In one of the biggest moments of Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s exhausting feud, the pop star wrote on Instagram last year that she “would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.” But with the release of her sixth album Reputation on Friday (November 10), Swift shovels even more into that narrative — and may actually give herself the final word.
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” the album’s antepenultimate track (and also Swift’s lucky No. 13), is a snub to a backstabber who made Swift roll up her welcome mat and vow to never be the fool again. Sure, betrayal and disloyalty are things Swift’s sung about for years, but there are a few explicit clues that hint Kanye is the target of her latest warring words.
She begins by describing the glitzy gatherings of simpler times that made her feel “so Gatsby,” before lamenting, “So why'd you have to rain on my parade? / I'm shaking my head / I'm locking the gates.” Swift was on a hot streak before the whole “Famous” debacle, having released 1989 to critical acclaim, embarked on a smash world tour, and generally remained a golden girl in the public’s eye. But Kanye’s song — in which he calls Swift “that bitch” and takes credit for her fame — and Kim Kardashian’s subsequent Snapchat takedown was what started the wave of bad press Swift repeatedly references on Reputation.
After a monster chorus, Swift drops even more Kanye-centric clues, using the second verse to reminisce on how they mended their friendship after the 2009 VMA debacle. In 2015, they seemed to have buried their beef when she presented him with the Video Vanguard Award at that year’s VMAs... and then “ Famous” came along. “It was so nice being friends again / There I was, giving you a second chance / But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand,” she sings.
We then get a mention of that “Famous” phone call and Kim’s subsequent Snapchat receipts, which exposed Swift for having lied about not approving the song’s lyrics. Swift sings, “And therein lies the issue / Friends don’t try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you / And so I took an ax to a mended fence.” After Kim gleefully exposed the truth, Swift defended herself by claiming she was duped by Kanye, which is what she seems to be getting at with the “mind twist” line.
In somewhat of a low blow, Swift then appears to touch on Kanye’s strained relationship with Jay-Z with the lyric, “But I’m not the only friend you’ve lost lately / If only you weren’t so shady.” And on the bridge, she praises the people standing in her corner (her man, her friends, and her mom) by singing, “Here’s a toast to my real friends / They don’t care about that he-said-she-said,” subtly cribbing Kanye’s “toast to the douchebags” line from his 2010 hit “Runaway.” Oh, and “Real Friends” is also the name of a Kanye song from The Life of Pablo, the same album that houses “Famous.”
The most telling moment, however, of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” comes roughly two-thirds of the way into the song. “Forgiveness is a nice thing to do,” she says, momentarily appearing merciful to her famous foe. But then — psych! — she quite literally gets the last laugh by emphatically cackling with the confession, “I can’t even say it with a straight face.” Forgiveness, apparently, just isn’t her style.