News Editor and National/World Editors
In the early hours of Mar. 21, an unknown source released a full, uncut video of the infamous 2016 phone call between Taylor Swift and Kanye West, reigniting an old controversy between the two artists. In order to fully understand why this video leak actually matters, it’s important to know about the contentious, and sometimes overtly combative, history between Swift and West.
The saga began in 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards when West notoriously interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech for best female video, “You Belong With Me.” Jumping on stage and stealing the microphone just a few seconds into her speech, West announced to the audience that fellow nominee Beyoncé’s video “Single Ladies” was “one of the greatest videos of all time,” implying Swift did not deserve the award. West drew national criticism for his outburst; then-President Barack Obama even called him a “jackass” in an off-the-record portion of a television interview with CNBC.
After several years of back-and-forth strife between West and Swift, West released his single “Famous” in 2016, which included the lyrics “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that b***h famous.” Swift disputed that she gave him permission to use the word “b***h” to describe her in the song, with Swift’s representative Tree Paine telling Billboard at the time: “Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that b***h famous.'”
West’s wife, the reality TV star and fashion mogul Kim Kardashian, responded to Paine’s statement by posting illegally recorded footage of a Kanye West on a phone call with Taylor Swift on Snapchat, which appeared to show Swift approving the line, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.”
After the clips of their conversation were made public, West fans attacked Swift and accused her of lying. The clip, although heavily edited, created a runaway media narrative that quickly escaped Swift’s control. Soon, the hashtag #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty began trending on Twitter, and Swift’s posts on social media were inundated with snake emojis.
Swift commented at the time, “While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ a song you haven’t heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination.” Regardless, the sheer amount of hate and vitriol directed at Swift across the internet essentially forced the singer into hiding for several months.
Swift discussed her exit from the public eye in the well-received 2020 Netflix film entitled Miss Americana. The documentary features a compilation of home videos, interviews, studio videos, and select footage that tells the story of the media scrutiny she faced during the time period and her release of her album Reputation. Swift unabashedly embraced her damaged public image throughout her sixth studio album; she referenced the explosion of media coverage in the album’s cover font, redefined her style with gothic fashion and makeup, and even featured snakes throughout her iconic “Look What You Made Me Do” music video.
The recently released full video of the infamous phone call appears to vindicate Swift. The uncut version is over 25 minutes long, and most notably does not include West asking Swift’s permission for the use of the word “b***h.” After hearing West’s proposed lyrics, Swift remarked in the video: “I’m glad it’s not mean, though. The buildup you gave it, I thought it was gonna be, like, ‘That stupid dumb b***h.’” Despite Swift expressing relief that the word b***h would not be used, West did, in fact, end up using the lyric. In a stunning reversal of what happened in 2016, #KanyeWestIsOverParty trended on Twitter, reminiscent of the hashtag used against Swift.
In an Instagram story on Mar. 23, Swift wrote, “Instead of answering those who are asking how I feel about the video footage that leaked, proving that I was telling the truth the whole time about *that call* (you know, the one that was illegally recorded, that somebody edited and manipulated in order to frame me and put me, my family, and fans through hell for 4 years)… SWIPE UP to see what really matters.” Swift provided a link to the World Health Organization and a donation page called Feeding America, a charity that gives free food to families in need.
Only hours later, Kim Kardashian responded on Twitter, “To be clear, the only issue I ever had around the situation was that Taylor lied through her publicist who stated that ‘Kanye never called to ask for permission.’” She added, “They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word ‘b***h’ was used without her permission.”
Paine, Swift’s representative, countered by posting a screenshot of her initial remark, commenting, “I’m Taylor’s publicist and this is my UNEDITED original statement. [By the way], when you take parts out, that’s editing. P.S. who did you guys piss off to leak that video? 😂😂” Her tweet subsequently went viral, garnering nearly 200,000 likes as of Mar. 26.
As COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines, this conflict between the two stars will likely stay out of the limelight. Regardless, Swifties and Kanye fans will undoubtedly continue to fight the good fight, just this time on the sidelines.
(Sources: Vox, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, People, BBC, Wikipedia)
(Photo Credits: TNS, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons)