So this is how Taylor Swift is spending that UPS money. The video for “...Ready for It?”—a song that certainly doesn’t sound like if the Kars4Kids tykes remade “I’m in It” by Kanye West, no siree—dropped early Friday morning, becoming the latest misstep in what has been one of the most confounding album rollouts in recent memory.
Directed by Swift’s frequent collaborator Joseph Kahn, who recently trolled the world by saying that Beyoncé ripped off Swift with “Formation,” the video is a quick jaunt into science fiction starring two Taylors—one in all black who is free to walk around this derivative-feeling dystopia, and one who is trapped inside a glass box (of emotion) and looks exactly like Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell.
Almost all of the video takes place on either side of this glass box, as human Taylor observes android-Taylor-or-whatever make a string of allusions to previous events in Swift’s career: the “Blank Space” video, “Out of the Woods,” that time she secretly wrote a song for her boyfriend Calvin Harris and then vindictively revealed the truth about it once they broke up. It goes on like that for a bit, until Ghost in the Shell Taylor finally obliterates the glass box, as the shrapnel shreds human Taylor’s skin to reveal that SHE WAS THE ROBOT ALL ALONG.
Honestly, I’m confused by what happens in the final 20 seconds of the video, but I think all you need to know is that, again: Old Taylor = dead, and New Taylor = freed from this apparent box and/or cage she’s been trapped in. The weird thing is, “...Ready for It?” is technically a song about a crush, more specifically Swift’s current boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. And there are references to him “cleverly” littered throughout the video. But the main point Swift wants to convey—context be damned—is that this is a new era for her.
Unfortunately for Swift, that’s not how it works. No matter how many times you declare yourself dead on fake answering machines or push all of your former selves off of a mountaintop, you can’t will a persona change into existence. You can’t say, “I’m different now,” when you’re still releasing your song catalog on the same night your rival’s new album is released, or finding absurd ways to maximize profits. It takes emotion and pathos and commitment—a lot more than an ill-conceived sci-fi music video. The Old Taylor isn’t dead because the musician is growing and evolving; she’s dead because an album is coming in November, and Swift needed an angle.