Taylor Swift, America’s sweetheart, has taken the music world by storm, once again, with the release of her latest mediocre song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” so much so the single’s campy video was the star of the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.
The new single has broken streaming records on Spotify and YouTube on the first day of its release, ultimately setting Taylor up for another huge year in a career that has been over-awarded for under achievement. Her new album, Reputation is assumed to be a fiery response to her haters over her damaged image since being called out as a liar. But what would this career be if it wasn’t for events transpiring during that fateful night at the 2009 VMA’s, the year Kanye West started trekking down a path towards infamy, and fans poured sympathy upon pop culture’s first “damsel in distress?”
People have died for committing more heinous acts than hurting white women’s feelings, but I digress.
It has been almost eight years since Kanye snatched the mic from Taylor during her acceptance speech to remind the world that Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” was one of the greatest videos of all-time. His approach was disrespectful, and could have easily been read as misogynistic, and for that he should have apologized. But he wasn’t lying regarding the merits of Beyonce’s singular dopeness. Taylor was distraught and cried on the stage. Pause. Ain’t nothing more heartrending in America than white women’s tears falling before a large public audience. People have died for committing more heinous acts than hurting white women’s feelings, but I digress. By the end of the night, it seemed Beyoncé had cleaned up the mess, yet several years have passed and Taylor seems to be still be cashing in on Kanye’s behaviors.
In the world of Pop Culture, Taylor Swift is seen as the vulnerable, defenseless white woman who was attacked by the aggressive, violent, Black male rapper. People caped for her and some scorned ‘Ye. His career took a nosedive that evening, one he has not yet recovered from, while she continues to excel with no repercussions for her wrong actions.
Since that time, Taylor has won Album of the Year twice at the Grammys. Once over the critically-acclaimed albums of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, and the second, coincidentally, over another Black rapper’s, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. In 2014, Taylor was presented the American Music Award for Excellence from Diana Ross for projects that paled in comparison to the works of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Diana Ross. She is an appropriator of culture who seems to be granted a pass that hasn’t been afforded to other white pop stars like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. She has made entire albums about bad break-ups attributing no fault to herself, and she has even thrown shade at some of her peers only to be forgiven—yeah Nicki I’m referring to you—when that same courtesy is never afforded to others. “Miley, what’s good?”
The biggest issue, however, are her lies. In a recording from Kim Kardashian, Taylor was caught on tape giving Kanye permission to the use of her name and lyric in a song. Upon the release of “Famous,” Taylor and her camp went into full-white-girl “he is attacking me again” mode, pretending to have no idea about the song. Once Kim’s recording was released, Taylor was condemned, rightfully so, and disappeared from the scene temporarily. But, fans and peers pitied her and derided Kanye.
Taylor is skilled at surviving through a lie, or public embarrassment, and returning unscathed. I’ll give her that. But Taylor’s latest performance of “I’m a white girl, who gon’ check me” is no more evident and obnoxious than in “Look What You Made Me Do.” She will surely receive rave reviews for being strong and confident for braving Kanye’s presumed character attack. Last night’s video release was said to be a sign that the old Taylor has been transformed into a more defiant woman coming out of scandal while biting off everyone else’s style.
And it leaves one to wonder how many more years she will use the sin of Kanye for the sake of her glory? Based on the history of America, this debt may be one he will never able to fully pay.
Taylor has continued to succeed despite subpar live vocals, mediocre visuals, and the ability to attack multiple artists. And she has managed to stay on top. Her millions of fans have ensured as much. Such success is certainly a privilege only afforded to white women. And it leaves one to wonder how many more years she will use the sin of Kanye for the sake of her glory? Based on the history of America, this debt may be one he will never able to fully pay. Listeners will have to pay a price, too: mediocrity comes with a hefty price tag.
Author: George M. Johnson is the Managing Editor of BroadwayBlack.com. He has written for EBONY, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.