Top 10 References You Missed in Taylor Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do"
Who knew this former country star and current pop sensation could be so nuanced?
T Swift’s video for her latest single is full of subtle and not-so-subtle hints. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the "Top 10 References You Missed in Taylor Swift's 'Look What You Made Me Do'."
For this list, we’re breaking down every scene in the video to look for hidden meanings and references you may have missed the first time around. And while there are definitely plenty of interpretations, we’ll be looking at the things we noticed specifically.
Taylor Swift’s new video and image is all about killing off the “old” Taylor Swift, and “Look What You Made Me Do” is rife with nods to her many prior personas. Most notably, near the beginning of her career, Taylor placed much focus on her favorite number: 13. She was born on December 13th, 1989, and has always expressed an affinity for the typically unlucky numeral. She used to draw a prominent “13” on her hand for shows on her older tours, so, of course, one of the Taylors in the video had the number scrawled on in the same way.
Taylor Swift famously collaborated on Calvin Harris’ hit “This is What You Came For” in 2016, but rather than directly taking the credit, she used the pseudonym Nils Sjoberg. She reportedly made the decision because she didn't want her romantic relationship with Harris to become the focus of the song. In her new video, the opening scene takes place in a graveyard where Swift claws, zombie-like, from the ground. In the background, you can see a tombstone with the name “Nils Sjoberg” on it, implying that it’s one of the many versions of Taylor she has killed off and left behind.
In many ways, the video is all about Swift acknowledging what her detractors have said about her and forming them into a new, ironic image for herself. A couple of years ago, the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsASnake trended, with many blaming Taylor for the feuds and drama she seemed to have with other major celebs. The height of controversy for Swift came in the summer of 2016 when the beef between her and rapper Kanye West was reignited over his lines about her in his song “Famous.” The snake emoji became a commonly used diss against Swift, but she has clearly embraced the imagery in this video, with snakes featuring prominently in many scenes.
Taylor has become known for her epic Fourth of July parties, which typically feature a gaggle of famous guests. In 2016, she hosted a particularly big blowout where she and then-current beau Tom Hiddleston were snapped in many cuddly photos together. One of the most widely spread was an image where Hiddleston was wearing a shirt that read “I heart TS.” In an obvious bit of imagery in her new video, her backup dancers all donned shirts emblazoned with the same message.
Taylor appears in countless different outfits in “Look What You Made Me Do,” and almost all of them are references to a previous version of herself that appeared in either another video or an awards show. Each outfit represents a different time in the singer’s life, from her classic country look from the Fearless tour, to the more recent ballet outfit from the video for “Shake It Off.” Of course, the dress she wore at the 2009 VMAs when she was famously interrupted by Kanye also made an appearance. The final scene of the video shows all of the Taylors conversing with one another and addressing the stereotypes about each one.
At the beginning of the video, Taylor appears lying in a bathtub full of diamonds and jewelry; but in a blink and you’ll miss it moment, there is one outlier in the shot. To Swift’s left is a single dollar bill, which likely represents the recent court battle Taylor fought. She was being sued by DJ David Mueller for damages incurred after he was fired from his job due to allegations Swift made about him groping her. She counter-sued for $1 and went to court in the summer of 2017 over the issue. She won her legal battle and was awarded the single dollar she was owed.
While Taylor Swift’s discography may currently be on Spotify, this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2014, she pulled her music from the platform the same week she launched her album 1989 to make a point about how little revenue artists get from streaming services. In 2017, she made it all available again. However, in her new video, one scene shows her and a group of friends robbing a company called “Stream Co,” which is likely a reference to the fact that she’s not quite over the issue.
One of the many Taylors to appear in the video was a version from the video for “You Belong With Me.” If you look closely at the scribbled-on t-shirt however, you’ll realize that it isn’t an exact replica of the one Swift wore in the video. It’s actually covered in the names of T Swift’s girl squad members like Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Lena Dunham, Alana and Este from HAIM, and several others. It seems these signatures are reaffirming who Taylor’s current friends really are, because one notable omission was Lorde, who recently stated that she and Taylor don’t really hang out anymore.
Taylor is definitely throwing some serious shade in various directions with both this song and the accompanying video, but perhaps the most controversial are the allusions to Kim Kardashian’s Paris robbery. She can deny that there’s a direct connection here; but in real life, Kim was left tied up in a bathtub while $10 million worth of jewels were stolen from her, and in Swift’s music video, she lies in a (somewhat Parisian looking) bathtub surrounded by jewelery. Kardashian was held at gunpoint, and in the scene from the video, Taylor, at one point, mimics shooting a gun with her hand. We’ll leave the rest up to your interpretation!
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a couple honorable mentions:
- Et Tu, Brute
- Reference to Beyonce
If there’s one foe who seemed to be the focus of Swift’s ire in this video, it’s her longtime rival Katy Perry, as many scenes seem to reference the other pop star. Perry’s fans are referred to as Katycats, and Swift is seen wearing a cat mask in the robbery scene. She’s also wearing a tiger shirt, which may be a reference to Perry’s Roar. In the car crash sequence, she’s dressed in a Katy Perryesque outfit and is holding a Grammy—possibly referencing the fact that Perry has never won one. She also wears the same ringleader outfit that she sported at the 2012 MTV Europe Music Awards when she won Best Female Artist over Perry.