Sorry, Not Sorry: I Don’t Like The New Taylor Swift Song or Video, Shake It Off

It’s no secret that I am definitely not Taylor Swift’s biggest fan – I’ve already written about that here. I realize that this is a rather unpopular opinion that makes a lot of you angry, but I can’t help how I feel. I’m just not into her.

But when I heard an excited coworker announce that Taylor Swift had just dropped a new song AND video yesterday, called “Shake It Off,” I decided to go into it with an open mind. I put aside my personal feelings about Taylor and told myself to just focus on the music. Hey, I had recently enjoyed a picture she posted on Instagram of her cat… who knew? Maybe I would become a Swiftie.

To be perfectly honest with you guys: all personal feelings about Taylor aside, I did not like the song. I’ve seen elated fans write about how amazing and perfect the new single is, and how the video is even better. I’ve seen the reviews about how Taylor is trying something different. But I didn’t find it fun, upbeat or inspiring. And I really didn’t like the video. I didn’t think it was cute, funny, and a better path for Taylor. I actually thought it was pretty catty and, at times, it genuinely made me feel really uncomfortable.

Let’s watch the video before we discuss:

Okay, let’s chat. Throughout the video, Taylor plays a few different personas while singing about shaking off her “haters.” What are these personas? Um, I honestly don’t know. To me, it seems like she’s blatantly making fun of pop stars such as Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. I can enjoy some good social commentary from celebrities, but this didn’t feel like that to me. It didn’t really feel very fun and innocent. It felt more like Taylor was saying, “Look how much different and better I am!”

A lot of people are talking about how this is such a different direction for Taylor, mainly because (for once) she’s released a song that isn’t about how an ex-boyfriend broke her heart and acted like a jerk. It’s not – instead it feels more like Taylor making fun of her fellow pop stars. Different? I guess… but it feels pretty similar to me.

Two of Taylor’s “characters” throughout the video also involve some race issues. I can’t comment on these on a personal level, but I have seen a lot of chatter on social media about how her use of black dancers seems ignorant and maybe even racist. At one point, Taylor hops around in a hoodie and fitted hat while backup dancers break dance around her. In another scene, she’s obviously mocking Miley Cyrus as she navigates her way through black female dancers twerking, at one point even starring at the girl’s butt with her trademark “OMG meeeeee, really meee??!” surprised face.

I think Hillary Crosley’s commentary on Jezebel pretty much sums it up: “What is clear is that the girl dead set on being America’s Sweetheart picked the wrong week for this sappy, ready-made Target commercial cut where she celebrates her true self by crawling through a bridge of brown and black women’s butts. *surprised Taylor Swift face*”

Here are some tweets expressing frustration about these race issues:

 

 

And, again, here’s a quote from Jezebel’s Hillary Crosley that explains things better than I can right now: “Taylor’s wearing cut off jean shorts, an animal print jacket, big gold hoops and jewelry that harken people of color and a CeCe Peniston curly-cue. But this isn’t cultural appropriation right? Maybe objectification is a better word. Because she’s America’s Sweetheart who knows that dressing up in the cultural cues of another ethnic group isn’t cool, right? But paying dancers to twerk so she can gawk at their bodies as other while literally crawling underneath a London Bridge rotating bums is fine? Shouldn’t milquetoast know better? Oh wait, she’s doing it as a commentary?”

It’s not that I’m accusing Taylor Swift of being racist – I just think this was done in really poor taste. I don’t think I would be as uncomfortable with this whole thing if the video were different, because the lyrics of the song were pretty harmless. I just really don’t understand what the video itself has to do with the song.

Let’s discuss the lyrics for a second, though. They’re not exactly revolutionary… the chorus goes something like this: “But the players gonna play, play, play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake. Shake it off, shake it off.” There’s not a lot of creativity there, and I have to say, I’m kind of surprised. I’ve heard other Taylor Swift songs that are better written than that. While I appreciate the message that you should always be yourself regardless of what others say, and while I don’t think the lyrics are awful, I also just feel like they could be a lot better.

Maybe this just isn’t my thing. I’m not saying the entire thing is a huge mess and a terrible fail. Like I said, I like the message that ultimately comes from just hearing the lyrics. It’s great that Taylor is showing her young fans that you should ignore what other people say and think about you, and just keep doing you. But I don’t love what she did in the video. I wish it didn’t feel like such an obvious jab at other pop stars. I wish Taylor could release one song that doesn’t involve her putting someone else down. And I wish that it wasn’t yet another thing this week that ignited a debate about race.

Basically, my feeling is that this could have been better. A lot better. And I’m sorry if that makes you angry, but… it’s kind of true.

What do you think about “Shake It Off?” Are you a Taylor Swift fan? Do you agree or disagree with me? Did you find it racist or problematic? Tell me in the comments!

You can follow the author, Jessica Booth, on Twitter or Instagram.

 

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  • Ellie

    Personally, I don’t think she was purposely being racist. Sure, some people may think that the video was racist, but people would be mad if there weren’t any coloured people in the video.

  • Trumpetgirl2

    I honestly agree with you. I didnt like it. The song has a good meaning and a good beat but twerking? RAPPING?! No that aint Taylor swift. I miss the little teenage girl country star that just wanted to fit in. Not the 20 year old weirdo that thinks shes better than everyone else. A little advice taylor? Leave that to Weird people. Just sayin’. Sorry didnt mean to offend anybody

  • Jennifer

    I get really mad when people say well this is the first song she didn’t say about her ex- boyfriends I’m like she wrote “Ronan” that song was about a little boy so people get your facts right

  • Salema

    Let’s call a spade a spade. I’ve seen you say how much you like Miley and defend her. Just to be clear, this is the same girl who sang and starred in the video for “23” with her J’s, oversized jersey and grill. At the VMAS she was twerkin (if you could call it that) like it was going out of style that same night amidst an array of black girls. Yet, instead of calling this cultural appropriation, you support her. If you’re going to call out Taylor, might as well call out Miley too. In my opinion, you don’t like Taylor and this video was just another reason to give as to why you didn’t like her. Heck, I can’t stand her for days yet I don’t look for reasons to dislike her. And one more thing, I am tired of people of white people, in particular, deciding what’s offensive or not offensive to other races. If this video really bothered black people, do you not think there would be an uproar by now?? Instead of picking and choosing what you want to be sensitive about, be sensitive about issues that really do affect the black community.

  • Rebecca

    I honestly love this song, I love the message and how she isn’t afraid to be herself and express who she is through her dancing, which she knows is terrible. And about the alleged ‘racism’ people would be complaining if there weren’t any colored people. There is absolutely no way to please everyone. There were black girls doing ballet (which is supposedly for white girls) and white girls were twerking (which is supposedly for black girls) so its not like the dancing was race specific. People need to calm down and stop assuming the worst about everything. Sometimes people do in fact have good intentions!

  • Sonora

    I’m a person who has never liked Taylor Swift as a singer or a songwriter and I can honestly say that this song doesn’t make me want to turn off the radio. I am an african-American teenager and I honestly don’t understand the whole uproar going on for this video. Even if she is “mocking” Miley or Lady gaga, how does that make her any different than all of the other singers criticizing their counterparts? Also, to add to that, I think that the video was super fun. As a dancer that has been trained in jazz, ballet, hip hop, tap, and contemporary I don’t think that the stereotypes that are being portrayed in the video have to do with any race, but instead with specific dancers. Break dancers often wear the baggy clothes, some hip hop dancing girls wear those kind of shorts and crops when performing, and cheerleaders are, well… cheerleaders. To the comments I’ve heard about the twerking girls all being black (and it being racist)… they weren’t. There was a white girl (possibly 2) on the right side of Taylor. Overall, I think that it just took a lot of courage for her to go make a video where she was basically making fun of herself in a music video. She should have nothing to say sorry to.

  • Nia

    I’m a black woman and I didn’t like the video. She appropriated black culture the outfits she wore, her poses, the “haters gonna hate” thing (AAVE, look it up), and by using black women as props. There were white girls in the twerk group, but only white girls in the ballet group. Why do you think that is? No, it’s not random. The director and Taylor strategically planned out this video, the aesthetic, and the actors. I have no problem with twerking (I actually spend twenty five minutes of my day perfecting my technique, but that’s beside the point) however, Taylor used black women as props. The twerk groups’ faces weren’t even shown, she cropped out the rest of their bodies and showed only their butts while she crawled beneath their legs (?) and once again, made black women into one dimensional toys used for the pleasure of men.

    Thumbs down Taylor. I’m mad at you.

    • Vanessa

      right?! and its not like she couldn’t have used a black ballerina. There are PLENTY of talented African-americans in ballet. Uhm, hello! Zoe Saldana was a professional ballerina before becoming an actress. Her first role was in a movie called center stage which was about the audition process for ballet companies. The director chose seasoned dancers over seasoned actors/actresses for the rolls and it could NOT have been a better choice. (If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it)

  • AJ

    I feel like this could have been a great song with a great video but it was done horrible. Taylor is making these messed up stereotypes seem ok and I cant tell if she’s just ignorant or generally disrespectful. There is nothing positive about the video. The entire video is spent mocking people in some way or another while trying to make it seem fun. Earl’s comment is spot on. This is a video for racist or prejudice white girls who pretend to care and/or like other cultures.

  • Hannah

    I do not agree with this article. In watching the video I saw dancers of all different nationalities dressed in outfits that go with their genre, not a specific race. Taylor isn’t making fun of artists in her video, I think she’s showing how she doesn’t fit in with them. She is obviously impressed by their skill and makes fun of herself from being unable to do what they can.

    In the twerking scene, she doesn’t exclusively use black dancers. And in all the other scenes she uses dancers of all different races, in fact when I first watched this video I commented on how cool it was that she had different styles dancers and people of different body shapes. Instead of a one specific type.

    Personally, I think that it’s ridiculous that you’re calling out Taylor Swift (who wrote a song that she hopes will empower people to not take bullies to heart) when there is a plethora of celebrities that actually perpetuate racism and use women as objects in their videos.

    • Gwen

      This is pretty much how I felt too, but I’ll had some things.

      I agree with the article on one point, Taylor wrote better songs.

      But for the rest… I am not a Swifter or Swiftie or whatever her fans are called, but I am kinda tired of hearing that Taylor Swift only makes songs about her exes. It’s kinda unfair because if you look closer, a lot of her songs doesn’t involve her past relationships. Yes, she sings about love. I don’t hear people complaining about Ariana Grande because she sings almost only love songs on her first album.

      And then, well as a person of color, I haven’t felt offended by the video. I don’t know, I watched the same video as you, but I didn’t felt uncomfortable. It was quite funny actually. All ballerinas are white. Okay not cool, I agree. But then… hum, where is the problem ? You talk about “cultural appropriation”. It means that Taylor should stick to white dresses like a perfect little girl ? So as a black person I am not suppose to wear cute white dresses because it’s for “white girls” like Taylor ? Hell no, if I want this dress I am gonna wear it and if Taylor wants to wear “jean shorts, an animal print jacket, big gold hoops and jewelry that harken people of color and a CeCe Peniston curly-cue” she can.

      I was also kinda of surprised when you talked about her making fun of Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus. Because it wasn’t obvious to me. Miley isn’t the only one who’s allowed to twerk and Lady Gaga changes so often of haircut that you can’t blame Taylor for rocking one of them in her video. So yeah, this point was kinda of extreme.

      And I really really don’t agree with you when you say “I wish Taylor could release one song that doesn’t involve her putting someone else down.”. You kind of destroyed your whole article by saying this. She did plenty of those songs you “wish she did”. Hard to take you seriously after this, it shows that maybe you doesn’t know the artist you are calling out as much as you should before you wrote this article.

      But well, it’s my opinion, and I still respect your. Sorry if I sound kind of mean (harsh ?), since my english is not really good.

  • Lauren

    This video is just so. . . awkward. There’s no flow to it, and as the author said it doesn’t seem to have any relation to the song. Not to mention her dancing. . . my god. And I don’t think the author even noticed that ALL THE BALLERINAS ARE WHITE. IN ALL WHITE COSTUMES I might add. I just think its stupid- all the black people are twerking, the Spanish are break dancing and the whites are doing ballet- its like “saying but not saying” that white people have more sophistication and grace (as represented by the ballerina) but the black people are twerking in short shorts. . .which in lack for better vocabulary is trashy.

    And yes, I immediately thought gaga with the white bob and the glasses- its like a trademark look of hers!

    On another note though, I am VERY glad that finally Taylor is admitting to whoring around with all the male celebrities. Everyone says shes this good little angel and a perfect role model but shes in a different bed like every week. If I had kids I would definitely NOT want them to be like her.

    • Hannah

      I’m sorry, but you’re entire argument became invalid to me when you said she was “whoring around” and judged Taylor for expressing her sexuality. I’m willing to bet that you would never judge a man for being with multiple women, so why would you judge a woman for doing virtually the same thing?

  • niki

    Oh, come on!!
    It’s a nice cute video… it kills me that people are saying there is somthing wrong with videos like this while most mtv’s most videos are 80% porn!!
    it is nice to see taylor like this, there is nothing wrong with this video for crying out loud!!!
    her massage is actually encouraging the stars she mimicked… “haters gonna hate”, how is that an insolt to the pop stars?!
    what kills me most is that after all the crap that is on TV, now you decide to complain…

  • Casey

    I’ve read the article, more than once. I’ve read the comments, as well as the replies. And what I’ve concluded from acknowledging everything that is being said by the author, and the commenters, is that this is an opinion piece misplaced. I don’t think everyone in the world needs to like Taylor (or love, or hate, her). Opinions are called opinions for a reason. What I do think is wrong about this is that it’s being posted on Gurl in an area besides the forums. Write this on a blog, a forum, a review section on iTunes. Just not on the site as an article.
    One of the things I enjoy most about Gurl is that it is a very open place to be, with lots of information to help girls. I like the positivity it brings to the life of being a girl. This article is not positive, it’s not productive, and all it teaches me is that writers need to be very aware of logical fallacies.
    I find fault in the use of the word ‘obvious’ (bolded not once, but twice) and the implication that Taylor is ‘jabbing’ anyone. I follow the media, like many young girls, and nothing in this video clearly (or obviously) appears to me as an attack on other celebs. Unlike in the example of Mariah Carey’s video ‘Obsessed’, or when Taylor’s song ‘Dear John’.
    All in all, I feel like there are a lot of assumptions being made in this, and sadly it can be true what they say about when you assume. If this was in an opinion area of the site, I’d get it. But by listing all these things you’ve been supposedly hearing through the blogsphere about Taylor and this video, all of which are appear as negative, and then trying to take five steps back with saying you aren’t the one saying she’s ‘racist’ just seems to be ‘in bad taste’.
    I’d suggest, as someone who likes to write, to take a few days away from this piece to get a fresh perspective on it when reread.

    • Nia

      You know, gurl does a LOT of opinion pieces. This isn’t a purely educational, unbiased, unopinionated website. So…there.

  • Meghna

    I don’t really see how she’s insulting Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga. She does get a lot of hate from people like you and others and she is telling her audience that she is not affected by this since haters are gonna hate and there is nothing she can do about it. Seriously, you post such controversial stuff and get so defensive and upset when people don’t agree with you. You are making a mountain out of a molehill. You don’t need to hate everyone to make people think you’re cool…

  • Kayla

    Truly, I find it to be a fun song. I don’t see her as much as mocking other artist just because she dresses like them. The song is call “shake it off” and she says “haters gonna hate”. I’m pretty sure Lady Gaga and other artists feel this way as well. Also there were black girls dancing ballet as well as white girls twerking in this video so as a black woman I’m not offended. Twerking a faze for young girls now so let her have this moment with her quirky-can’t-dance self. I liked that she made fun of herself a bit and that the song isn’t too thought out. Do we need more cleverly written songs? Yes. But for what the masses want today and what young people need to hear today, this song was perfect.

  • Hailey

    I’ve never liked Taylor Swift’s music before, but I actually really love this song and I think the video is great. I don’t think there’s anything even a little racist or offensive in this video. I read the article, but don’t agree with it at all. Not to be rude, but I think you need to pull the very large stick out of your ass and see this for what it really is: just a music video.