Perhaps you’ve heard: A new Taylor Swift album is nigh. And because she is America’s most marketing-savvy pop star, fans have been fielding thematic Instagram clues, surprise wall murals, and promotional activism since February. Some music, too. In late April, Swift released “ME!” a catchy yet deflated single that could’ve doubled as the soundtrack to the upcoming Trolls sequel. On Friday, she dropped “You Need to Calm Down,” yet another poppy kiss off to various haters and snakes and Twitter users, with a tinge of gay pride. (Sample lyric: “Why are you mad? / When you could be GLAAD?”)
Accordingly, the accompanying music video, which came out Monday morning, features as many celebrities as she could possibly fit into the span of three minutes and 30 seconds. Not since “Bad Blood” have we seen the singer flex her powerful networking abilities like this. But rather than feature a murderers’ row of supermodels, actresses, and pop artists, she has instead curated a decidedly LGBTQ-friendly roster. The video includes appearances by Ellen DeGeneres, RuPaul, Billy Porter, Laverne Cox, Adam Lambert, Hayley Kiyoko, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, the entire Queer Eye cast, YouTuber Todrick Hall and his collaborator Chester Lockhart, Olympian Adam Rippon, comedian Hannah Hart, and plus-sized model and dancer Dexter Mayfield. Ryan Reynolds and Ciara are in there, too. So is Katy Perry in a hamburger suit. [Sigh.]
It’s … a rich text. On one hand, it signals Swift’s encouraging shift toward political outspokenness. On the other, it demonstrates her shameless efforts to capitalize on that shift. Per Swift’s lyrics, technically everyone in this video already has “a crown,” but let’s pick some winners and losers for those of us “out here, on the internet” anyway.
Winner: Benjamin Button
Swift takes every opportunity to include her cats in her songs and music videos. With this latest album promotion cycle she has recruited a new adorable furry face, a racoon-eyed kitten named Benjamin Button who made a cameo in the “ME!” music video, and now appears to have been memorialized on a pink watch that Swift is also selling as merch on her website.
Losers: Taylor Swift’s Other Cats
Olivia Benson, Meredith Grey, call your publicists.
Winner: Ellen DeGeneres
DeGeneres willed a joke on her daytime talk show into an actual appearance in Taylor Swift’s music video (and first mention in the promo lineup). She is also, notably, not dancing during her appearance. Instead she’s receiving a tattoo that reads “Cruel Summer.”
[Puts on tinfoil hat.] As you might recall, Cruel Summer was also the title of Kanye West’s 2012 GOOD Music compilation album. Swift and West have been publicly fighting since before I was of legal drinking age. The tattoo might foreshadow another song on the album of the same title, in which she chooses to address their (at this point, extremely tired) disagreements once again. (Reputation scholars may recall “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.”) In conclusion, Swift is using DeGeneres’s forearm to announce a potential Kanye diss (or reconciliation) track, thus making the talk-show host a clue. Like I said, rich text.
As the officiant to a reenactment of Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita’s wedding, the singer-dancer quite possibly may have the smallest amount of face time in the entire video. And even when she is on screen, most of the time her face is blocked by Ferguson and Mikitas’s (otherwise very sweet) kiss. This is what happens when you go overboard on the music video invites. Tough deal, Ciara.
From the over-the-top, bubblegum-trailer-park dress code of the music video to a literal reappearance of Katy Perry’s hit afterparty burger suit, the Met Gala’s influence here is apparent.
Losers: Trump Supporters Who Are Also Taylor Swift Fans
Any last, glimmering hope for political diplomacy among Swift’s (likely significant!) Republican fan base was distinguished the second these extremely patriotic protestors popped up on the screen. Think of this as pop music’s “basket of deplorables” moment.
Winner: Big Tea
I’m willing to posit that there has never been this much tea consumption in pop culture since the Alice in Wonderland remake. Lipton’s stock is rising, you heard it here first.
Loser: Beef As a Concept
And internet-speak, in general. One heavy-handed piece of food-related symbolism at a time, please.
Winner: Katy Perry
A whole two album cycles ago, Perry and Swift famously feuded over some stolen backup dancers. Whatever your opinion on who was in the wrong, both of them were able to parlay the incident into songs, stunts, and interviews that earned them even more attention and made them even more rich. After sucking the controversy bone dry, the two brought it to its logical conclusion: a surprise reconciliation in as public a forum as possible. And just in time for Perry to release her own new material! Capitalism: It brings people together.