In case you haven’t heard, Taylor Swift has undergone an image makeover. While the pop sensation got her start penning lovelorn country ballads, Swift’s latest album Reputation seeks to upend that too-perfect purity by replacing it with edginess. It’s been an uncomfortable transition to witness, as Swift moves from school playground diss tracks like “Better Than Revenge” to rap-laden callouts like “… Ready for It?” and “End Game.” There’s a cloying sense of effort behind Swift’s image revamp, particularly in her videos for “Look What You Made Me Do” and “End Game.” The 28-year-old songstress is an adult now, and adults have sex and curse. In Swift’s quest to upend her good girl image, she’s gone so far in the opposite direction that her notoriety feels factory-made. But Swift’s newest video for “Delicate” just might provide the humanoid happy medium fans have been craving.
The music video opens with Swift making an appearance at a swanky event, dogged by all nuisances of fame. Paparazzi blind her with their camera flashes, a creepy bellhop invades her time with teen girl fans, her bodyguards relentlessly shadow her. Swift is desperate to break free from the spotlight, especially after she gets a glittery piece of paper pressed into her hand. By some combination of magic and funny face-making, Taylor suddenly gets her wish.
“Delicate” really kicks off around the one-minute mark, when Taylor becomes invisible to those around her. She embraces her newfound superpower wholeheartedly, taking the much-needed opportunity to shed her heels, shorten her gown, and dance like a maniac. The following minute and a half is insanely enjoyable, as Swift busts a move all over the city. Though she’s occasionally isolated by her invisibility, Swift always bounces back, even taking a kind-of-clichéd-but-we’re-not-mad-about-it romp in the rain. Her joyful journey ends where the song begins, at a nondescript dive bar where she will supposedly meet her note-writing sweetheart.
As fans and critics alike cringe through Swift’s growing pains, it’s refreshing to see Taylor embrace her girlish side without denying her adulthood. “Delicate” is frank about Swift’s sexuality and desire—“Handsome your mansion with a view/ Do the girls back home touch you like I do?”—and she breaks out a few cheeky dance moves in the video. But the overall effect of the video, like the song, is effortless and genuine. Taylor has updated her sound and image, replacing twangy guitars and soft curls with vocoder and red lipstick, but it doesn’t feel forced.
Taylor Swift has always been the butt of media jokes, and she’s never been afraid of stirring up controversy herself. But she’s finally debuted a music video that feels like there’s a real person behind it, and it’s undeniably likable. If you’re inclined, click play and strap in for a grin-inducing four minutes.