There was an epic amount of shade-throwing going on this past week courtesy of some of our favourite artists. You’ve likely seen the wall-to-wall coverage of Taylor Swift’s new song and video Look What You Made Me Do, which premiered on the MTV VMAs on Sunday night. A lot of ink has been spilled since then about the old and new Taylor, her many new fashion look(s), her feuds and disses, the amount of shade thrown, and what the new song and its visual accompaniment is all about (among many, many other things).
Another thing that happened at Sunday’s VMAs: Fifth Harmony’s allegedly shady performance, where a mysterious “fifth member” disappeared off the stage, which many fans thought was a diss towards former member Camila Cabello. The Fifth Harmony ladies have since said that this was not a diss of Cabello, and that the ‘disappearing act’ was a response to the media, who keep asking them if they’re going to add a fifth member (which they are not, thank you very much).
“We get asked all the time if we’re getting a fifth member,” Fifth Harmony’s Ally Brooke, told Good Morning America. “And we wanted to show the world in an artistic way that, ‘Hey, the four of us are Fifth Harmony. We are stronger and better than we’ve ever been.” So look, that sounds fair enough, but it rings a bit hollow given the amount of shade thrown back and forth between the bandmates since Cabello left. There’s no love lost between them, and their relationship as a band was tumultuous at best, so, knowing that this would stir the pot in more ways than one, why pour more salt on the wound?
As for Taylor, LWYMMD isn’t a diss track as some have noted, but rather digs up the dirt on people who have wronged her in the past (Calvin Harris, Kimye, Katy Perry, the media, etc.) in thinly veiled references of how they have wronged her. On some level, it works as genius satire (there’s are lot to unpack in the song and the video, and yes, we’re all pretty fascinated), but on the other hand, the whole effort comes off as snarky and mean-spirited in a way we haven’t seen before. She has a bone to pick with these people, and she’s not going to let us forget it.
With all that being said, it seems like trolling is the new trend among celebs. Admittedly, the artist as “troll” isn’t new: pop stars have been feuding with each other for years, and the diss track is a cornerstone of hip hop music from the early days. And here’s the thing: I love girl shit, beefs and disses as much as the next person, but lately it seems particularly nasty, and not only that, used as a blatant marketing ploy. In Taylor’s case, you could say that her entire career has been built on trolling — from calling out men who’ve wronged her to her ongoing feud with Katy Perry — and she’s had a shit list for as far back as we can remember. So can we really call the Reputation-era Taylor the “new Taylor,” given that she’s been doing it all along?
I’ll be the first to admit that we hold women up to a higher standard in the art of throwing shade, because the feeling is that we should know better and support each other, because feminism means (or should mean) lifting each other up rather than tearing each other down, and all of those things. In an ideal world, women wouldn’t have to diss each other to get noticed or to make their mark. But on the other hand, maybe this whole shade-throwing thing is actually uber-feminist — that these women are only doing what (predominantly male) rappers like Drake and Meek Mill do all the time. So in that respect, women should be allowed to do it too, without exception. And as our resident columnist Anne T. Donahue points out, we don’t ask male celebs not to feud or call them out when they do.
But my question is this: in a world that seems increasingly nasty everywhere, do we really need more of it in our music?