Breaking down Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”

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Love it or hate it (we at the Clog love it, just sayin’), Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. The music video for the song is a piece of art, and we think that you ought to know every piece of symbolism Taylor Swift packs into these four minutes of amazing-ness.

0:10: Catch the “T.S.” letters outlined. Just a little heads up of whose video you’re watching.

0:17: Swift’s reputation has repeatedly been a topic of interest for the media over the last three years. It’s also the name of her 2017 album.

0:26: Swift just dug herself out of a grave. Does zombie Taylor’s dress look familiar? Well, that’s the the same dress Taylor wears in her “Out of the Woods” music video — now, that version of the pop singer is dead and trying to dig herself out of a grave.

0:28: Swift sings, “Don’t like your tilted stage,” which is most likely referring to Kanye West’s tilted stage from his “Life of Pablo” tour.  

0:29: Check out the tombstone to the zombie’s left, where the name  reads Nils Sjoberg. Does it ring a bell? That was the pseudonym Taylor Swift used when she co-wrote “This is What You Came For” with ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris. A lot of drama ensued after Taylor’s rep confirmed she helped write the song, but it looks like Nils is dead now too …

0:35: Pause the video or you might just miss it. Taylor’s dead and wearing the same dress she wore to the 2014 Met Gala.  

0:44: People are speculating that this is a jab at Kim Kardashian getting robbed at gunpoint. However, it’s actually in reference to T-Swift saying back in 2015 that the media thinks she cries “in her marble bathtub surrounded by pearls.” She’s mocking herself and the image the media has created of her.

0:56: Notice that the armrest on the chair says “Et tu Brute”, a Latin phrase meaning “And you, Brutus?” In Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar,” Caesar famously says this to Marcus Brutus after realizing his supposed friend, Brutus, was among those that assassinated Caesar and hence betrayed him. Swift is clearly feeling betrayed by a certain someone … looking at you, Kanye.

1:05: While hard to see, there’s 13 snakes in the frame — Taylor’s favorite number. Also notice that a snake is serving the pop star tea, likely a nod to Kardashian serving what she believed to be juicy gossip about Taylor in regards to the “Famous” phone call with West. Kardashian went on to call Taylor a snake, but Taylor chose to embrace the snake image.

1:20: Taylor crashes a fancy car while holding a Grammy — this is some pretty elaborate symbolism. In 2014, Swift’s Red album was nominated for Album of the Year. She and her team thought they had won for a split second but soon realized the award went to someone else, much to their dismay. In the track “Red”, Taylor croons “Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street.” “LWYMMD” Taylor just crashed a fancy sports car into a pole at the end of a street while holding a Grammy. #mindblown. Don’t miss the cat in the passenger’s seat sporting a necklace with the number 13.

1:34: Swift talks about throwing a feast, which most likely refers to Katy Perry’s song “Bon Appetit,” in which Perry is literally served as a feast in her music video. Perry and Swift share a bit of beef, which is what Perry supposedly went on to write “Swish Swish” about.  

1:38: In this clip, Taylor and her gang are robbing a streaming company wearing cat masks. A couple things to unpack here — Taylor makes fun of her supposed obsession with cats by having everyone wear cat masks, and she wears a sweatshirt that says “Blind for Love” (a nod to the media claiming she’s blind for love and will date anyone and everyone). It’s in reference to her pulling all of her music from Spotify because artists were essentially getting cheated from the free streaming. While Swift wasn’t doing it because she needed more money, people were still quick to jump to conclusions which she then mocks in her music video.

1:40: Notice the open engagement ring box behind Taylor on the pile of cash. That’s supposedly in reference to Harris supposedly proposing to Taylor and Taylor saying “N-O.”

1:58: TSwizzle arguably does the best job making fun of herself and the media’s portrayal of her. In this clip, she pretends as though she has a school of some sort where she trains mannequin-like models to become part of her squad at “Squad U.” She also sings “I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red underlined,” a nod to “Mean Girls” and Regina George’s name getting underlined in red in the burn book. In 2014, Katy Perry called Taylor Swift “Regina George in sheep’s clothing.” Whose got the last laugh now?

2:14: Taylor Swift has eight male back-up dancers, supposedly to represent her eight ex-boyfriends. They’re all wearing crop tops that say “I <3 TS”, similar to the shirt Tom Hiddleston borrowed from Taylor to avoid getting sunburned during her Fourth of July party. Of course, the media had a field day mocking him and Taylor at that time.

2:42: The new Taylor Swift is standing on a mountain of many old versions of herself who are struggling to climb up the pile. Spot the “Shake It Off,” “You Belong with Me” and 2009 VMAs Taylors.

2:50: Taylor raises her arms against the T in the background. Oh shoot, it kind of looks like she’s getting crucified, doesn’t it?

2:58: All of these dead versions of Taylor imagery finally culminates into the new Taylor Swift literally saying on the phone, “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, cause she’s dead!”

3:39: Fifteen versions of Taylor Swift stand at the end of the video. There are 15 songs on Reputation, hence each version of Taylor represents one song on her new album.

3:45: “You Belong with Me” Taylor is innocently surprised and happy, while the dead “Out of the Woods” Taylor tells her to stop looking so surprised. Shot No. 23124 at the media for making fun of Taylor Swift and her innocent excitement and awe. Also check out the new and improved “You Belong With Me” Junior Jewels t-shirt. The new version sports the names of her real friends (the Haim sisters — Alana, Este and Danielle — Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Ed Sheeran, Lena Dunham and Gigi Hadid, to name a few).

3:50: A new version of Taylor Swift calls the zombie “Out of the Woods” Taylor a “bitch”, to which the zombie takes offense — similar to Swift feeling upset after West called her a “bitch” in his song “Famous.”

3:59: Another new version of Taylor Swift gets annoyed with “Fearless”-tour-Taylor and says, “there she goes, playing the victim, again,” just as the media accuses Swift of repeatedly acting like the victim in every situation to get the public to side with her.

4:03: Innocent 2014 Met Gala-Taylor asks a new version Taylor what she’s doing. The new version of Taylor claims she’s getting receipts from her phone and will edit them later. This is a nod to the fact that Kardashian released recordings of Taylor’s phone call with Kanye (without permission) and likely edited and/or only released selective clips of the phone call.

4:08: The 2009 VMAs version of Taylor Swift speaks into a microphone, asking to be “excluded from this narrative.” Swift wrote this in an Instagram post in response to her feud with Kardashian and husband West, which all began when West interrupted Taylor’s “Best Video of the Year” award acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs.

The “Look What You Made Me Do” video is full of symbolic messages, self-mockery and subtle jabs at people such as West, Kardashian and Perry. The video is a work of art in and of itself, and at the end of the day, artists are supposed to create art. Not everyone will like it, but Taylor Swift’s song is simply a depiction of her life through art, and isn’t that precisely what she’s supposed to do?

Avanti Mehrotra is the assistant blog editor. Contact Avanti Mehrotra at [email protected].