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In the first verse, she jumps right into thinly-veiled allusions to the infamous battle for credibility between she and the Kardashian-Wests:
It doesn’t take very complicated mental gymnastics to conclude that these lyrics probably refer to a conflict which has been playing out intermittently since 2009, when Kanye West famously grabbed the microphone from Swift during her VMA acceptance speech. Since then, the two – and now the three, since Kim Kardashian and West were married – have spent a lot of time jumping back and forth between friendship and outright hostility.
As it currently stands, Swift and Kimye have been warring since February 2016, when West included the lyrics, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous” at the beginning of his track, “Famous.” West said he had permission from Swift to include those lyrics, but Swift denied it. A PR battle ensued until Kardashian ultimately released footage on her Snapchatwhich purported to be a recording of the phone call where Swift did, in fact, give West permission to reference her in his song.
Whatever the case may be, Swift has been using a slew of images and lyrics to all but explicitly reference the fight in the build up for Reputation’s release. This new song seems to be just the latest drop in the bucket of Swift’s image makeover.
Returning to that first verse for a moment, Swift acknowledges “bringing a knife to a gun fight,” which of course is an idiom that means the person who brought the knife (Swift) was unprepared for a battle with a well-armed foe (Kimye). The Swift-Kimye conflict has probably been Swift’s most famous public fight, excepting her falling out with Katy Perry. The jury is still largely out on that one, but given the intensity of Kardashian’s receipts, Kimye seemed to thoroughly best Swift at the end of the day.
The next line, “all the liars are calling me one,” seems to say that Swift still isn’t taking the blame for how things turned out. It sounds a lot like she’s defending herself, and that she’s ready to keep defending herself. Almost undoubtedly, there will eventually be a tour to promote her new album, which means that she’s going to be performing these lyrics a lot, which also means that this feud will be on her fan’s minds a lot in the next year. Swift may have wiped her Instagram feed to start promoting this new album, but she doesn’t seem to be forgetting anything, let along forgiving.
In Swiftian fashion, the song pivots to topics of love. Throughout much of the rest of the lyrics, Swift seems to be saying that she may have lost the battle, but she won the war. Why? Because according to Swift, she’s doing better than ever and has found a partner who loves her for who she is.
“At least I did one thing right, I did one thing right /I’m laughing with my lover,” Swift sings.
According to Swift, she may have been caught in a scandal, and per the lyrics, “bridges burn, I never learn,” but she assures fans, she’s doing okay – great, even.