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:
Second-hand embarrassment like whoa. pic.twitter.com/cVyz2tM4tq
— BuzzFeed Style (@BuzzFeedFashion) August 18, 2014
haven’t watched the taylor swift video and I don’t need to watch it to tell you that it’s inherently offensive and ultimately harmful
— EARL (@earlxsweat) August 19, 2014
perpetuating black stereotypes to the same demographic of white girls who hide their prejudice by proclaiming their love of the culture
— EARL (@earlxsweat) August 19, 2014
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!