Late Thursday night, after Taylor Swift had tweeted many snake videos and revealed her album cover, the singer dropped her first single since 1989, “Look What You Made Me Do.” Take one listen and you’ll see (mostly because she straight up says it): The old Taylor is dead. So what about the new Taylor? After the single dropped, The Ringer put together an impromptu exit survey. Here’s how the staff feels.
1. What is your tweet-length review of “Look What You Made Me Do?”
Katie Baker: This. Is. Not. Normal.
Matt James: In playing the role of antagonist, “New Taylor” channels her greatest adversary. "Look What You Made Me Do" is an uninspired pop knockoff of a Yeezus song.
Lindsay Zoladz: Imagine releasing music and having a massive platform in the year 2017 and … this is all you have to say.
update: sorry, i was wrong— Amanda K. Dobbins (@akdobbins) August 25, 2017
Andrew Gruttadaro: On a day that Katy Perry released her video for “Swish Swish,” it is incredible that Taylor put out the most cringeworthy thing.
I’m not even mad.
Paolo Uggetti: I will always remember where I was when I listened to the song that squeezed the subjectivity out of musical taste.
Alyssa Bereznak: The tragedy of this song isn’t just that it’s bad, it’s that we’ll be forced to listen to it everywhere we go for the next two months.
Donnie Kwak: [Amanda Dobbins voice] It’s fine?
2. What, if any, is the best part of the song?
Uggetti: The first two piano notes. That’s it.
Baker: The extremely pure way it brought Twitter together in scorn.
Gallagher: I like the fourth time she says, “I'll be the actress starring in your bad dreams” during the bridge. I like how she uses her full singing voice on that last “bad dreams” in a way that makes you, even for a few seconds, remember the old Taylor. I like how it’s in that moment you start to think, "Maybe the song will turn aro—" before being suddenly cut off by Taylor's fake outgoing voice message.
James: The bridge sidesteps into a brief but somewhat competent impersonation of a brooding, soul-searching Lorde song.
I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me. I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams.
Lorde, however, would probably not feel the need to specify that she’s the *STAR* of your bad dreams.
Michael Baumann: A 3:34 run time. I can respect someone who's discovered angst in her late 20s but manages to fit that angst into a brisk pop song. No need to stretch this to seven minutes.
Zoladz: It’s in my head right now? Er, that’s maybe the worst part of the song. I am pleased that Taylor is indeed leaning into her villain persona. (I just wish that persona was a little more imaginative.)
Bereznak: After 15 consecutive listens, I regret to inform you that there is no “good part” of this song.
Coley: The best part of the track occurs about 17 seconds into your first listen, when the dramatic, this-is-one-of-those-songs drums kick in and you realize that, were you to work at an acclaimed sports, pop culture, and tech internet publication, you’d probably be writing about how deliciously bad this song is in a staff post soon.
Dobbins: That it is not 9 minutes long.
Kwak: I don’t mind the hook too much—more than “I’m Too Sexy,” it reminds me of “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa, which we can all agree is a great tune.
3. What is the worst part of the song?
Gruttadaro: When she continually insists that I made her do this. I certainly did not.
Coley: I hated the phone call. I’m sorry, Taylor, but you have to know that when you insert a phone exchange into your song, you’re treading on hallowed pop music ground. Don’t show up to the big game with that “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now.” Do you even realize that this exists:
Baumann: “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead.”
This whole thing is like if someone listened to Lemonade and thought it didn't sound enough like the corniest parts of the first Cobra Starship single.
Bereznak: My mouth gaped open when I heard the bitchy voicemail interlude. Think of the memes! But I think the worst part might be this verse:
I don’t like your kingdom keys
They once belonged to me
You ask me for a place to sleep
Locked me out and threw a feast (what?)
There’s a vague allusion to a feud in there . . . and what was it she said about a gun earlier? . . . But I’m too confused by this rambling metaphor to suss out whatever celebrity gossip it holds. That’s saying a lot.
Zoladz: SERIOUSLY, WHAT DID WE MAKE HER DO? At her best and most deliciously petty (“Dear John,” “All Too Well”), Taylor can ether her foes with specific details. The problem with this song is that I have no idea what or who she’s talking about! Maybe Kanye? But if the best dis she can muster is about the “tilted stage” on the Pablo tour … hang up and try again. This song makes no sense. It’s like a Bond villain muttering nonsense to herself in an empty room.
Baker: The part that sounds like the 2:26 mark of the Cobra Starship–Leighton Meester collaboration, “Good Girls Go Bad”:
James: The worst part of any Taylor Swift song is when she launches into a dramatic skit or monologue. The first time I heard “Shake It Off,” I cringed so hard during the interlude (“THIS. SICK. BEAT.”) that I instinctively grabbed my face with both hands. That was a problem because I was driving at the time. Nowadays, I listen to new Taylor Swift songs at home, while sitting down and not operating heavy machinery.
Dobbins: A few months ago, sometimes-friend-of-Taylor and beloved New Zealand popstar Lorde gave an interview about “Green Light,” the single she cowrote with Antonoff, who also cowrote “Look What You Made Me Do.” Lorde recalled that superproducer Max Martin had described “Green Light” as “incorrect songwriting”—his reasoning included a key change, and the fact that “the drums don’t show up on the chorus until halfway through, which creates this other, bizarre part.” You can identify the patterns yourself, but the difference is that Lorde can sell other, bizarre parts; Taylor cannot, even if she is borrowing from Right Said Fred. Taylor Swift is many things—spiteful, calculating, an embarrassing rapper—but until “Look What You Made Me Do,” she has maintained a technical songwriting ability that can justify a track, if not its motivations. That’s all out the window now.
Also, picking another fight with Kanye (and Kim) is dumb. She is wrong. The fake Pablo merch is insulting. Why are we doing it like this?!
Gallagher: It’s the chorus. Everything from the lyrics and the supposed meaning to the melody and whatever accent she puts on the end of the word “do.” If Taylor is trying fake accents again, can we please, please, please go back to here?
Kwak: “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.” Those feel like words being read off a page. Bad grammar don’t make you hard, Taylor!
Uggetti: That’s like making a mother pick a favorite child. Except the complete opposite.
4. Let’s talk about Right Said Fred!
Zoladz: Let’s not, I can’t even right now.
James: The best thing about this new Taylor song is that people are talking about Right Said Fred. “I’m Too Sexy” was released roughly a year after Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten. As the grunge wave was threatening to grow large enough to block out the sun, “I’m Too Sexy” made landfall on American shores. As a young suburban straight white cis male being steered by grunge into a relentlessly serious life of anger and cynicism, “I’m Too Sexy” was a revelation for me. These guys were funny, they were having a really great time, and the song was so catchy that it practically picked your legs up off the ground and moved them around for you. I remember “I’m Too Sexy” as a landmark in my development as a person. I was going to like things that most of my friends didn’t think of as “cool,” and that was going to be their problem and not mine.
Also, the Spanish-language version bangs even harder than the original.
Bereznak: It worries me that no one on Taylor’s songwriting team thought that the need to credit Right Said Fred should be cause for concern.
Baumann: I care less about ripping off a pop classic than the fact that the natural syllable stresses of the lyrics frequently don't line up with the music. That's amateur hour.
Baker: How about let's talk about another musician with writing credits on the song, Jack Antonoff. His involvement suggests there’s a 100 percent chance Lena Dunham will post a problematic Instagram defending Taylor, right?
Gruttadaro: It’s awesome to me that this is Taylor’s idea of sexy.
Gallagher: Let’s actually talk about Taylor's friends. Who does she hang out with these days? Is it still Haim? If so, this message is for Haim. Hi, Haim. Your friend is in desperate need of some guidance and counsel. The snake GIFs? We've all tweeted things we regret. The album cover? Don't look back at my first Instagram photos. But firing back at Kanye with a dis track inspired by Right Said Fred ... that’s actually negligence, if not straight sabotage. Friends don't let friends do this. Get it together, Haim. Your friend is counting on you.
Coley: It’s about time they got the recognition that they deserve.
5. What should Taylor Swift do now?
Baker: Get arrested.
Gallagher: COUNTRY MUSIC.
Baumann: Pivot back to country.
Bereznak: Look, we haven’t heard the whole album yet. It’s too soon to tell whether it will be a complete flop. But either way, this single is a blotch on Swift’s incredibly successful track record. Maybe the only way for Taylor to grow as an artist now is to suffer through some harsh music criticism. Either that or she’ll ignore what people say, keep on making mediocre pop hits, and continue to make billions of dollars. Let’s hope she’s grounded enough to listen to the people who don’t adore and flatter her as a default.
Coley: I don’t know if there’s anything she really can do other than take this L and ride the rest of this train wreck out. When life give you lemons, you’ll probably still make millions ’cause you’re Taylor Swift.
Uggetti: Apparently she may have a future in college football hype soundtracks.
Would not recommend the SEC, Taylor.
Dobbins: Release the rest of the album as soon as possible. It might not be better, but it's at least a distraction.
Gruttadaro: Maybe this is a “H.A.M.” situation. In January 2011, Kanye West and Jay-Z released “H.A.M.,” the first song from their highly anticipated Watch the Throne. It was weird and people openly revolted. So then Ye and Jay relegated the song to a bonus track, dropped “Otis”—a much better, more traditional rap song—six months later, and everything was cool again. Maybe Taylor released “Look What You Made Me Do” knowing that it sucks, so that when she releases “I’m a Snake” in late October, we’ll praise it—even if it’s not that good.
Kwak: I was going to offer a Jay-Z anecdote, too—except it was “What More Can I Say” from The Black Album. In short: Nothing will derail the Taylor train.
Zoladz: Give the old Taylor CPR.