Pop Stars and Flop Stars: Drake Climbs Back on Top, Kim Kardashian Finally Cracks Taylor Swift’s Immaculate Facade
Welcome back to Pop Stars and Flop Stars, which, as I explained earlier, is a revitalized (and shortened) restructuring of the feature formerly called Pop Power Ranking. Here’s the drill: each week, I’ll name a Pop Star — someone who secured the lion’s share of No. 1s, trophies, and/or other cultural gold stars (both tangible and intangible) — and one Flop Star who… well, you get the idea. And that’s about all there is to say. Let’s get into it.
This Week’s Pop Star: Drake
After being dethroned by Blink 182 on the Album 200 last week, Drake’s Views once again rises to No. 1 on that chart as “One Dance” notches its 10th week atop the Hot 100. There is just no stopping Drizzy in the summer of ’16.
- Britney Spears, who last week released “Make Me,” her new single that is approximately 2,000 percent better than anyone expected it to be
- Katy Perry, whose surprise Olympics single, “Rise,” dethroned Spears’ “Make Me” on the iTunes Top Songs charts shortly after the latter reached the peak
- Adele, whose “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” enters the Hot 100 Top 10, giving her her first Top 10 hit since “Hello”
- Sia, whose “Cheap Thrills” rises to No. 3 on the Hot 100, becoming her biggest hit (as a singer) ever
This Week’s Flop Star: Taylor Swift
Ever since Taylor Swift declared war against Katy Perry for reasons that still, to this day, remain opaque, and Perry retaliated with a subtweet implying there was a mean streak lurking beneath Swift’s goody-goody public image, a certain faction of people, slowly growing in number over time, have been desperate for the day Swift would be outed as the two-faced snake they believe her to be. That day appears to have come, and at the hands of Kim Kardashian no less.
After months of controversy and back-and-forth over Kanye West’s song, “Famous,” which references his tumultuous relationship with Swift, Kardashian finally released the oft-cited recording of a phone call between West and Swift which shows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Swift knew about the song’s lyrical content and was supportive ahead of its release. Reaction was — pardon the pun — swift and brutal, with the internet rallying behind #TeamKimye and delighting in the idea Swift had finally been caught in a fib.
Some groundwork had already been laid by Swift’s ex-boyfriend, Calvin Harris, who last week said, in a series of tweets, that Swift has a penchant for setting out to destroy others, even going so far as to mention the Perry feud specifically. This spurred the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty, a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the apparent cracking in Swift’s normally-immaculate facade. For her part, Swift hit back at Kimye, saying “Famous” was never actually played for her and the “that bitch” element of the lyrics had never been run by her. (The video recording, in fact, does not show West actually playing the song or reading that exact lyric.) But her response, which she may have prepared ahead of time, rang hollow and ultimately inflamed people’s gleeful distrust further. And it’s hard to argue that the recording, whether it was made illegally or not, does much to paint Swift as an honest participant in this soap opera. She can be heard encouraging West and thanking him for his thoughtfulness in contacting her. (After all, West was never obligated to do even that.)
This contrasts strangely with Swift’s later actions: she hit the Grammys stage shortly after the song came out and used her Album of the Year platform to paint West as an enemy not just to herself but to young women everywhere while simultaneously portraying herself as a victim forced to overcome obstacles set in her path by other artists, the media, and supposed anti-feminist sentiment. By then, though, patience with Swift’s self-serving and insincere invoking of Feminist Issues as a way of canonizing herself was already wearing slightly thin with the general public, which made the revelation of the recording this week land that much harder.
There will be much rationalizing by Swifties, many think pieces arguing in favor of Swift’s moral victory, and there may even be legal repercussions for West and Kardashian, but the fact remains that this event marks a turning point in the way many see and talk about Swift. Her mask, remarkably built and spectacularly maintained over the years, has been cracked, offering a glimpse at what lies beneath to a curious public. Swift, being perhaps the most media-savvy pop star of her generation, will of course find a way to move forward from this while maintaining an extravagantly successful career. But some scars remain visible forever; band-aids don’t fix bullet holes.
- No one else came close to touching the Swift drama