Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Five Favorite Things About Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" Music Video (in GIF form!)

Dissecting and deconstructing the latest music video from the undisputed Queen of Pop ... in fully animated pictorial form!

By: Jimbo X

August 27, 2017 - a date that will live in eternal infamy. For those of you somehow out of the loop, that was when Taylor Swift debuted the spooky, cryptic video for "Look What You Made Me Do," the first single off her upcoming album Reputation. And to say that it was a watershed moment for contemporary pop culture is a gross understatement. I mean, shit, when was the last time you remember the unveiling of a music video being such a big deal? You'd have to go back to 1991 when Michael Jackson debuted the video for "Black or White" - you know, the one where Macaulay Culkin is the kid and George Wendt's his dad and there's that entire six minute breakdown where MJ bashes a car with a crowbar and keeps grabbing his balls before turning into a panther, for some reason - on Fox to find a music video reveal as heavily hyped as Swift's latest. And needless to say, it did not disappoint

The media frenzy started a couple of days before MTV's annual Video Music Awards (i.e., literally the only time all year the station actually plays music videos) when Tay Tay released a typographical, animated video on the YouTubes that just featured the song's lyrics laid over a bunch of crappy looking Clip Art montages. Naturally, it broke page view records and every radio station in the country was spinning the damn song on the hour. But what really made this one something culturally transcendent was the mystery surrounding the meaning and intent of the lyrics. Within minutes of the preview video going live scores of people were already online trying to decrypt the song like it was The Da Vinci Code or something. Was it a thinly veiled jab at arch rival Katy Perry? An oblique "fuck you" to Kanye West and the Kardashians? Some sort of Illuminati mind control claptrap tied to PizzaGate? EVERYBODY had their own theory on what "Look What You Made Me Do" was really about (complete with some wayward individuals accusing the laconic chorus of ripping off Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy," when anyone with a working set of cochleas can yell you it's clearly ripping off 2 Live Crew's "Me So Horny" instead) and it made even the most jaded and apathetic media consumer at least somewhat curious as to what the full music video would reveal. In short, it was one of the most brilliant marketing ploys the music industry has pulled in a LONG time. This was no longer just another video being released; it had become a bona fide transcendent cultural experience, like the Mayweather/McGregor boxing bout or Starbucks' limited time only Unicorn Frapuccino.

To be fair, I haven't really been following all the Taylor drama over the last year or so, but one 20-minute dissertation from my GF filled me in on all the details of the whole "phone-gate" controversy with Kim K and Kanye - a pivotal piece of intel that makes the conclusion of the video (in which multiple incarnations of Taylor bicker back and forth about all the other Taylors being fake, manipulative and shallow) so much cattier and sassier. While there's a lot of stuff to digest and over-analyze, there were five things about the music video for "Look What You Made Me Do" that I found particularly interesting, and as a public service to the denizens of Internet-land, I've decided to isolate 'em in easily redistributable animated GIF form for more pageviews  - I mean, to give you a better comprehension of the audiovisual subtleties of the short-form film ...

Zombie Taylor!

And just like that, my opinion on necrophilia did a total 180...

Right off the bat the video hits a high note, with the sudden emergence of Taylor Swift's "reputation" crawling out of the grave in full Evil Dead makeup. It's a really deft directorial decision and gets about as far away from the goofy, wholesomeness of "Shake It Off" as they could have without stocking the video with ACTUAL Faces of Death footage and the whole thing is just tremendous pro wrestling booking 101. You want to recast yourself as something dark, ominous, edgy and pointedly threatening? Shit, you might as well go all in and transform yourself from something that looks like this to something that resembles the goddamn Castle Freak. We're barely 20 seconds in and we just KNOW this new incarnation of Taylor ain't taking shit from nobody no more; WWE executives, take note - THIS is how you frame the initial setup for an effective heel turn in the post-Facebook era. And yes, I will just come out and say it - even as a desiccated, reanimated corpse with black ooze foaming out of her mouth, I'd still tap it.

The Diamond Bath!

Yeah, it looks all fun and hedonistic - up until the first gemstone gets stuck in your cooter.

Well, if you need a good visual metaphor for opulent indulgence, I guess taking a page out of Scrooge McDuck's playbook and literally bathing in precious jewels is a pretty good way to get the point across. I like how her appearance here kinda' sorta harks back to the video for "Blank Space," making for a nice touch of continuity. She just looks so psycho bitchy and seductive at the same time, like you KNOW she'd kill you mid-coitus like Doogie Howser at the end of Gone Girl, but damn it, you'd beckon her sultry siren song regardless. Also, I dig how her makeup toes a 50/50 line between classic and trashy. I mean, just look at those razor sharp, blood red finger nails - those things aren't for showing off at ritzy galas, they're for manually milking prostates behind dumpsters and we all know it. Then there's that brief clip at the very end of the sequence, where she takes a bite into a big diamond necklace, which you just know had to taste pretty gross. I don't care HOW many times they wash that shit, there ain't no way you're getting the smell of African dirt miner off those things; I really hope Tay Tay is up to date on her shots after pulling such a biologically perilous stunt.

Tea Snakes!

Yeah, they probably should've spent a little less money on the wardrobe budget and just a wee bit more on the snake CGI ...

Don't ever say Taylor can't act. Her mannerisms in this video are fucking Lillian Gish-like, conveying so much emotion (primarily, cerebral ill intent) with just the slightest of facial twinges. With her leggy red dress and hair pulled back behind her ears she almost seems to radiate a semblance of coyness, perhaps even submissiveness. But like that one serial killer from that old ass HBO special that used to squeeze-spray poison into people's faces, that reserved demeanor belies absolutely sociopathic rage. It's just so incredibly subtle, but you can tell she's thinking downright evil thoughts. And what better way to make that blunt as a sledgehammer than by putting her on a royal throne, covered in snakes that feed her tea and start jiving whenever she punctuates her sentences with exclamation marks? Yes, it is incredibly on the nose, but you know what? Sometimes, you just gotta say "fuck you, subtlety, fuck you right in the ass," and I, for one, am glad Tay Tay and company took the very low road on this one.

An Homage to The Silence of the Lambs? 

In the original video, I hear she ate Katy Perry's liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

With everybody on the Internet analyzing and interpreting the video for hidden messages and clues into Taylor's psyche, I'm really surprised no one has picked up on this possible allusion yet. So there's this part in the video where Tay-Tay is inside what appears to be a giant golden birdcage. It seems innocuous enough, but at the very end of the clip we get the quick zoom-in above. Does this particular sight remind you of anything? Watching Swift nom-nom on champagne and lobster inside a circular panopticon while flanked by seven armed guards, I can't help but be reminded of the sequence in The Silence of the Lambs where Hannibal Lector has din-din inside a similarly shaped cell, also surrounded by police personnel. Does this mean there's a deleted scene somewhere where Taylor bites off a dude's tongue, pepper sprays another dude and wears his chewed off face to facilitate a getaway? My, we can only hope.

Be Still My Heart - GOTH TAY-TAY!

Sorry - I'm too busy fapping to come up with a pithy caption.

All guys have their specific aesthetic quirks regarding the female form (read: unapologetic fetishes) and my stylistic weakness has always been goth chicks. So imagine my sheer jubilance when halfway through the video Tay-Tay abandoned the bright red lips and flowing evening gowns for first-suicide-attempt black lipstick, clinically-depressed-high-schooler onyx nail polish and full body fishnet stockings! Even better, her gyrations and kinda-sorta Aquanet-overkill coif are eerily, eerily similar to the interpretive dance moves and ozone-depleting hairdo of Angela in the first Night of the Demons movie. Unfortunately, it looks like they cut out the part where she chewed off a fat dude's tongue or sucked face with a blonde bimbo wearing too much pink lipstick - but hey, she has to leave something for the next single, don't she?

I don't care if she's wearing lipstick made out of AIDS blood - I'd still snog her.

Of course, there a lot of other highlights from the video that are probably worth symbolically examining, but I'll let you draw your own illusions to what Taylor really means when she positions herself in front of a giant, crucifix-like "T" and starts kicking earlier iterations of herself into the hypothetical abyss, or the real message behind the part where the paparazzi snap photos of her behind the wheel of a crashed car while she's holding a Grammy and looking suspiciously like Katy Perry. Those thinly veiled messianic delusions and fuck yous to competing pop princesses aside, I think "Look What You Made Me Do" is just a flatout tremendous video and the perfect pop cultural burnt offering to officially kickoff the Halloween season. I absolutely LOVE how Taylor is embracing the heel role in the video - personally, I haven't seen someone do such a fanciful job of playing up their pseudo-megalomania since Hulk Hogan joined the N.W.O. back at Bash at the Beach '96.

Indeed, there is a very weird totalitarian vibe I get from the video, almost as if Tay Tay is channeling her inner Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S. Seeing as how Swift is the kind of gal who likes to shitpost on 4Chan and hang out with dudes who wear swastikas on their shirts, it wouldn't surprise me one iota if she was secretly a total nihilist or maybe even a proponent of The Dark Enlightenment (do note that she was pretty much the only major female singer who DIDN'T spend all of last fall deriding Trump and figuratively fellating Clinton on the campaign trail ... how interesting.) Don't let her (relatively) desexualized, family-friendly appearance fool you, her pop songs are anything but lighthearted "take thats" to her romantic rivals - indeed, they are actually Iliads dedicated to her own cerebral barbarism. In a way, I almost feel as if Taylor is secretly embarking upon the plot of God Bless America in real life, only instead of shooting up the live finale of American Idol herself, she's slowly but surely molding an entire generation of 14-year-old girls to utterly despise liberal pop culture icons like Katy Perry and Kim K. Like Ah-nold in Pumping Iron, she's an absolute master of psychological warfare; shit, just by standing next to Lena Dunham in a posed photo, she literally makes her (possible) ideological rivals look like literal retards. Like The Joker in The Dark Knight, maybe the past ten years have been carefully plotted out as part of some impossibly grandiose scheme to decimate the pop music landscape, and this darker, edgier Tay-Tay is just the first metamorphosis before she turns into a full fledged anarchic powerhouse. From some jailbait country cutie that wore too much lipgloss and always said thank you to a red-lipped crossover pop-tart to a futuristic militarized music video vixen in fetish gear to a vindictive mass media empress, there's really nowhere else she can go that doesn't involve overthrowing entire conglomerates or throwing genre adversaries out of helicopters.

If Red represented Taylor's transition from country to pop and 1989 represented her ascension from pop novice to pop queenpin, the next logical step is that Reputation will represent her full-blown immersion into cult of personality politics. In that, the music video for "Look What You Made Me Do" could indeed foretell a major, MAJOR shift in the causa sui of Swift's career.

While other pop stars want to be bigger than Madonna, Tay-Tay wants to be bigger than Mussolini. And hey - if her critics are going to call her an "obnoxious Nazi Barbie," what better way to get 'em back than by transforming herself into an actual fascist? Forget bubblegum pop - if the darker, more sinister tone of "Look What You Made Me Do" is any indication as to what the rest of Reputation resembles, methinks Tay-Tay's about to drop the world's first Buchenwald pop album. Hey, don't say I didn't warn you, either - I KNEW that girl was trouble when she walked in.


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