After making fans wait what's felt like forever, Taylor Swift announced a new album called Reputation. This came after a week of dropping clues on social media — namely erasing past posts and uploading snake-themed videos. Because of the timing of this resurgence, there are rumors that Swift and Katy Perry will perform together at the MTV VMAs to officially bury the hatchet in their seemingly never-ending feud. But, honestly, that shouldn't happen. No one would actually benefit from a forced, Kumbaya-esque performance — least of all, the two pop stars with already controversial public reputations.
During a Monday interview with SiriusXM's The Morning Mash Up, Perry claimed to know nothing about a Swift collaboration, but she's not opposed to the idea. She said,
"Listen, I’d love for the beef to end. I’d love to take it off the BBQ... I’m down, but I haven’t heard anything of it. Once again, we tell each other lots of stories, don't we?"
Meanwhile, VMAs producer Garrett English told Entertainment Tonight that there was no duet planned — at least not yet. "Not so far, no," he said on Wednesday. "That's not happening as far as [I know]." And when asked about any sort of Swift performance, English continued, "There's nothing happening right now." Still, given the "so far" and "right now" additions to those sentences, the rumors that the two pop stars might perform together aren't officially squashed. After all, aren't the VMAs known for surprises?
So, let's say for the moment that it might happen. The reasoning behind the rumor is this could be a way for both women to settle their infamous feud. If you need a quick refresher, the Perry and Swift drama dates back a few years. While they were initially pals, Perry claimed in a May 2017 interview that it all started over a backup dancer. (At the time, Bustle reached out to Swift's rep, but did not receive an immediate response.) No matter how it began, they both kept the drama alive in one way or another. Swift's "Bad Blood" was rumored to be about Perry, while fans thought that the latter singer's new album featured digs at Swift.
Even though Perry later said she loved Swift and "always has," according to Us Weekly, the "Shake It Off" singer has yet to publicly shake it off. That means Swift is bound to respond eventually. And, given her track record, a VMAs performance may be her way to do exactly that, especially with her upcoming album's apparent focus on reclaiming her reputation.
Performing with Perry, who happens to be this year's host, would be such a Swift move. She's no stranger to publicly extending an olive branch to other celebs in very calculated ways. Just think about how Swift performed with Nicki Minaj at the 2015 VMAs, presented an award to Kanye West at that same show, and sang with Avril Lavigne during her 1989 World Tour. Yet, in each of those instances, a hug on-stage didn't lead to any lasting resolution. It's not like you saw Minaj and Swift drop a single, or she and Lavigne go on vacation together. Meanwhile, everybody knows the Kanye friendship was short-lived.
If Perry and Swift took the stage together, it would seem more like just another PR move, not a a genuine gesture. This one-time bonding moment would clearly be intended to simultaneously get people talking, but also get them to stop focusing on the feud. Wouldn't it be more mature to settle their differences out of the spotlight? If they're trying to repair their images (which seems like the clear focus of Swift's current comeback), a public spectacle is the worst way to do it at this point.
After all, Swift and Perry are two women who've received flack for their "faux feminism" in recent years. They've been criticized for only championing women's rights when it benefited their own public persona. For example, Swift didn't speak out about the election, despite frequently talking about feminism in interviews. Considering Trump's numerous comments disparaging women during his campaign and beyond, many expected her to follow other celebs in denouncing his comments, but she didn't. And then there was that whole Nicki Minaj debacle in 2015, where the "22" singer unfairly inserted herself into a Twitter conversation started by Minaj over the lack of black artists in the main VMAs nominations. Swift said Minaj was trying to "pit women against each other," but she overlooked racial implications in the process — and said nothing when Minaj asked her to speak on this intersectional issue.
Meanwhile, Perry flip-flopped on identifying as a feminist over the years and was accused of cultural appropriation on multiple occasions. (Back in June, she admitted during a live stream, "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 even if Perry is a "feminist" by definition, she, too, has work to do in the intersectional department.
Both women's reputations have been overshadowed by their supposed feud, as recently as Swift releasing her music on streaming services the exact same night Perry's album dropped. And while it's understandable they'd want to settle the situation once and for all, this doesn't feel like the way to do it. A VMAs performance would be yet another hollow act from the pair, one that would feel too contrived and thus lack any real meaning. Instead of writing songs about each other (i.e., "Bad Blood" and "Swish Swish") or performing together, they should just privately let it go. Silence would send a stronger message that they're over the drama. Quite frankly, it would be long overdue.
Ultimately, if this really is Swift's moment to reclaim her reputation, she should start fresh. And doing something that already feels way too calculated is the wrong way to move forward.