The Grammy winner, 27, unveiled the video — which turns the tables on the criticism thrown her way throughout her career — at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday.
The video kicks off with a “dead” Swift (wearing the dress from her “Out of the Woods” music video) crawling out of a “Taylor Swift’s Reputation” grave juxtaposed with a shot of the star lying in a diamond-filled bathtub.
While some on social media claim the bathtub is a reference to Kim Kardashian West’s Paris robbery (she was tied up and put in the bathtub of her hotel bathroom), other fans say Swift has specifically referenced being painted by the media as a boy-crazy woman who goes home to lounge in her luxurious bathtub while wearing pearls.
The “dead Taylor” also shovels dirt onto a 2014 Met Ball-version of Swift.
In one of the shots of Swift lying in the bathtub, a $1 bill lies next to her shoulder, likely referencing her sexual assault lawsuit against David Mueller, whom a jury found guilty of assault and battery against the star. There’s also a grave stone with the name Nils Sjoberg in the graveyard scene, which is a reference to the pen name Swift used for “This Is What You Came For,” her song with ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris.
Other clips include Swift sitting on a throne commanding her legion of snakes, swinging in a golden cage and posing with a Grammy award after crashing her car into a pole as the paparazzi snap photos. Some fans on social media say Swift’s attire and hair in the car crash scenes mimic that of rival Katy Perry, who has never won a Grammy award.
In another scene inside a vault, the star rips off a cat mask while wearing a sweatshirt with a tiger and the words “BLIND FOR LOVE” on it. She is also sitting in the vault of “Stream Co.,” which likely is a reference to the period of time she removed her music from all streaming services and wrote a letter to Apple Music about artists being taken advantage of. (She recently released her entire catalogue back onto streaming services).
Her backup dancers in another scene who wait on her hand and foot are also all wearing cut-off shirts with the words “I ❤ TS” on them, a clear jab at those who made fun of her ex-boyfriend Tom Hiddleston for wearing a similar tank while they were dating.
Swift is also the ring leader at “Squad U,” where lines of identical women follow her rules. The scene is also reminiscent of West’s Yeezy fashion show.
The video evolves into Swift standing on a pile of Taylors from the past, including from her “You Belong with Me” video (except this version is wearing a T-shirt with the names of her “squad” — Selena Gomez, Martha Hunt, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Lena Dunham and more — written on it).
Other versions of Swift include the one from her “Shake It Off” music video, from her Fearless era and from the 2015 Billboard Music Awards (where she and ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris kissed after she received an award).
The last 30 seconds of the music video shows all the various Taylors arguing with each other, saying things her haters have accused her of over the last several years.
“Stop making that surprise face. It’s so annoying!” dead Taylor tells “You Belong with Me” Taylor. Adds the “Shake It Off” Taylor: “Yeah, you can’t possibly be that surprised all the time.”
“What’s that, bitch?” adds another, while dead Taylor shoots back, “Don’t call me that.”
“Oh, stop acting like you’re all nice. You are so fake,” the Red-era Taylor tells the Fearless Taylor. And yet another says, “There she goes playing the victim again.”
The video ends with the 2009 VMAs-Taylor repeating what Swift said in an Instagram caption she posted when hitting back at Kardashian West, who leaked a phone call between Swift and her husband Kanye West last summer: “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.”
On Saturday, director Joseph Kahn told a fan on Twitter he and Swift began working on the video at the start of the year before shooting it in May.
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According to a press release, the single is the first song off Swift’s upcoming album, Reputation, which will be released on Nov. 10.