Joan Crawford and Bette Davis are rolling over in their graves. In a year where we paid homage to one of Hollywood’s most iconic feuds (on the FX series Feud), it’s hard to imagine anyone giving a fuck about Katy Perry and Taylor Swift’s juvenile squabbling decades from now. Granted, it’s hard not to be entertained by silly pop feuds when it feels like the world is burning around us. But as the FX series told us: “Feuds are about pain.” Part of the reason you become engrossed in the idea of two people feuding with one another is because it feels real; there’s emotion behind it. But today, as Taylor Swift released her entire catalog to streaming services on the same day as Katy Perry’s album Witness debuted, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to this feud beyond pettiness and a thirst for attention on both ends.
Take Perry’s sudden desire to confirm the beef, which just so happens to coincide with the release of her fifth studio album. As Perry explained on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, it began in 2014 when she allegedly “stole” backup dancers from Swift. According to Perry, the dancers joined Swift’s tour during a break in Perry’s tour, but when they wanted to rejoin Perry they were fired on the spot. Regardless of how it actually went down, Swift fired back with the song “Bad Blood” where she sang to an unnamed friend that “it used to be mad love” between them. This had all the signs of a burgeoning music beef that could’ve reach Jay-Z and Nas levels, but instead all this drama has delivered for the past three years are diminishing returns.
Aren’t we all sick of it by now?
In an interview with NME, Perry claims she finally addressed the beef because “James Corden makes [her] and the whole world feel very safe,” which um, sure. Corden makes people look forward to celebrities singing and dancing in cars, but no one’s expecting him to usher in world peace. He’s not Ariana Grande. Perry continued with the sentiment that “no one has asked [her] about [her] side of the story, and there are three sides of every story: one, two and the truth.” That is, frankly, bullshit. People have been clamoring for the tea about their beef ever since Perry tweeted “watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing...,” a subtweet aimed at Swift following their backup dancer drama. The idea that Perry has been sitting on her tuffet eating curds and whey for three years while no one bothered to ask her about her side of the story is disingenuous and more evidence that this entire feud exists only to generate interest in both artists when they desperately need it.
For Swift, it’s allowed her to spout faux feminism about how women should support other women and how sexist it is to pit women against one another. Perry called her out on that, noting that while Swift was preoccupied with talking the talk about feminism, she was busy capitalizing off “Bad Blood,” a song inspired by their feud. Either way, it’s been a successful narrative for Swift even as she’s endured public scrutiny of racial appropriation, feuds with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and her VOD version of Liz Taylor’s love affairs. For Perry, the feud only seems to resurface in moments like this — the messy lead-up to her album Witness, with a string of odd singles that sound nothing like the rest of her album. It’s a cheap marketing ploy, in other words, which conflicts with the idea that Witness is about “purposeful pop.” Having listened to it, it’s fine, but it’s hardly revolutionary when it comes to socially conscious pop and resembles the back half of her last album Prism.
To her credit, Swift has never publicly acknowledged the feud in the way that she’s acknowledged her drama with West and Kardashian. But that’s partly because Perry is far less vocal than Swift’s other adversaries, and it fits neatly into Swift’s feminism shtick to claim she’s being attacked by West and that theirs was a narrative she wished to be excluded from. Perry has mostly acknowledged her beef with Swift in subtweets, but as her album release became more imminent, she went full throttle on the Swift beef. For some sort of catharsis? It’s highly doubtful.
But in keeping Swift’s name in her mouth, Perry has finally invited criticism that she’s so far been able to avoid. Before, their feud was mostly a thing of rumors and conjecture. Now that it’s been confirmed… it all sounds so incredibly pedantic. Beef over some backup dancers that evolved into three years of drama? “Drama” is a strong word for it as well, because the shots fired at one another have been weak at best. “Bad Blood” is a cute song, but it follows the Swift trend of not naming names when you’re attacking someone. Perry’s response track, “Swish Swish,” arrived three years too late and doesn’t name Taylor either. Perry claimed the track wasn’t about Swift upon its release, but then days later found herself sitting in Corden’s car and gleefully sharing details about how Swift did her backup dancers dirty in 2014.
Last night, social media had a ball when Swift released her entire album catalog back to Spotify and other streaming services. It seemed like a perfectly shady and petty move against Perry—a cunning way to overshadow the release of Witness. But did it? Witness is currently the #1 album on iTunes and Spotify releases daily charts, but currently Swift hasn't made much of a dent. If anything, the real winner is Spotify which gets to bear the fruits of both fan bases’ music playlists. Which brings us back to the idea that this isn’t even a real feud. It’s not about real hurt feelings, it’s about who can best play the victim and who can make the most money off it. Both stars will probably find subtle ways to continue to milk their beef for maximum effect, but how long will it be before we all just stop paying attention?