Victim or Victor?

Arts & Culture Magazine

Taylor Swift is a lyrical genius who uses her sharp tongue to flay her critics

Bhavya Kumar

“I’m so sick of running, As fast as I can, Wondering if I’d get there quicker, If I was a man,” sings Taylor Swift in her latest single, an upbeat track about how she could achieve everything if she were a man. Swift has been in the news since the inception of her career for reasons right and wrong. She has been media’s favourite whipping girl, her love life has been scrutinised and her actions have been minutely dissected. 

Taylor has had tons of drama in her life, and she has always known how to turn the negatives to glory through her songs. She’s a lyrical prodigy, as her mega successful albums like ‘Red’ or ‘1989’ would testify. There she talks about love and heartbreak, in a language you could use with your significant other but wouldn’t, until you heard her songs. She’s the good girl whose heart always gets broken by self-centred partners.

Last December, she turned thirty, three months after releasing ‘Lover’, her seventh album. Many say Taylor has gotten smarter with age. The years she has spent in the music industry have made her more vocal about the issues she stayed away from as a part of some calculative PR strategy. Before releasing the music video for her fourth single, The Man, Taylor released ‘You Need to Calm Down’, an anthem for the LGBTQ community with pot shots at homophobes. 

That song and its accompanying video were welcomed by her fans and she sent the media in a frenzy over the fierce support to her LGBTQ allies. While the YNTCD video was a parade of colours with flamboyant guest appearances from scores of prominent faces in Hollywood, the music video of The Man is an over the top criticism of men in the business.

She literally transforms into a man for the music video with layers of prosthetics and make up. You see ‘Tyler Swift’ on screen. He’s everybody’s favourite in the office, parties extravagantly on yachts with lots of bikini-clad women around him, screams at his retainers and charges at the umpire for losing a game. He’s a toxic, manipulative big shot who gets away with everything because of his gender. Taylor uses the song to scornfully portray how overrated men are. And she has good reason to.

Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards | Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The concept for the video came from her dispute with Scooter Braun, a celebrity manager who now owns Big Machine Records, the company that Swift released six albums with. He and Taylor were never on good terms and he made things worse by denying her the rights to perform her own songs in public. The ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ singer took to social media and accused Braun of hijacking her rights as a songwriter and performer. She wanted to perform a medley of her hits at the VMAs to celebrate her winning of ‘Artist of the Decade’ award. After much conflict, she finally secured her right to perform ‘her’ songs and presented quite a memorable act.

Taylor Swift has had a clever marketing record, she knows her audience, she has played the underdog even when she was the puppeteer. So, with The Man’s music video she throws the ball in her critic’s court. In all the scenes that play to present the quintessential villainous man in Swift’s imagination, there’s an exaggerated narrative, even cherry-picking, but her intentions are crystal clear.

Taylor Swift has a huge appetite for praise but she is also aware of the resentment she evokes. But she can handle that. In her own words, “l could build a castle out of all the bricks they threw at me.” And that’s the kind of attitude, you just can’t lose.


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