Taylor Swift: Culture Vulture

8.30.17_Features_Catie Byrne_Taylor Swift_Flickr_GabboT

Flickr / GabboT

Catie Byrne
Features Editor

Taylor Swift has a new image, and wants everyone to know about it.

Throughout her career, Swift has gone through a myriad of stylistic and musical changes, from cultivating the image of country music’s darling, to pop-superstar and now, Swift is coming out with an edgier image and sound for the release of her upcoming album, “Reputation,” on Nov. 10.

With the release of her new song, “Look What You Made Me Do” on Aug. 17, Swift employs the image of a snake and a dark rhythmic tune borrowed in part from Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit, “I’m Too Sexy.” In her song, Swift seems to be taking shots at rival musicians Katy Perry and Kanye West.

On May 19, Perry released what is believed to be a diss of Swift in her song, “Swish swish;” Perry and Swift have had a more recent rivalry, however the speculated insults towards West is in reference to a more isolated conflict at the 2009 VMA awards.

Swift has drawn ire on Twitter due to the release date of “Reputation” on Nov. 10 coinciding with the 10-year anniversary of the death of West’s mother, Donda West. And though this correlation has been neither confirmed nor denied, many have criticized Swift’s release date decision as insensitive because the death of West’s mother was said to be a particularly upsetting event for him.

It is unclear exactly what has motivated Swift’s latest shift in public image; however, it is hardly the first time Swift has tried on different image and musical styling.

The song “Shake It Off,” from her 2014 album, “1989,” particularly highlights this. In the video, Swift is prominently shown as a ballerina and a hip-hop artist; the latter of which has received heavy criticism. Swift was accused of profiting off of black culture and using black dancers and musicians as props to reinforce a black image.

In her article “On Taylor Swift and her cringe worthy obsession with blackness,” Blavity journalist, Jasmine Burnett, makes comment of Swift’s appropriation of black culture and seeming inauthenticity in her attempts to emulate it.

“Hip-hop and the blackness associated is tokenized in white pop culture by artists who otherwise ignore the complexities and challenges embedded in black culture. Swift is an obvious example of this harmful trend. She wants a peek inside of the fun of hip-hop and rap, but shies away from the social, economic and political realities expressed within the music,” said Burnett.

Burnett additionally makes mention to Swift’s interest in black culture in conjunction with the other images she has put forth in the media, which she believes are at odds with one another and reveals itself as an inauthentic form of white fragility wrapped in a veneer of victim-blaming.

“Swift uses her veil of ‘I’m-just-an-innocent-white-girl-with-a-guitar-and-a-basic-singing-voice’ to shield herself against controversy with the creators of the same black music she uses as a prop at her concerts,” said Burnett.

Swift has mockingly acknowledged this criticism in “Look What You Made Me Do,” when one of her personified images says of herself, “there she goes, playing the victim again.”

It remains to be seen whether with will seriously acknowledge the criticisms leveraged against her, or whether she will once again, make mock mention of them in a song. While Swift’s change in style and sound could be simply seen as an evolution of her music, many dub her as a vulture of cultures she does not belong to.  



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