How Kim Kardashian Beat Taylor Swift at Her Own Game
In what many are calling the second Lemonade of 2016, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have totally turned on Taylor Swift. It only took three platforms—print media, reality TV, and Snapchat—to out Swift as two-faced. The final nail in Swift’s “Famous” coffin came via Kim Kardashian’s Sunday night Snapstory, where she finally leaked the much-hyped footage of hubby Kanye West running his “Famous” lyrics (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous”) by Swift, who voices her approval. These clips are pretty damning, since Swift has packaged herself as a victim of the explicit track, even referencing it in her Grammys acceptance speech and releasing a statement that she “heard it for the first time when everyone else did and was humiliated.”
While Swift has published a night-of response to Kim and Kanye’s big reveal, the emotional Instagram also reads phony. Taylor admits that she was supportive of West on their recorded phone call, but argues that she never actually heard the track; and that “you don’t get to control someone’s emotional response to being called ‘that bitch’ in front of the entire world.” She goes on to label the Wests’ outing as “character assassination.”
It’s a pretty convincing argument—until you remember Swift’s first public reaction to “Famous,” in which she basically called Kanye out for undercutting her success and taking credit for her accomplishments. Her current insistence that being called a “bitch” was the difference between her recorded consent and her public disapproval is undermined by that initial speech, where she’s clearly chastising Kanye based on the concept of his lyrics, not his cuss words. It would also be a whole lot easier to believe that Taylor Swift hates gendered slurs if she hadn’t written her own diss track in the past ("Better Than Revenge"), in which she essentially called actress Camilla Belle a whore—odds are that she didn’t check those lyrics over with Belle, either.
And here’s an added layer of intrigue: Swift’s Sunday night response was seemingly pre-written in her iPhone's Notes app, as indicated by the "Search" option that appears in the top left-hand corner of the screenshot. Swift had to search for this note among the many on her phone, giving the impression that she knew the truth would eventually come out and had already worked overtime to craft the most convincing spin.
Asking whether or not Taylor Swift is genuine is like asking if Kylie Jenner’s had plastic surgery, or if Calvin Harris is a real musician. There’s no simple answer out there—just a whole lot of conflicting opinions. What we do know is that, despite building her career around an aura of girl-next-door realness, this isn’t the first time Taylor Swift’s been called a fake. Take her Katy Perry feud; just like with Kanye, Swift publicly painted Perry as the instigator, all but outing the pop star in interviews as the shady friend who inspired her song “Bad Blood.” While Taytay clearly had her reasons for putting a friendship fatwa on Perry, the public calling-out was an early clue that Swift might be more manipulative and vindictive than she lets on. Or as Perry succinctly tweeted, “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…”
From her perky, perfectly cast squad to her rotating love interests, Swift’s lifestyle can come across as less than genuine. Of course the Kardashians are no amateurs; they knew that to take down a pop princess, they would have to bring their A-game. It would require more than a Hiddleswift conspiracy theory or a jar of Calvin Harris’s tears to out Swift’s sneakiness once and for all. Kim set the plan in motion with her GQ cover story, in which she first accused Swift of lying about “Famous,” and mentioned the footage she had up her sleeve. Once the proof was on the table, it was time for Kim and company to share their side of the story and work the world into a frenzy. Luckily, the Kardashians have an hour every weekend during which they can frame any trending topic to fit their expertly crafted narrative.
On Thursday, E! teased a clip promising that this week’s Keeping Up With the Kardashians would be all about Taylor Swift. The main takeaway from Sunday’s episode is that Kim, Kanye, and Co. have a bunch of incriminating footage of Swift not only approving “Famous,” but helping Yeezy rewrite that infamous line. These elusive video clips act as a motif throughout the episode, weaving together a bunch of highly edited conversations in which the Kardashians make it very clear that Taytay is pretty high up on their shit list. The constant invocation of this secret footage sets the stage for Kim’s cross-platform outing; Mrs. West built up hype for the episode on her Twitter, before directing fans to check her Snapstory for the grand finale.
There are five entire scenes dedicated to the Swift scandal, artfully woven in between footage of Kim's time shooting Fergie's “M.I.L.F.$” music video, a Kylie stalker scare, and requisite salad and workout montages. But who cares about subplots with all these subtweets! Kim gets the shit-talking party started at an unexplained meeting of the minds with Kris Jenner and Scott Disick. The dedicated Kardashian affiliate took his promotion to confidante in stride, gamely asking Kim about the brewing Swift-Kanye beef. Here, Kim presents her version of the story, which she will go on to reiterate many times over the course of the episode.
According to Kim, Kanye knew that his line about sleeping with his frenemy was going to be controversial, so he called Taylor Swift while he was in the studio to give her a heads-up. Swift approved the line, and even laughed with Kanye about how shocked the world would be to learn that she was in on the joke. But when the song came out, Swift appeared surprised and hurt, publicly shaming West for invoking her with his explicit lyrics. Kardashian knows that her intel is legit, because Kanye insanely hires videographers to film him “24/7” when he’s in the studio. As proof, a clip of Kanye and crew recording “Famous” flashes across the screen—it’s not THE clip (which Kim teased more thoroughly in a Sunday night Snapchat), but it’s enough to convince us that Kanye is sitting on some damning receipts. Kim confides to Scott that “I think she got freaked out by the reaction and all of a sudden she flipped.” Scott labels the whole incident “fake,” and Kim wholeheartedly agrees. Kris Jenner seems bored.
The next Taylor-centric scene is by far the most mysterious. Kanye’s publicist calls Kim to report that somebody has an audio recording of Kanye when he was “upset about Taylor.” Kanye tells Kim that he doesn’t care how this leak makes him look, because he was genuinely mad. Kim thinks it’s sweet that her husband is so authentic, but nevertheless wants to consult at length with both of their publicity teams. Kanye is whipped, and promises Kim, “If you want to do something to help it out or fix it I’m down.” This bold allusion to deliberate media manipulation seems to answer the question of whether Kim’s GQ Swift-bashing was spontaneous or part of a much larger public image plan. Also in this scene, Kim refers to herself as “the wife of Pablo.”
In another glam room in Calabasas, Kourtney and Khloé are getting ready for an undisclosed event that Swift may or may not attend. Kourtney calls Kim, ostensibly to find out how to behave should she encounter a rogue Taylor Swift in the wild. As transparent framing devices go, this is not a bad one. Kim takes this opportunity to start describing some video footage in which Swift allegedly reacts favorably to her “Famous” shout-out, even going so far as to agree that, “It’s true…Kanye totally made me more famous.” While we don’t get to see this footage, Kourtney and Khloé do. After making a futile apology to Swift fans, Khloé offers her take: that everyone’s “so full of shit and it pisses me off.”
In a brief but noteworthy interlude on the set of “M.I.L.F.$”, Kim gives a passionate speech about how women really can have it all. Now that that’s settled, Kim dishes on her v. honest GQ interview, promising that she was “really truthful.” Even though she never talks shit, she says, she wanted to defend Kanye because she’s sick of watching Taylor Swift play the victim.
In the episode’s final scene, Kim interrupts her mother’s boring concerns about Kendall Jenner’s panic attacks to talk about the GQ profile more. Jenner gestures to the copy of GQ right next to her on her desk, before noting that she has not read the interview. No one in the scene seems as confused by this confession as I am. In a very mom move, Jenner suggests that Kim call Taylor and try to talk this whole mess out—Kris admits that she’s a semi-Swiftie: she really likes Taylor, but more importantly she really likes her team. She adds that, despite her affection for Taylor Swift’s employees, “I don’t understand the motivation to flip so quickly.” Kim also doesn’t understand Taylor Swift (who does?), but she has no interest in calling her. According to Kim, who always gets the last word, “I know the truth, and I know everyone around me knows the truth.”
Because she doesn’t play games, Kim Kardashian coordinated this episode of KUWTK with her big Snapchat reveal; essentially, she and her family called Taylor Swift a fake for an hour, and then leaked their proof to the world. The expert teasing didn’t just create some pretty compelling television—it also ensured that when Kardashian took to her Snapchat, the whole world would be ready and eager for her revelation. All in all, it’s a brilliant attempt to control the narrative, at a time when the Taytay tide is clearly turning.