The Complicated Genius of Taylor Swift’s Newfound Rage

It may be time to close up the bar at the #TaylorIsOverParty, a hashtag her critics started last year in the midst of Calvin Harris drama. Although the singles from her forthcoming album, Reputation, have earned tepid reviews from critics, the first of them, “Look What You Made Me Do,” nonetheless set first-week streaming records and muscled “Despacito” out of the number one spot it had occupied on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 16 weeks.

Yet even commercial metrics like these pale in comparison to the song’s triumph as a cultural event, the most bizarre manifestation of which was certainly the hours-long stream of tweets from the leading far-right news outlet Breitbart on the morning after the song’s release: It consisted simply of the day’s headline stories enigmatically coupled with snippets of the lyrics from “Look.”

Most of the voluminous popular response to “Look” has criticized or, much less frequently, lauded Swift’s apparent metamorphosis from earnest, vulnerable singer-songwriter into ruthless electro-pop avenger, from blonde, bespangled American sweetheart into leather-clad dominatrix. In some ways, this response reproduces a good-girl-gone-bad narrative that is almost as ubiquitous as Swift herself.

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