Taylor Swift’s video for Delicate premiered last night at the iHeartRadio Music Awards. Delicate is considered to be one of the favourite songs off reputation, if not the favourite. The video was directed by Joseph Kahn, who’s directed all the videos off the album so far, and most (all?) of the videos off 1989 and, as I mentioned last week, Joseph forecast that Delicate, the video, would be “unexpected”:
"It's going to be unexpected and it's going to be grand," he revealed. "I can't get into too much detail. The need is love and the expression of it. And it's not about flowers. People have been sending me ideas, and generally it's like flowers, or pink dresses or blue skies. And those are all the things you'd think you'd want in a video, but they wouldn't fill what you need out of a song like that. So, I think I have a plan here to address that, but it's completely unexpected."
Here’s the video, if you’ve not watched it yet. Let’s meet on the other side to assess whether or not it’s actually all that “unexpected”.
Almost immediately after Delicate aired, people were already on Twitter talking about whether or not Delicate is a rip-off of a Spike Jonze ad starring Margaret Qualley for Kenzo that was released in 2016. Can something be unexpected if it’s debatably similar to a previous work?
For me, what I saw in Delicate was a less-sad, more optimistic version of Britney Spears’s Lucky video – a popstar caged by fame. Of course Taylor has navigated it a lot more successfully than Britney. The point here is that Taylor has a life of her own, an entire existence, a secret goofy personality that she doesn’t share with us. Only she just did.
So criticising the fact that she can’t dance isn’t the point. She really can’t. But her sh-t dancing is deliberate in this case: I can’t dance and that’s OK because I’m having a good time, on my own, and besides…
“He must like me for me”
Which, of course, is the song’s thesis. Not exactly subtle (she never is) so to go back to the question we’re trying to answer in this post – is this really all that “unexpected”?
A good video enhances a song. Beyoncé understands this better than anyone else. I’m not sure the video for Delicate does much for the song (for anyone who isn’t a mega Taylor Swift stan). I like the song. I don’t know that I like it that much more for having seen the video. And when taken as a whole, in the era of reputation, I’m not sure that it’s the reputation “moment” that we’ve all been waiting for. The numbers are there, sure, but does the album feel as dominant as the numbers would suggest?