During social distancing and isolation, some of us have been going back to “comfort content”, watching old shows and movies, re-reading books, nostalgia playlists. Is this story gossip version of that? No matter what happens, Taylor Swift vs Kim and Kanye West will go on. It will be in the history books and streaming in real time in 200 years. And, well, that’s part of the problem … for some. But let’s back up.
This weekend, the “full video” of the infamous call between Taylor and Kanye was leaked online. (I’ve embedded it below and you can read the transcript here.) I put “full video” in quotations because, I dunno, in another two or three years, who’s to say there won’t be another version, and another “here’s the real story!” angle to this drama? The drama, as we all know, is about whether or not Taylor signed off on Kanye’s lyrics to the song “Famous”. She claims she didn’t, Kim dropped a three minute version of the call online at the time in 2016 that resulted in Taylor feeling like she had to hide for a year, and everyone else was all like… this is a great show. Sometimes, though, great shows can go on for one or two seasons too long. Swift vs West peaked three years ago. I don’t know why we’re still here. Especially since no one really has anything to lose or to gain.
Taylor’s fans are, of course, proclaiming that she’s been vindicated. But the thing is, for her fans, they always believed her in the first place and for the people who are fans of Kim or Kanye or both, it’s not like they were under any illusions that the Wests aren’t scheming manipulators. And, also, nothing here is black and white. All of this hinged on two lines in the song:
“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous”
Taylor and Kanye spend several minutes on that call going over the first line about sex. And as for whether Taylor knew about “made that bitch famous”, this is the part that could be debated over for years – here’s the transcription:
“West: Yeah, exactly. We can’t have it like be somebody else’s idea that gets in front and they’re like… Because if you’re like a really true, creative, visceral, vibey type person, it’s probably hard for you to work at a corporation. So how can you give a creative creative ideas and you’re working in a house of non-creativity? It’s like this weird… So whenever we talk directly… Okay, now what if later in the song I was also to have said, uh… “I made her famous”? Is that a…
Swift: [Apprehensively.] Did you say that?
West: Yes, it might’ve happened. [Laughs.]
Swift: Well, what am I going to do about it?
West: Uh, like, do the hair flip?
Swift: Yeah. I mean… Um… It’s just kind of like, whatever, at this point. But I mean, you’ve got to tell the story the way that it happened to you and the way that you’ve experienced it. Like, you honestly didn’t know who I was before that. Like, it doesn’t matter if I sold 7 million of that album [“Fearless”] before you did that, which is what happened. You didn’t know who I was before that. It’s fine. But, um, yeah. I can’t wait to hear it.”
If you’re pro-Taylor, you’re like, see? She’s clearly uncomfortable with it and he doesn’t mention the word “bitch” so she wasn’t lying. And if you’re pro-Kim and Kanye, you might be like, the spirit of the line was there, and artists add or change the words to an idea all the time. If you don’t care, again, I’m not sure this changes things so much either way that, coming out of this, one side is well ahead of the other. #KanyeWestisOverParty was trending for a while. That doesn’t mean he’s over. And I don’t think anyone, not even Taylor’s fans, truly believe that Kim would ever be over.
She has a superpower that very few celebrities possess – and this is why I don’t cover her or her family. Because Kim Kardashian can be a hero and a villain, sometimes at the same time. Most celebrities can only fit into one archetype and this is more true of women than men: America’s Sweetheart or Bombshell; ingénue or femme fatale. Kim, though, somehow can transition from lane to lane and without pretense; the Kardashians, unlike most celebrities, aren’t out here pretending that they’re not playing it up for the cameras, that they don’t love the attention, that they don’t do everything they can for more attention. Kim in that sense is much more honest about fame than anyone. But then again, she’s capable of suddenly switching gears and tells you she’s studying to become a lawyer and is now a prison reform advocate…BUT it won’t change the fact that she is still petty as f-ck. Like I said, there aren’t a lot of celebrities out there who can manage those dichotomies.
So to go back to this beef with Taylor, and whether or not this new leak makes Kim and Kanye look bad or worse, f-ck no. We are talking about them. I’m talking about HER. In Kim’s world, this is not a loss. And it’s also why there are some people who suspect that Kris Jenner, the evil mastermind, is behind all of this. So Kim’s response to the latest installment? She liked a tweet:
Basically Kim shrugged. And she’s been shrugging off Taylor for a while now. As she said, like two months after she blew it all up, “I’m so over it”. That’s the Kardashian gossip play – you start the fire, then you walk away, ready for the "next”. It’s gossip by way of Twitter’s attention span.
But is Taylor over it? F-ck, I really want her to be. You know what bothers Taylor the most about those lyrics? It’s not the “might have sex” part. It’s the line that comes after. And it’s not even the word “bitch”. What kills her most is Kanye’s claim that he “made her famous” after the MTV VMAs, when he interrupted her acceptance speech to yell about how Beyoncé deserved it.
This is why her immediate response to him on that phone call when he drops in there that he might have recorded a line about making her famous is to remind him that she’d sold “7 million” albums before that incident. Taylor Swift has always been about proving that she did the work. That she wrote the songs. That she built the relationship with her fans. That she is responsible for who is she. And so, yes, of course it would be insulting to hear from Kanye West that he’s the reason for her superstardom. Of course it would bite her ass.
Unfortunately, the more she and her fans insist on vindicating her over this phone call, the more it’s branded into pop culture history that she and Kanye are connected. Taylor’s been liking all kinds of Tumblr posts by people proclaiming that she was right in the end. So wherever she’s social distancing, she’s aware that this going on, and wants you to know that she knows that you know that she was right.
It’s been four years, over ten since the VMAs. Longer than most celebrity marriages. And it’s still going on, this back and forth between Taylor and Kanye and Taylor continuing to engage in this drama. So the person she doesn’t want to credit for her success continues to be associated with her, and she’s not exactly discouraging it. How is that a power move? How will Taylor ever become disentangled from Kim and Kanye if she herself is giving it air? It could have been a short chapter in the Book of Taylor. It then turned into an entire section – a recurring theme in the narrative. Taylor is a storyteller, she should understand how a narrative thread can colour a whole story. For some reason, she has played her part in fueling a narrative thread that could have been tied off way back in chapter 3. I don’t understand why she’s kept it going all the way to chapter 20.
So, yes, she may be the “winner” in some circles, but ultimately, given that we’ve just spent yet another weekend talking about the unsinkable story that is the Taylor vs Kim and Kanye beef, is this really a victory?