it. Sure, that can be therapeutic, but it’s tasteless. Her timing wasn’t right. She doesn’t have to take political sides, but as she claims she is a feminist, she could stand in solidarity with other feminists. She could’ve debuted songs discussing her feelings about the political climate and the aftermath of the election, or about her positive self-rediscovery in her time off social media. But she didn’t.

Let’s be honest, her latest rebrand is kind of cheesy. The whole snake thing is edgy and very “now,” and so are her looks on her new album art, but that doesn’t make them substantial. Dragging Kimye — allegedly — over the beat to “I’m Too Sexy” isn’t cute. Several other female singers of Taylor’s status have rebranded themselves at the same time as her, like Katy Perry, Kesha, Lady Gaga and even Pink. But, there’s been a massive difference in say the public’s reaction to, for example, Kesha’s rebrand versus Taylor’s. While she probably already has everything planned for this album, and it’d be a hassle to change it now, it may behoove Taylor to rethink her strategy.

Overall, Taylor isn’t a bad person. We don’t really know her or what she’s been through other than what she sings about and what she addresses. Being a celebrity is difficult, and she’s had her own struggles being a woman in the industry. While we shouldn’t be hating on her, we shouldn’t be giving her a free pass either. Ultimately, if she wants people to give her the respect she’s worked toward as an artist then she needs to know that it’ll take more than just catchy songs and a rebrand to remain relevant. It’s 2017, and though we love snakes, we also love authenticity, human rights and kindness.