Sunday night’s Video Music Awards at MTV – the annually gifted VMAs for best music video work – was whack.
Sometimes in a good way (Blackpink’s live performance, Nicki Minaj’s hosting slot). Sometimes not so much (Johnny Depp as the floating, f-word dropping Moon Man, Cheech & Chong’s unfunny, dated presence, Nicki Minaj’s torture porn presentation).
One ever-present aspect of the 2022 VMAs came when Taylor Swift repeatedly won several silver Moon Man totems – three wins for “Video of The Year,” “Best Long-Form Video” and “Best Direction.” With that, Swift set multiple records with recent “All Too Well: The Short Film,” video which she solo directed – including her being named “The First Ever Artist To Solo-Direct MTV’s VMA ‘Video of the Year’ Award-Winning Video,” “The First Artist in VMA history to Win Three ‘Video of the Year’ Awards” and “the only female artist to win ‘Best Direction’ twice for directing her own videos.”
“All Too Well” is a somnolently stunning piece of film, no doubt. When it comes to that which is quietly stunning, Swift seemed to hold all of the keys to the castles of quietude and humility, as she is just coming off of her two, most coolly reserved and downright folksy, mordant pieces of music: the pandemic-born solitude of 2020-recorded and released albums, Folklore and Evermore.
Devoid of hype and hubris, Swift’s twin 2020 albums seemed to turn a tide for Taylor Swift, who though she started off her recording artist life in country music, ultimately moved into twee-r dance pop with 1989 (2014), Reputation (2017) and Lover (2019).
Getting back to the VMAs, everything seemed fine and her wins were accepted graciously, until the last victory came across the screen. And as the broadcast was ending, Swift looked into the MTV network’s cameras’ lens and said how she had a secret she was going to reveal: that she was dropping a new album in October whose further secrets would be revealed at midnight on her website – that the new album would be called Midnights, that it would be released on October 21, 2022, and that you could pre-order the whole she-bang then-and-there.
And suddenly, in that moment, Taylor Swift became annoying again.
The same writer who repeatedly and in rote fashion penned poison lyrics about each old boyfriend (though surely some cads, such as John Mayer deserved the heat). The same Taylor Swift who made the movie musical, Cats, into the debacle that it was back in 2019 (then again, so did James Corden and Jason DeRulo help in making Andrew Lloyd Weber’s feline affair a cinematic mess).
Now, on its own, selling product is not a crime. The VMAs were filled with sales pitches. DJ Khaled couldn’t get through one full phrase as an award present without mentioning his new album’s release by name every 20 seconds (No, I’m not helping him here), So did Nicki Minaj. But that Swift and MTV pretty much planned the ceremony around the Taylor Midnights mic drop was pretty shady and an over-obvious bit of Swift-i-ness.
Here are but a few of Taylor Swift’s most annoying and more controversial moments in the last several years.
The Kanye West Feud
Started when Kanye West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Awards (even then-President Obama called him “a jackass”), this became the starting salvo of a long, ongoing feud between the two music artists and an even-longer time into having to deal with Kanye’s temper tantrums and overall goofiness. Had Swift not taken him so seriously, West would have stopped and he would have been called out for being the misogynistic narcissist that he is. There may not have been the Trump-loving Kanye or the picking-on-Pete Davidson Kanye to choose from – but no, everybody had to keep talking about this forever. And while it is no way Swift’s fault for getting attacked, making Kanye West’s foibles into a matter of import only bolstered his ego. To make matters weirder, Swift was somewhat complicit in the faux drama between when she agreed to some of West’s derogatory lyrics about her, and Ye’s wife, Kim Kardashian caught the agreement during a phone call that KK later leaked.
Up until around 2018 when a celebrity’s take on LGBTQ+, feminist, social justice and abortion rights became the highlight of one’s bio, Swift avoided any rush to judgement or political stance. Why’s that for the usually outspoken Taylor? She didn’t want to risk becoming a casualty of opinionated country music such as the Dixie Chicks were back in the days of the Bushes. Since that time, she has become an avid activist for gay and women’s rights, and that’s swell, but being frank and outspoken because she had to doesn’t really say much for having a say.
Re-recording all of her albums
Ownership in music and publishing is essential, a right to her past that Swift lost when her catalog before 2020 was sold to the highest bidder. With that, Taylor vowed to re-record every album she’s ever made with new titles and rarities added in to the mix. In most cases, that’s fine. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version) are interesting re-visionings of where an artist was and could be. But does this mean she’s going to re-do 2017’s Reputation, the one where she takes on hip hop and Miami bass? There are limits.
This was long ago that she designed American Greetings cards, but somehow I find the Hallmark sentimentalism indicative of some of what she’s had to say, lyrically – even on albums as latter-day as 2019’s Lover.
Did I mention Cats? Again, not all her fault. But, you know, still.