Taylor Swift in the long line of artist reinvention

Sep 11, 2017


Taylor Swift poses in the press room at the The 58th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.; Credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images


Taylor Swift recently released the first single of her upcoming sixth album, and it’s… different.

A “Bad Blood”-esque revenge anthem on steroids, “Look What You Made Me Do” trades Swift’s typical catchy hooks for a melody more spoken than sung. Instead of long, flowing dresses and beautiful landscapes, the music video is rife with snakes, graveyards and references to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” And the old Taylor? Oh, she’s dead.

Swift only just cemented her drastic shift from country singer to pop star with 2014’s “1989.” But “Look What You Made Me Do” and the following single “… Ready For It?” go a step further and attempt to rebrand Swift from the relatable girl-next-door she’s been for the last decade to a bitter, wronged titan of pop music who no longer cares what anyone thinks.

Swift is far from the first prominent artist to make a significant shift in music or persona – but will she be successful? Which artists have been successful making such transformations in the past, and which have failed to sell their new image? Larry speaks with LA Times music critic Mikael Wood about Swift’s newest reinvention and the trailblazers who successfully and unsuccessfully rebranded their careers before her.


Mikael Wood, pop music critic for the LA Times

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