We're here for the drama, but it's not cut and dry
Tomorrow marks the seven year anniversary of that iconic time our arrogant overlord Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs to say that Beyoncé's video should've won instead. Almost a decade on, there's a whole new Beyoncé-Taylor beef broth brewing in the world of celebrity music videos.
Taylor's latest track “Look What You Made Me Do”, as dragged by Dazed, is a weak, vague, anti-climactic melter that for some reason “interpolates” “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred. It takes a shoddy aim at people like Kanye and Katy Perry without ever really hitting the mark, in the way that a proper diss track should do. And some people think that the video for it copies Beyoncé's “Formation”.
People all over the internet have been scrambling to compare the two – citing the similarities in Taylor's gothic attire, dark lipstick, opulent backdrop and literal stance, in front of her (assumed) backing dancers. It's not like Taylor doesn't have form on creating racially insensitive or appropriative music videos. Both “Shake It Off” and “Wildest Dreams” were rightly or wrongly called out for this reason.
But while I am really, really enjoying all the Black Twitter memes, the link between the videos seems a lil' tentative to me. Firstly, Taylor's hasn't even been released yet – it's scheduled to hit our screens tomorrow, during MTV's VMAs. All we've seen is two barely-there shots of Taylor looking white-girl fierce in the teaser on Instagram.
Secondly, there are a million dark, edgy music videos out there which has the lead standing in front of their backing dancers, fanning out behind them in a triangle shape. Like, come on. Think of Janet Jackson. Both Beyoncé and Taylor have walked the fine line of inspiration vs. imitation for many years. Bey has been accused of nicking intellectual property from people as diverse as Josephine Baker, New Edition and Kerli. While Swift has been accused of copying K-Pop's 2NE1 for her “Bad Blood” video.
Anyway, the receipts are that the video was directed by long-time Taylor collaborator Joseph Kahn, who said in a string of tweets supporting the singer that they began concepting and prepping the “Look What You Made Me Do” video in January, shot it in May and that he had even collaborated with Beyoncé before (Destiny Child's noughties bangers “Jumpin', Jumpin'” and “Say My Name”).
“The #LWYMMDvideo is not in her art space,” he said of Bey. “There's something to that 'formation' shot I painted out and you haven't seen yet. Stay tuned Sunday.” After his words, I'm thinking that even if the shot choice was intentional, it's a marketing ploy rather than an actual straight up copy – because how would the latter ever benefit Taylor? And if it is a marketing ploy, we've fallen straight into the trap.
Meanwhile, even if Taylor hasn't been complicit in an attempted Beyoncé rip-off, there's no denying that it's the season of white mediocrity. As Girls Trip smashes box office records, white woman comedy equivalent, Rough Night, starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and token black girl Zoë Kravitz, has bombed. Katy Perry's recently released “Swish Swish” video is like, genuinely awful, even with the addition of everyone's favourite Stranger Things star, Gaten Matarazzo.
I do get the frustration: white mediocrity is usually rewarded in a way that blackness never is, hence Kaye's 2009 outburst and the fact that “Look What You Made Me Do” is apparently the fastest song to reach number one on the US iTunes chart for a female artist. So as we wait for the VMAs to hit our screens, let's enjoy the memes. Imma let you finish on this: