In her video for “I Knew You Were Trouble,” released on Thursday, Taylor Swift debuted a new look: pink hair and a hangover. We’d barely had time to process it before the criticism started, mostly focused on the video’s similarity to short-film style offerings from Lana Del Rey and Rihanna. Unsurprisingly, they all share a director. But is Swift’s eagerness to join the bad-girls’ music-video club a sign that she’s ditching the kid-friendly role-model mantle? Could the grunge look work full-time? And which ex-boyfriend is this song about again? We took these questions and more to the Cut Chat Room.
Sally Holmes: I can start. This video is not about a Kennedy.
Amelia Diamond: It is about John Mayer still, Sally, duh.
Sally: The Pete Doherty/Jared Leto character has tattoos.
Amelia: The whole album is about John Mayer except for the Boardwalk song.
Charlotte Cowles: Wait, it’s not about Conor?
Amelia: IT IS ABOUT JOHN MAYER.
Kat Stoeffel: According to Vulture, it’s about Harry Styles.
Amelia: I can’t with you people.
Sally: Well, her hair is pink, so obviously she is dating a hard-core rocker or a Brit. Where is Alex when you need him?
Charlotte: Maybe the punk thing was just to “protect” Conor. Like, she’s matured since “Dear John,” so now she’s disguising her ex’s identities a bit.
Kat: I guess I just don’t think Conor is trouble.
Charlotte: Obviously Conor wouldn’t be caught dead near a fedora. Maybe it’s a metaphor for … lobster pants.
Sally: The deep-talking is so Kate Moss “I do bad things with Pete Doherty” wannabe. And the singing is so Tay Swift. Kate Moss does “Greased Lightning.”
Kat: She had one look that I liked, with the flannel and the striped shirt, when they were hopping over train tracks. A believable grunge Taylor.
Sally: Well, it would make sense that it was John Mayer. “I knew you were trouble when you walked in.” If she read ANY issue of Us Weekly EVER, she would know that.
Charlotte: But knowing he was trouble would have precluded him walking in. Although maybe I’m reading too much into this.
Sally: So you still think this is Conor?
Charlotte: I do.
Sally: Is that the face of trouble to you?
Kat: Plus, they hadn’t broken up when the album came out. I think she might be finding herself in a John situation with Harry. Taking party pics with Minnie Mouse isn’t so far off from making out with groupies.
Sally: I want to watch it again, but the beginning with her talking KILLS me. Not in a good way.
Kat: I can’t tell if it is significantly cornier than Lana Del Rey’s and Rihanna’s voice-over prologues or if it’s just a shocking departure.
Sally: He looks “so much like an angel when he smiles at you.” If someone said that about me, we would no longer be doing smiling activities.
Kat: Oh, important development: Taylor Swift used the same director as Lana Del Rey’s “Ride,” and she told him she wanted to “play a character,” “be someone else.” It’s interesting that she wants to mine her personal life for songs but play a character in the videos for them.
Kat: But the difference between this and Rihanna’s and Lana’s versions is how carefully edited it was. Like, how many signs of “badness” can be crammed into a video without having to show a beer bottle or cigarette butt, let alone any of the fun stuff?
Kat: Grimy bathroom.
Kat: Pool table.
Kat: Mattress on the floor.
Sally: POLICE ENCOUNTERS.
Sally: BAR FIGHTS.
Charlotte: I actually think it’s a diner.
Sally: Is she 21 in life? I think, yes.
Charlotte: She’s 22!
Kat: Guys. She’s 23.
Charlotte: There was a lot of rolling around on the floor
Kat: That fountain Diet Coke at the diner sure got him riled up.
Charlotte: If there was no alcohol involved, how is it that she is waking up in the middle of a dirt field after what looks like a fun-ass night? You don’t pass out in dust bowls sober, especially by yourself.
Kat: It’s actually bad advertising for Diet Coke.
Charlotte: At least she did cushion her head in the dirt, with a newspaper.
Kat: Well she has a fresh dye job, so.
Charlotte: Oh, I didn’t even notice the part where she touches the hot light bulb. How symbolic. And the chick — that hussy — he makes out with is wearing epic face glitter. I am noticing so many new things the second time around.
Kat: Face glitter = Ke$ha?
Sally: This is just so hard to crack.
Charlotte: I think it really is supposed to be fictional.
Sally: I don’t think that’s possible. This is TAY SWIFT.
Charlotte: I mean, I’m still pretty convinced that her and Mayer was fictional, too.
Kat: That’s a good point. A meta-fictional video to draw attention to the artifice of her tabloid love life.
Charlotte: It’s just a storyline ginned up by their publicists.
Sally: At least that’s one thing ginned up.