After weeks of teasing, on Thursday morning, Katy Perry released the "Swish Swish" video, but, to the surprise of many, the video actually has nothing to do with Taylor Swift at all. Fans on both sides of the Perry/Swift squabble have been insanely curious about "Swish Swish" and its meaning since the single drooped back in May of this year. After its release, there was speculation that the lyrics were pointed directly at Swift and their longstanding bad blood with one another. While that idea has yet to be confirmed by the "Chained to the Rhythm" singer, it appears that Perry's decided to take a totally different route. The message of Perry's "Swish Swish" video has nothing to do with Swift and may, in fact, be a lot deeper than expected.
The visual takes the form of a blunder-filled basketball game, in which everything seems to go awry for the singer and her ill-prepared squad. The over-the-top spectacle of bloopers is so intense, in fact, that it makes it feel almost as if featured artist Nicki Minaj swoops in to save Perry from herself. When Perry's team's dismal performance appears to have reached its lowest point, Minaj offers up a game-changing halftime performance that concludes with the rapper throwing the ball at Perry and saying, "get it together, Katy!" Thanks to Minaj's wake up call, Perry and her team quickly find their inner strength and manage to pull out a win.
But there are several signs in the video that this wasn't just about a basketball game. The video opens on two announcers declaring that this "affair" is predicted to be "the most unwatchable, eye-gouging blowout of the season." In addition, when it comes to "Kobe" Perry, they declare that, "despite all her best efforts, she just seems to keep falling flat on her face." Then the lyrics of the song, which are about running circles around enemies who underestimate you, seem to be talking about Perry and her team because they're so incompetent. In that way, it seems like the video is Perry's self-aware acknowledgement of her past mistakes.
Which would make sense. The singer recently said on the subject the accusations of cultural appropriation that have followed her throughout her career during her livestream in June, "I've made several mistakes... I will never understand, but I can educate myself and that’s what I’m trying to do along the way." So "Swish Swish" seems to be a playful highlighting of this new leaf Perry wants to turn over, wrapped up in a basketball metaphor.
However, there are many issues with the presentation. Like, for example, the fact that she's calling herself "Kobe Perry" even after those accusations of cultural appropriation. And, on top of that, Minaj's game-changing halftime performance, which makes her the saving grace of the both the game and video, also falls into the Magical N*gro trap. (The offensive stereotype, as defined by Salon, casts a "saintly" black character as a disconnected, mystical mentor to a white hero, who then goes on to be the one to save the day.)
So, yes, the "Swish Swish" video is, perhaps, an indication of a newfound self-awareness for Perry. Quite possibly, the lack of focus on Swift could be a way of making nice with Swift and her fans. But, ultimately, the message isn't as important as what Perry chooses to do next.