Monday, September 4th, 2017...5:25 pmkropfm

Taylor Swift’s Newest Drama

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I’m sure by now we’ve all heard of Taylor Swift’s most recent artistic meltdown. Her new song “Look What You Made Me Do” is the hottest gossip on E! News and Snapchat. Why? Because, not only is the song (kind of) catchy, but it also incorporates elements of polysemy.

Polysemy is a term used to describe a word’s ability to have more than one meaning. For example, the word “light” can mean pale, not heavy, or it can be a physical light bulb. Polysemy, as used in Swift’s new song, is the double meaning in the word “dead.” Swift’s line “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s dead.” lays out the song’s main argument that Taylor Swift that everyone thought they knew is gone and is never coming back.

Now, we all know that the real Taylor Swift is alive and well. To this effect, the word dead doesn’t go by the traditional definition of not alive. Instead, it means that Swift’s previous character is no longer relevant and is not coming back.

Using this knowledge of polysemy, listening to the song insights a different tone. My first impression of the song was that it was sad and a little bit morbid. It sounded like she was giving up on her own character (or even killing herself) because of how the media and other celebrity drama has affected her. Now, it seems to be a little bit more of a message of independence. She isn’t afraid to shed her own skin to shake off the accusations of other people around her, and she isn’t afraid to send out some accusations of her own. Instead of Taylor Swift dying, this song is about Taylor becoming herself and not someone her record label pretends she is.


  •   Professor Seiler
    September 5th, 2017 at 11:11 am

    Megan–fascinating… And would that E! News *was* talking about TSwift via “polysemy.” Now: I wonder if the missing words in your post might be: persona (the many personae of TS) and marketing… How does polysemy help build her brand (dread phrase)?

    Do proofread–strong start to the blog.

  • Hi Megan, thank you for an interesting take on the new song I (sadly) haven’t been able to shake from my head! When I first heard her song I immediately concluded for myself that it was whiny and attention-seeking. Though I could understand that the media is intense and has been harsh toward her in the past, I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that I felt as though she was blaming everyone else for her own actions though the title line “look what you made me do?”. This new interpretation of the song, with the idea of polysemy being used in regards to her assertion that the old Taylor is “dead” has enlightened me. Though I won’t be voluntarily listening to the song any time soon, I can appreciate this new meaning and have a new-found respect for Taylor for her statement of independence.

  • I think your explanation of the term here is very effective, and since this song has been on my mind lately, I appreciate your take on it. Considering that particular lyric with regard to the use of polysemy, the apparent reference to death as a means of rebirth within the song comes across more clearly. Rather than a dramatic proclamation merely to incite intrigue, the line can be read as a statement of her intention to rise above past incarnations of herself and the accusations that the media, or the public, has attached to them.

  • Megan, I actually just listened to this song for the first time (I am out of the loop) and completely agree with your analysis. In a lot of ways, Taylor is simply affirming what has been observable for years; her entire brand and aesthetic are unrecognizable from the sweet, innocent country singer we used to know. While I agree with the previous comment that Taylor often comes across as dramatic and attention-seeking, I also sympathize with her cultivation of a more resilient and uncompromising image. Taylor’s portrayal by the ruthless and biased media caused everyone to view her as weak and untalented, which is undeniably unfair and understandably frustrating to her. While the old Taylor is “dead,” her fans, and the general public, can’t deny their roles in making her this way.

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