- Over the weekend, the full-length footage of the phone call between Taylor Swift and Kanye West about his song “Famous” emerged online.
- The call seemed to back up Swift’s original story that she didn’t know West would call her a “bitch” in the song, years after Kim Kardashian released snippets of the footage that seemed to indicate otherwise.
- Both Swift and Kardashian acknowledged the drama and the larger crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Some were critical of Kardashian for seeming to focus more on the drama and only offering to donate 20% of her profits to emergency response efforts, while Swift quickly directed followers to donation pages unrelated to her.
Background of Taylor-Kim-Kanye Feud
Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last ten years, odds are you’re at least somewhat familiar with the drama between Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian West, and her husband, Kanye West.
But just for good measure, here’s the gist of it:
It all started in 2009, when pop star Taylor Swift accepted an award for “best video by a female artist” at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was interrupted by Kanye West coming on stage, saying the infamous four words, “Im’a let you finish,” before proceeding to imply, in front of the crowd and on television, that Beyonce Knowles should have won the award instead. The moment stunned Swift and many of her fans.
Then, in 2016, West dropped his song “Famous,” referencing the incident and Swift directly by name.
“For all my southside n***** that know me best, I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous,” West raps in the hit.
According to a report from TMZ, Kanye said that Swift had approved the song before it was released. Swift denied this through a publicist.
“Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account,” Swift’s representative Tree Paine told The New York Times. “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,’” Tree Paine added.
Meanwhile, West maintained that he received Swift’s approval. Months later, the feud got worse when Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian West released bits of the phone call between the two musicians, defending her husband and claiming Swift actually did okay the song.
This resulted in a lot of backlash for Swift, with many slamming her and accusing her of lying, and Swift said in her recent documentary “Miss Americana” that the whole affair made her want to “disappear.”
Stars Acknowledge Developments, Point to Coronavirus
Over the weekend, the full-length, 25-minute phone call between West and Swift from years ago was somehow leaked and made its rounds on social media, appearing to back up Swift’s claim that she didn’t know about the line referring to her as a “bitch.”
There’s actually one part of the call where Swift is relieved he didn’t use that word, saying “I thought it was going to be like, ‘That stupid, dumb bitch.’ But it’s not.”
From listening to Kim’s snippets of the call released in 2016 alone, it was not known whether the pair of musicians talked about the use of the word “bitch.”
The hashtags #KimKardashianIsOver Party and #KanyeWestIsOverParty were trending over the weekend, imitating the #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty hashtag that populated in 2016 after Kardashian leaked snippets of the call. After several days of online reactions, both Swift and Kardashian finally spoke out about it.
Swift posted to her Instagram story Monday night, acknowledging the leaked footage and how the controversy has negatively impacted her over the years. However, Swift quickly pointed attention to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that seems to be mentioned in nearly every other headline.
“Instead of answering those who are asking how I feel about video footage that was 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),” Swift wrote. “Swipe up to see what really matters.“
Upon swiping up, viewers could access a donation page for Feeding America, a non-profit organization devoted to providing food to those in need. Swift also pushed her followers to donate to the World Health Organization.
“If you have the ability to, please join me in donating during this crisis,” Swift wrote.
Several hours later, Kardashian West posted her take on the matter with a much longer message. She wrote across her Instagram stories and Twitter page, also referencing the coronavirus outbreak.
“Taylor Swift has chosen to reignite an old exchange – that at this point in time feels very self-serving given the suffering millions of real victims are facing right now,” Kardashian West wrote.
Kim went on to continue her defense of herself and her husband.
“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…” They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word ‘bitch’ was used without her permission,” Kardashian West wrote.
Kim also addressed accusations made against her of altering the story by only releasing bits of the footage in 2016.
“I never edited the footage (another lie) – I only posted a few clips on Snapchat to make my point and the full video that recently leaked doesn’t change the narrative,” Kardashian West wrote.
Internet Users React
Many took to social media to praise Swift for the way she handled the most recent development in the feud by trying to point it away from herself and onto the more serious matter of the coronavirus.
Some Twitter users argued that while Kardashian West tried to do the same, she missed the mark.
Others also compared Taylor’s urging of donations with no monetary gain for herself, while criticizing Kim for only donating 20% of her SKIMS profits to a COVID-19 emergency response program.
Stfu Kim. Taylor’s our here donating to the coronavirus victims and you will only donate 20% if people buy skims. That says enough.— Liz Kelly (@LizKelly16) March 24, 2020
You are trying to turn a profit on CoronaVirus? Jesus Wept.— 💧Tarynne (@Tarynned) March 24, 2020
And some criticized Kim for equating Swift’s documentary, “Miss Americana,” and the questionably-legal phone call that Kanye recorded as documentations of musical journey and process.
Ultimately though, even though some good may come of it as people are urged by famous voices to contribute to a good cause, it appeared some users were just plain tired of hearing about the rehashed drama in general.
“In 2020, we can’t escape the coronavirus and we also can’t escape Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s tiring feud,” one user wrote.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (NBC) (Variety)
“Don’t Worry Darling” Tops the Box Office Amid Bad Press
Audiences are already giving the film higher praise than critics did.
Young Women Flock to “Don’t Worry Darling”
Weeks of controversies and rumors did not prevent “Don’t Worry Darling” from finding victory at the box office, with the Olivia Wilde-directed thriller debuting at number one over the weekend and raking in $19.2 million.
Wilde also acted in the mid-century mystery, which starrs Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Chris Pine, and Gemma Chan.
Women led ticket sales for the picture, comprising 66% of the audience, according to several reports. At least partially due to the appeal of Styles, crowds also skewed young, with over half under the age of 25.
Overseas, the film made over $10 million, bringing its total for the weekend to $30 million. That number is especially impressive since the R-rated drama had a budget of $35 million.
“Don’t Worry Darling” had been plagued with weeks of rumors about behind-the-scenes drama leading up to its release. Among other bouts of gossip, many online speculated that Pugh and Wilde had riffs on set, leading to Pugh’s refusal to promote the project. One report alleged the two got into a screaming match, but sources on set denied it.
Wilde and Shia LeBeouf, who was originally cast in the picture, also got into a public he-said-she-said about whether he quit the film or was fired.
The drama hit a boiling point during its premiere at the Venice Film Festival when Twitter users circulated a video they claimed showed Styles spiting on Pine, though both parties have denied that allegation.
A Film Riddled With Rumors
Furthering the bad press were the bad reviews. Critics largely panned the film, sticking it with a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes. After this first weekend, moviegoers seem to have a more favorable outlook, as it has a 79% audience score as of Monday.
Jeff Goldstein, the distribution chief for Warner Bros., told the Associated Press that “the background noise” caused by these controversies “had a neutral impact” on its box office haul. The studio released a statement saying it was pleased with the movie’s earnings.
Some analysts believe that, if anything, the online gossip and fodder may have aided the film’s box office performance.
In a tweet recapping the weekend’s box office, Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore, said the “drama sparked a huge wave of interest.”
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Box Office Mojo) (New York Times)
Senators Introduce Legislation Requiring Radios to Pay Royalties to Artists
Sen. Padilla argued the bill is necessary to give artists the “dignity and respect they deserve.”
The American Music Fairness Act
Sens. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the American Music Fairness Act to the Senate on Thursday, a bill that would require radio stations to pay royalties to performers and rights holders.
The bill was previously introduced to the House last year. According to a release, the United States is the only democratic country where artists are not compensated for their music’s use on AM or FM radio. While songwriters and publishers receive payment, these stations have never been required to give a slice of the pie to performers and copyright holders.
On streaming and satellite radio, however, both groups receive royalty payments.
In a statement, Padilla said it is time the country starts treating “our musical artists with the dignity and respect they deserve for the music they produce and we enjoy every day.”
“California’s artists have played a pivotal role in enriching and diversifying our country’s music scene,” he added. “That is why passing the American Music Fairness Act is so important.”
“From Beale Street to Music Row to the hills of East Tennessee, the Volunteer State’s songwriters have undeniably made their mark,” Blackburn echoed. “Tennessee’s creators deserve to be compensated for their work. This legislation will ensure that they receive fair payment and can keep the great hits coming.”
The American Music Fairness Act would require terrestrial radio broadcasters to pay royalties to music creators when their songs are played. It would also protect smaller stations that either make less than $1.5 million in annual revenue or who have a parent company that makes less than $10 million in annual revenue by letting them play unlimited music for under $500 a year.
The bill would also require other countries to pay American artists for the use of their work.
Support From Major Music Groups
The legislation is endorsed by a number of groups, including the Recording Academy, SAG-AFTRA, and the American Federation of Musicians.
If passed, the bill could move a lot of money into the pockets of performers. According to the Recording Academy, when American music gets international airplay, other countries collect royalties for American artists, amounting to around $200 million every year. However, they “never pay those royalties because the U.S. does not reciprocate with our own performance right.”
Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA, argues that the money belongs to the artists.
“Broadcast companies profit from advertising sales because of the creative content musicians and singers record. It stands to reason that the performers who create the content deserve to be compensated just as songwriters are now,” Drescher said in a statement. “The reason it’s called the American Music Fairness Act is because the current situation is wholly unfair and it’s up to Congress to make it fair NOW!”
Last year, Representatives Steve Womack (R-AR) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) introduced the Local Radio Freedom Act, a bill with essentially the opposite agenda. It aims to reserve radio’s royalty-free status. The American Music Fairness Act is being viewed as a counter-response to this bill.
Kanye West Says Catalog Is Potentially Being Sold Without His Permission: “Just Like Taylor Swift”
After Swift lost the rights to her life’s work, she took on the endeavor of re-recording her first six albums.
Kanye’s Catalog Potentially Up For Grabs
Following reports that Kanye West was considering selling his catalog, the artist took to Instagram on Tuesday to claim his work is potentially being sold without his approval.
On Monday, Billboard reported that West had been “quietly and intermittently shopping his publishing catalog.”
While the outlet’s sources did not reveal what price West was aiming for, Billboard estimated that West might be looking at a $175 million valuation for his discography. Some of Billboard’s sources seemingly suggested that West and his team were specifically behind the effort to sell his work, but others claimed the “catalog was never actively shopped” and instead, West had been receiving offers from potential buyers.
Not long after, several news outlets picked the story up and reported that West was gearing up to sell his catalog. West responded by writing on his Instagram story that this was not the case.
“Not For Sale”
“Just like Taylor Swift,” he said, referencing music mogul Scooter Braun purchasing Swift’s masters with Big Machine Records without her approval. “My publishing is being put up for my sale without my knowledge. Not for sale.”
Swift referred to the sale of her masters to Braun as her “worst case scenario.” In order to regain ownership of her work, she is in the process of re-recording her first six albums, all of which she originally made under Big Machine. Two have already been released and proved to be wildly commercially successful.
According to Forbes, it is unclear which of his albums West owns the masters to, if he owns any at all. Because of this, it is unknown what kind of position he would be put in if his catalog, which is currently managed by Sony, was sold.
The status of any potential for his work to be sold became foggier later on Tuesday when West shared screenshots of a text exchange he had. He asked an unidentified person what was happening with the catalog sale, and that person responded by calling it “fake news.”
“Of course every publisher wants to pitch [their] hardest buy, smh,” the text continued.
West did not further indicate if those texts were meant to clarify that his catalog was, in fact, not up for sale, or just further distance himself from any potential acquisition.