In case you missed it, Taylor Swift released a new music video for her single “… Ready For It?” — a question she might not like the answer to, if we’re being honest. Am I… ready for it? Yes. In that I’m still waiting for whatever … “it” is supposed to be.
I’ve felt that way through all the teases and the breathless deconstructions of the music released off her upcoming album, reputation. I mean, I get that it’s supposed to be darker. It’s supposed to expose the difference between the real Taylor and the for-public-consumption Taylor. She’s addressing her haters and the rumors, sort of, in a sly keep-em-guessing way. Which is fine. But as someone who doesn’t give two shits about Taylor Swiftian drama, but who did bop my way along to several tracks off of 1989, all I was hoping for was some solid Taylor Swift pop music.
Not whatever this is.
She is a talented artist, and knows how to pen a pop hit. No question. Not all of her music appeals to me, but most of it I can appreciate. That’s the nature of the pop music beast. Still, there’s a distinct whiff of jumped-the-shark to her latest efforts, in part because the videos and messages seem to rely so heavily on allusions to her own career, the narrative we think we know about her, and… Ghost in the Shell?
Look, I LOVE a fun, batshit craycray music video. Sometimes a good video will cement a song in my esteem, or even redeem one that would otherwise seem mediocre. Exhibit A:
And certainly a mediocre video won’t hurt a song that is already good — it simply has that song to lean on. But the problem is that neither “…Ready For It?” nor “Look What You Made Me Do” are particularly interesting songs, and their respective videos are trying to fill the quality gap by overstuffing the goings-on with pure spectacle.
“…Ready For It” is another collaboration between Swift and director Joseph Kahn. And instead of referencing all of Taylor’s back catalog, they are referencing a bunch of sci-fi to justify a clone-tastic take on the different sides of Taylor Swift. The recent live action Ghost in the Shell — which was resoundingly panned, btw — is the most inexplicable and prevalent homage, though there are shades of Blade Runner, Westworld and I dunno, fucking Thor maybe? Rolling Stone and Vulture decode the video in very different ways, but nothing I’ve read seems to speak to what the song is actually supposed to be about. And honestly? I couldn’t tell you either. I’m still … ready for it to make some kind of fucking sense.
Taylor has practically grown up in the public eye, and I’m sure she has a lot to say about that experience. About the media, and the public fixation on her private life (which she may have leveraged intentionally, if we’re judging based on that Tom Hiddleston phase), and apparently celebrity feuds or whatever. And that’s fine! I’m sure you can get a great song out of that. But while plenty of pop stars reinvent their artistic persona from album to album, Taylor, who built a career on being a confessional artist, is seemingly just smashing that “real?” persona to reinstate it with… what, a robot? A void? Something that’s “more real” somehow? Is she really trying to undercut her entire career just to reorient herself now?
The album is supposed to come out on November 10, so soon enough we’ll be able to decide for ourselves how well this gamble is going to pay off. In the meantime — Taylor, we get it. You’re complex. You’re dark. You’re deep.
And you’re trying way too hard.
But whatever, if this song comes on the radio I probably won’t change the channel.