“Blank Space,” Taylor Swift’s new single and accompanying music video, which debuted on Nov. 10, and has already garnered over 15 million views on YouTube, indicates a clear departure from the artist’s classic “good girl” persona. “You look like my next mistake,” she sings. Yup, Taylor Swift is officially cool now. What does this mean for the hipsters of the world who have been secretly adding her songs to their vintage ’80s cassette mixtapes for years? It’s trouble (trouble, trouble, trouble).
Taylor is an adult with a commanding hold on the music industry and the pop demographic. She is ballsy enough to take on major music streaming corporations and still sell more than a million copies of her new album “1989” (2014) within its first week of release. She can write a catchy hook and provide a danceable chorus, all while looking pretty and staying relatable. It is a science and an art, and now Swift is showing the audience that she is completely aware of how she is portrayed and how tightly she controls her own image.
In the video, Swift traipses around a palatial estate that can only be described as the ideal setting for a Ralph Lauren polo campaign. She makes bedroom eyes at some Greek god of a male counterpart that, inevitably, leads to them carving their names into a tree together. Their relationship follows in typical Swift-video style: a beautiful, cutesy montage of love followed by the dramatic break-down. But here is where the fracturing of the formula begins, and the fissure between new Taylor and classic Taylor only deepens. Swift isn’t sitting at a piano, crying soft beautiful tears over her old beau, a la “White Horse” (2008), nor is she trying to convince us that by wearing large frame glasses she is any less of a beauty queen, as in 2008’s “You Belong with Me.” Instead, this Swift wears a slinky cheetah print dress and writhes around on the shiny marble floor with enough mascara running around her eyes to supply several Maybelline ads.
Swift plays up a vindictive and crazy scorned lover so flawlessly that the viewer is moved to smile rather than shudder when she rips up oil paintings in the mansion’s pristine halls, or attacks her ex’s Porsche with a nine iron and then drops her man candy’s phone into a fountain with a smirk. With the “craziness” that permeates the video, Swift perfectly combines the carefully crafted coolness she has developed of late with the trademark quirkiness that has earned her equal parts criticism and adoration. A quick shot of Swift kicking the tree bearing the carved heart and initials is the perfect example of this combo: She is still wielding an axe, but she wobbles slightly in her heels, bringing her back down to earth just enough for her fans to still claim her as their queen. Satirizing the media, the “Starbucks lovers” who call Swift insane, she is bringing down the criticism of her work in a flourish that reads like a Joan Crawford breakdown: fabulous and terrifying. As her song promises, “Darling, I’m a nightmare, dressed like a daydream.”