From the moment the name of Taylor Swift's first single off Reputation, "Look What You Made Me Do," was announced, I knew we were in trouble. Like many Swift fans, I had hoped that this new album would see the singer actually owning up to the incidents and behaviors that caused her popularity to slip, rather than blame the media or her famous enemies. Yet judging from the single, that's not the case at all. Instead, "Look What You Made Me Do" proves that Swift hasn't changed her mind about who's at fault for her damaged reputation — and while it's disappointing on some levels, it's actually kind of thrilling.
Although a few male celebrities — Kanye, anyone? — have perfected the "say whatever you want about me, it's not going to change who I am" persona, Swift might be the only female star in recent memory to do the same when faced with a serious amount of criticism. Even other famous women who've gotten slammed by the media, like Britney Spears or Kim Kardashian, have understandably chosen to alter their images in response, even if just slightly or for a short period of time. Not Swift, though, and that's pretty damn exciting. For the first time in a long time, a female pop star is being as unapologetically herself — for good and most definitely for bad — regardless of what we think.
Of course, it'd have been nice if Swift's first single off the album saw her apologizing for her actions or, at the very least, acknowledging that she'd done wrong when it came to Kanye West, Calvin Harris, Nicki Minaj, and the like. The singer's past few years have been riddled with missteps, and watching her not only make these errors, but stay silent (or, in the Kimye case, badly defend herself) whenever she's been called out for them has been frustrating. For years, Swift was a celebrity who came off highly self-aware, as shown by her work like "Blank Space" or "Shake It Off," but recently, she instead seemed ignorant of just how much playing the victim in situations with other celebs and artists where she was clearly at fault was damaging her public image.
So ideally, it would've been great if Swift's comeback song saw her finally having that realization, and it'd be a sign that she'd matured enough in the past few years to own up to her mistakes. Yet, as we all know now, that's not the case. "Look What You Made Me Do" shows Swift's old habits haven't changed a bit. The song points the blame for her tattered image at everyone who's not her: possibly Kanye, or Katy, or the media, or all three. They made Swift play the "role of the fool," she claims, and so now, "nobody trusts" her. Because of this, she's forced, she says, to be angry, hurt, and obsessed with getting revenge.
In other words, she's the same old Swift she always was, a person hell-bent on maintaining her innocence in every situation, no matter what. And this, more than if she'd actually learned her lesson, is what makes the singer so fascinating. For the past few years, Swift has been publicly shamed and criticized on a constant basis, with critics and fans alike withdrawing their support due to her actions. She's been taken down on a level deeper than most other celebrities ever have, with her character — not her music, not her look, but the essence of who she is as a person — deemed a failure. For any person, famous or not, that'd have to have caused some serious soul-searching.
But not Swift. Her new song makes it clear that the singer heard our complaints, and she just. Doesn't. Care.
We called her a liar, and a manipulator, and a flawed person content with playing the victim no matter the cost — and Swift just keeps on being herself, with no regard for the way she's viewed or judged by anyone else. From a public image standpoint, this makes no sense; as a major celebrity, the singer would, seemingly, want to ensure that consumers and critics are on her side, not rolling their eyes at her latest moves.
But for whatever reason, Swift is content with being the same, flawed person she always was. Maybe it's because she thinks she already has enough fans still supporting her, or maybe she just genuinely doesn't get how people think she's in the wrong. But while that may be hard to believe — how could someone not want to change, after so much criticism gets lobbied their way? — it surely is an incredibly fascinating thing to watch. For better or for worse, Swift is doing what few stars have done before her, and keeping us hooked every step of the way.