Taylor Swift's latest single "Look What You Made Me Do" premiered on Thursday night and was met with mixed reactions. Despite that, Swift broke records on Spotify and Youtube, logging 8-million first-day streams on the music platform and another 19-million views for the lyric video. These numbers prove that the song is the singer's most discussed work to date, and no matter what listeners or critics thought about the track, it was in heavy rotation throughout the day. It's possible that the criticism online even contributed to these high streaming numbers, as for better or worse, it was one of the most buzzed about moments in recent pop music.
When Swift deleted all of her social media last week and reappeared with an ambiguous video of snake, fans were anticipating a dramatic return. The following album announcement and single drop ultimately felt, by many fans and critics alike, to be a bit of a letdown. This single comes after a tumultuous couple of years for Swift as a public figure. The backlash against the artist started in 2015, when she started a Twitter feud with Nicki Minaj. The two stars seemed to settle the score onstage at the VMAs, but it was only the first of Swift's public debacles.
A 2009 drama with Kanye West was rekindled after the rapper released "Famous", and their disagreement over the song's lyrics resulted in Kim Kardashian's infamous video receipt. Neither of these events cast a positive light on the star, and Katy Perry putting her own disputes with Swift back into the spotlight hasn't helped. Fans theorized that this single seemed poised to share insight into Swift's side during past few years, or even to help her reclaim her stardom by embracing villainy. After its release, many online couldn't agree on whether the track accomplished either.
The controversy around the track likely contributed to its popularity on streaming platforms. While it was critically panned, and even disliked by large portions of Swift's fanbase, it was certainly a topic of discussion. The New York Times published a roundtable on the subject of Swift's new song, enlisting their strongest cultural critics to dissect the song. NPR Music also brought multiple voices on board to tackle the track, and ultimately deciding that it wasn't successful. Other critical analysis was even less generous, and unflattering reviews popped up on Pitchfork, Spin, and The Ringer. However, negative attention is still attention, and its clear that the public wanted to listen to the track themselves before casting any judgement.
"Look What You Made Me Do" symbolizes a new era for Swift's career, and it attempted to reveal a darker side of the star, even if it left certain critics unconvinced. It's not uncommon for female pop stars, like Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus have done before her, to experiment with a rebellious persona. In this particular case, fans and critics found Swift's attempt at cultivating a new image as a misfire, but an undeniably intriguing one. If these streaming numbers are to be believed, the star has the public's attention, and it's only a matter of how she capitalizes on this moment as the rest of the Reputation is rolled out.
Swift's album will be released in full on iTunes and streaming platforms on Nov. 10. It was produced Jack Antonoff, who is her longtime collaborator and the man quietly behind some big successes in recent pop history, including Lorde's Melodrama. The music video for the first single is forthcoming, and will premiere at the 2017 VMAs on Sunday. A short preview was posted on the Swift's Instagram shortly after the song premiered.
It's difficult to know if the critical and public consensus on Swift's new music will shift after the first video premieres or the album is released. Yet, given this record breaking moment, it's clear that the star on a lot of people's minds. Her albums have broken sales records in the past, and with the momentum from this weeks single drop, even if it was driven by conversation and controversy, Reputation is likely set to do the same.