From A Reference To Her $1 Lawsuit To A Hidden 1989 Connection: A Full Breakdown Of Taylor Swift’s Music Video

Taylor Swift Vevo

As almost everyone on the Internet knows, it has been quite the eventful week for Taylor. From revealing her long-awaited comeback to being met with controversy about copying Beyoncé, Taylor is definitely back in the spotlight of pop culture (a place she really hasn’t been in since last year). Her music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” just dropped at the VMAs and it is jam-packed with little details you might have missed the first time around.


But first, let’s address the scandal: after her teaser trailer was released, Twitter attacked Swift about completely copying and ripping off the iconic style of Bey’s “Formation” video. And to be frank, the Internet made a really good point; the teaser image was eerily reminiscent of Lemonade. However, the actual music video is nothing like what people were expecting. After watching it, it really doesn’t feel like a knock-off version of “Formation”. The two videos revolve around separate ideas and separate artistic styles (even the scene from which the infamous teaser image comes from is pretty different than Beyoncé’s video).

The Hidden1989 Reference

Taylor Swift Vevo
Taylor Swift Vevo

The video begins in a graveyard with a zombified version of Taylor crawling up from the ground. And if you’re asking yourself if that dress looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same one from her Out Of The Woods video (the last music video she had released before this one). Also notice the tombstone behind Taylor, it reads Nils Sjoberg, which was the pseudonym she used when she wrote Calvin Harris’ “This Is What You Came For” last summer. I see you being shady, Taylor.

The graveyard scene is meant to highlight how the song and the album are Taylor finally coming “back alive” into the limelight. It is a hyperbolized version of the lyric “I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ‘cause she’s dead!”. In fact, right before the video cuts to the elegant bathtub scene, we get to see the “old Taylor” lying pretty smugly in her grave:

Taylor Swift Vevo

The Single $1 Bill

Taylor Swift Vevo

Take a look into the bathtub full of diamonds and gold and you might spot the single $1 bill laying right next to Swift. She is absolutely referencing her recent victory in court in her assault and battery lawsuit against radio DJ David Mueller. Swift symbolically sued for $1 because it wasn’t about the money for her, but rather about receiving justice and inspiring other sexual assault victims to speak out against their abusers. She wants to continue reinforcing that message of empowerment, so props to her for including it in the scene.

Of Course There’s A Shakespeare Allusion

Taylor Swift Vevo
Taylor Swift Vevo

As the bathroom mirrors twirl around and we enter into the next scene, pay attention to what is written on the column walls and on the armrest of her throne. Almost any high school English student would be able to tell you “Et Tu, Brute” is an allusion to Caesar’s final words in Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar. Taylor clearly feels betrayed by a close friend, and I’m pretty sure we all know who she is mentioning (it’s the same person who everyone agrees this song is about). I mean, come on, she is even sipping tea in the same scene… she is intentionally throwing shade at Kanye and Kim.

Did Swift Even Come For Perry’s “Roar”?

Taylor Swift Vevo
Taylor Swift Vevo

Most people probably noticed the obvious diss at Perry as Swift mockingly holds her hair so that she looks starkly similar to Perry (who by the way was hosting the VMAs). The Grammy that she is holding is a direct reference to the infamous story of how fellow pop star Perry has yet to ever win the award, despite being nominated almost every year. With her animal print fur coat and an actual cheetah in the next clip, it begs the question of whether she is trying to take a jab at Perry’s “Roar” video. The shade is there at all levels.

Wait So What’s Up With The Robbery?

Taylor Swift Vevo

While the robbery scene at first seemed out of place to me, when you read the “Stream Co.” in the electronic banner behind her, it makes a lot more sense. She is once again bringing up her previous press scandals, this time referencing when she took all of her music off of Spotify to bring light to the fact that they underpay their artists. She uses a robbery to highlight how people thought it was “unfair” of her to backstab and “steal” from Spotify like that (as if it wasn’t her own music that she had the rights to). With almost every one of these scenes, she is criticizing all of the media that has criticized her.

Dictator Taylor Was Meant To Be Creepy

Taylor Swift Vevo
Taylor Swift Vevo
Taylor Swift Vevo

You might have gotten creepy vibes from the scene where dictator Taylor was brainwashing other women, and that was exactly the point. It was a commentary on how Taylor’s squad was notoriously attacked for being robots subservient to her and how they were all apparently expendable: Swift could morph them and break them and she would be left unbothered. It is once again a hyperbolized version of the media’s often unwarranted critique of her. She is taking back her reputation (hence the album title) by exaggerating the media’s stories to show just how ridiculous they sometimes are.

Taylor Swift Vevo

As a tribute to her real squad, in her “You Belong With Me” remake, you can clearly see the names of all of her besties written on her shirt, from Selena to Gigi.

In Conclusion…

Taylor and her team definitely put a lot of effort into the video, and it paid off. From the obvious references of her past eras (including “Country Taylor” and “Shake It Off Taylor”) to countless snake rings and to the very subtle details she incorporated, there is something to dissect at every level of the video. Overall the music video was everything her upcoming album Reputation is supposed to be about: a commentary on the reputation she has acquired by exaggerating the viral things she is both famous and infamous for. While the phrase “look what you made me do” has a pretty negative connotation in everyday use, Taylor seems to be twisting that idea by saying “look at the new person I have become” after dealing with a toxic situation. And while I personally lean on the side that Taylor has made a lot of mistakes and is often in the wrong, I think her message is still important for teenagers to learn: prove the mean backstabbing friends in high school wrong (you are better off without them anyways).

Reputation will be released on November 10 and is available to pre-order now.

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Written by Tommy Bruzzese

Tommy Bruzzese

18. Boston, MA. Unnecessarily deep.