Taylor, always the expert at turning true-life experience into Billboard-topping hits in less time and with seemingly less effort than it takes most people to brush and floss, waited until now to unveil a ballad explicitly addressing the ’09 incident, though “explicit” may be a relative term here. Her lyrics—“Time turns flame to embers / You’ll have new Septembers / Every one of us has messed up too”—were a soft-glove study in forgive and forget (except, of course, also memorialize for eternity). And it all appeared genuinely heartfelt, even if the voice she delivered them in often failed to nail the notes.
Kanye, floaty chiffon-clad ballerinas aside, had no such vaseline on the looking-back lens; his “Runaway” chorus is a litany of NSFW (or, for that matter, radio) words: a—hole, scumbag, and jerk-off among them. So, was his appropriating of the outsized invective hurled at him endlessly after the Swift incident clever and revelatory, or just half-baked FCC bait?
Lyrically, it’s far from his best work, but if one thing can be counted on with ‘Ye, all goofy Twitter-fed hubris aside, it’s his fearlessness in exposing the kind of self-doubt and vulnerability that few in hip hop—let alone mainstream pop—even attempt, let alone succeed at.
Readers, what’s your take? Tell us in the comments section below.
More MTV VMAs coverage on EW.com:
MTV VMAs: We’re live-blogging it!
VMAs: Video of the Year nominees
VMA nominees: Surprising winners and losers
Kanye West apologizes to Taylor Swift: ‘I only want to do good.’
VMAs: 15 terrible fashion choices