When I first heard Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” I was struck by its discordance. I then lazily listened to her other new single, “…Ready For It?” To answer the song’s elliptical question, and at the risk of* being a smug asshole: apparently, I was not.
My disappointment was confirmed by Amanda Petrusich in her New Yorker-ly erudite criticism of Swift’s “mercenary” new sound. My main frustration was that the songs didn’t sound like Taylor Swift. Petrusich puts it more eloquently:
Little about its throbbing, electro-pop production or performance feels at odds with the Zeitgeist, which makes it curiously anonymous, as if it could have been sung by almost any contemporary pop ingénue.
To be clear, the songs didn’t sound like my idea of Taylor Swift; although to be fair, that idea was one she’d built and marketed so carefully and consistently that I prefer to imagine it was shared universally. Regardless, rather than interrogate my cognitive dissonance, I dismissed her music and yearned for her to return to the “old” Taylor; a curious desire given how I typically celebrate a Whitmanian plurality of contradictory selves.
Of course, I didn’t stop listening to the new songs. I couldn’t. They kept playing on the radio, and I kept leaving them on. And then I started actively replaying them on Spotify. On a drive home two weeks ago, “…Ready For It?” came on, and I thought, “This song is 75% awesome and 25% awful.” I imagined it wouldn’t be long before I surrendered to it entirely.
Petrusich goes on in her piece to lament Swift’s shift into anonymity:
Swift obviously hungers for things: her entire career is built upon articulations of love gone wrong, giving voice to the particular ache of romantic rejection. To hear her now resort to weird mimesis, echoing hollow, boring expressions of lust—“Mmm”—feels like a collapse of imagination, and of honesty.
Absent her imagination and honesty may be, but last week, I fell in love with “…Ready For It?” When that first Hans Zimmer-esque bass drops, my body loses its shit** and I can’t help but start dancing. Aggressively. And this is the old Taylor’s effect on me: JUST DANCE. I got what I wanted.
There’s a cognitive habit called “the introspective illusion.” It clarifies how we don’t really know that much about why we are the way we are, nor about why we like the things that we do. When pressed for rationale, invariably, we bullshit. So here’s the fact of the matter: I didn’t like the song, and now, I love it. Why? I don’t actually know, nor do I care. I just wanna dance.
*”At the risk of” always means “with the certainty of.” In other words, I’m a smug asshole.
**I don’t actually shit myself. I may have gastrointestinal issues, but they’re not that severe.