Why Everyone Loses In Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian’s Ongoing Feud

Eight years on, Taylor and Kim are still verbally sparring.

Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian in 2015

by Isobel Lewis |
Updated on

The Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian feud has been rumbling on for eight years now, and is showing no signs of slowing down. With the release of Taylor’s new album The Tortured Poets Society, and a song that not-so-subtly appears to reference Kim, it’s been stirred up once again.

In many ways, Taylor versus Kim is the archetypal rivalry – just one steeped in internet lore. Down-to-earth versus glamour. Musician versus reality star. Blonde versus (sometimes) brunette. Even billionaires, it turns out, can’t get over someone hurting their feelings, and who can blame them? But as much as we all love the drama, the seemingly never-ending feud is hurting both Kim and Taylor, while perpetuating harmful ideas about ‘catty’ women.

While things kicked off between Kim and Taylor themselves in 2016, the origins of the rivalry actually stem back to a time before Kim’s involvement. It was Kanye West’s infamous speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when he jumped on stage during Taylor’s awards speech with the words, ‘Taylor, I'm really happy for you and I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time’ when everything began. In the years after, comments between Kanye and Taylor went back and forth – Kanye apologised, then retracted his apology – but by 2015, the pair were on good terms.

Then: February 2016. Kanye releases ‘Famous’, his new song with the damning lyrics, ‘I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous.’ When the video dropped five months later, it showed Kim and Kanye lying in bed together with a life-like waxwork of a naked Taylor Swift on the rapper’s other side. Other figures in the bed included Rihanna, Chris Brown, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner and Bill Cosby.

Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian
Taylor and Kim in happier days, back in 2015 ©Getty Images

When the song dropped, Kanye claimed that he and Taylor had an hour-long phone call where she gave the lyric her ‘blessings’ and said they were ‘funny’: something Taylor’s camp immediately denied. ‘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 bitch famous,”’ they said.

Soon, Kim entered the chat, echoing Kanye's allegations that Taylor had given the lyrics her blessing, adding that Taylor had allegedly backtracked on the claims even when Kanye followed ‘proper protocol’. Kim also said that the phone conversation had been recorded, but that Taylor’s lawyers had asked them to ‘destroy’ the footage. Soon, Kim was sharing snake emojis all over X (formerly Twitter) and eventually posted the recorded call on Snapchat. It appeared to show Taylor agreeing to the use of her name in the song.

While Taylor continued to insist that she never heard the lyric ‘I made that bitch famous’ and released a statement saying that she ‘would very much like to be excluded from this narrative’, the damage was done. According to Taylor herself, her reputation was immeasurably damaged. A year later, it was the singer’s turn to reclaim the snake emoji, with snake imagery present throughout her darker new album Reputation and corresponding tour. On the album’s first single ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, Taylor infamously sang, ‘I'm sorry. The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, 'cause she's dead!’

In the years that followed, Swift spoke about the incident in a number of interviews. She told Elle in 2019, ‘A few years ago, someone started an online hate campaign by calling me a snake on the internet. The fact that so many people jumped on board with it led me to feeling lower than I've ever felt in my life.’ The drama was stirred up once more, when an unedited version of the call leaked in March 2020. It appeared to show Taylor OK-ing the ‘I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex’ line, but not the one calling her a ‘bitch’.

Swift's Reputation album – and tour – heavily referenced the scandal ©Getty Images

Kim responded, and the pair continued to sporadically comment back and forth. When she was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in 2023, Swift said that the leaked call ‘took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before… I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I went down really, really hard.’ Receiving the Time title was seen by many as a career highlight for Taylor, rounding off an impressive year of record-breaking album releases and the beginning of her Eras tour. Even on a high, she still couldn’t let what happened with Kim go.

The arrival of Taylor’s new album The Tortured Poets Society this month showed that things were far from over. Naturally, its exes Matty Healy and Joe Alwyn who dominate the songs, but Kim appears to pop up on ‘thanK you aIMee’, with the capital letters in the title spelling out Kim’s name. Fans think the song references a clip shared on Kim’s daughter North West’s TikTok, which showed Kim and North dancing together to Taylor’s 2014 anti-‘hater’ hit ‘Shake It Off’. ‘In your mind, you never beat my spirit black and blue/ I don’t think you’ve changed much/ And so I changed your name, and any real defining clues/ And one day, your kid comes home singin’/ A song that only us two is gonna know is about you,’ Taylor sings.

Knowing Taylor and Kim, this lightly won’t be the end of the feud. As they previously have, both parties will be asked about the tensions in interviews going forward (Kim narrowly avoided the subject during a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!), adding fuel to the fire. Obviously, there’s no rule that says they have to let it go. Taylor clearly felt hurt by the situation, that her autonomy was taken away from her by the song and the video for ‘Famous’, and that her reputation was damaged by the scandal. Kim, meanwhile, has expressed frustration in the situation, and still maintains that Taylor agreed to the song being released.

The problem, of course, is that it all feels a bit juvenile. It reduces two successful women to squabbling high schoolers, trading blows in pass-agg online comments and lyrical Easter eggs. People love drama no matter what, but when it involves an artist like Taylor Swift whose appeal for many comes in the intense sleuthing and decoding of lyrics, it enters a whole new level. In that sense, the mythology around the feud has benefited both Taylor and Kim in their own ways, by encouraging interest in both of them. The cogs keep spinning, but it’s hard to tell what the point is. If barbs are still being traded tit-for-tat after all this time, will they ever be satisfied?

Eight years on, it’d be nice to say, ‘We’re done now, right guys?’. But I suspect we’re not…

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