This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
For over a decade, Taylor Swift has written songs with relatable themes such as dating relationships, coming-of-age moments, and even personality conflicts. Many consider her a role model for young girls, who listen to the content of her music as if it were a mirror into their own lives. They too have shed teardrops on their guitars. They too have had to shake it off and avoid bad blood with those who do not agree with them. And yet, the world has seen Ms. Swift transform from the acoustic country songwriter to a pop superstar in the span of five albums. Recently, the renowned singer released a new song which marks a turn in lyrical content and style: for the new Taylor, revenge trumps charity.
“Look What You Make Me Do” is dripping with gossip and slander. The track begins with a not-so-subtle repeated lyric, “no, I don’t like you.” The second verse closes with, “you’ll all get yours,” and the bridge confesses that Taylor Swift will be “the actress starring in your bad dreams.” Whether we made her do it or not, Ms. Swift has penned lyrics which reference wounds and conflict. Instead of responding with a foreseeable resolution, her song responds to this hatred with more hatred. The lyrical content suggests that it is better to gossip publicly than to handle personal disputes off the concert stage.
With the cultural impact she has, Taylor Swift has the potential to direct her art to something positive and uplifting for her millions of fans. But the lyrics of her latest single leave us with a human drama that favors getting even over healing old wounds. Giving a broken heart a pad of paper and a microphone can produce powerful and moving art, and the work could aid others in need who share the same struggles as the songwriter. After all, plenty of her fans have felt betrayed and heartbroken in their own lives. But rather than shedding light on sorrow and pain, Taylor Swift makes it seem that revenge is the only solution.
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we are advised to allow God to take care of vengeance: “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). In order to solve our disputes with others, we must allow God to direct our hearts to a resolution, shunning all impulse toward the vengeance proposed in “Look What You Make Me Do”. Because the lyrics of Ms. Swift’s song attempt to overcome evil with evil, the end-product is a gritty diss-track, contradicting the commandment of love.