In the dead of night, Kim Kardashian released a series of videos on Snapchat that threatened to harm Taylor Swift’s career.
"I really appreciate you telling me about it. That’s really nice," Swift’s disembodied voice says through the speaker of a cell phone. "It’s all very tongue-in-cheek either way."
Swift never appears onscreen, but Kardashian’s husband, Kanye West, does. He’s speaking cordially to Swift as they discuss a song lyric. She’s encouraging. He’s smiling. Taylor Swift and Kanye West are getting along.
There’s only one problem: This conversation, according to Swift, never happened.
This Snapchat flare-up, the latest drama between West and Swift, begins in media res. The videos Kardashian’s posted were filmed before West and Swift’s last big fight, which happened earlier this year. West had written a song called "Famous"; it contained lyrics that insinuated he might have sex with Swift someday, and implied that she became famous because he interrupted her speech at the 2009 VMAs.
The exact lyrics: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous/God damn/I made that bitch famous."
Swift, speaking through her publicist, said at the time that "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."
West rebuked this account on Twitter, stating that he had Swift’s approval:
Fans who were interested in the fight chose sides. And given how everything played out (West began acting/tweeting bizarrely in the days that followed), West seemed like an unstable liar. Swift went on to shame West in a now-infamous Grammy speech.
Fast forward to Sunday, July 17, and Kardashian’s Snapchat. The entire narrative Swift created has come undone, making people question her authenticity. Swift responded to Kardashian’s Snapchat with an Instagram post, trying to clarify that she wasn’t informed of the specific lyric that referred to her as "bitch," and insisting that West’s omission rendered her approval moot.
What makes this entire tale spin is that Swift’s career is built on authenticity — the idea that she’s telling stories about true things that’ve happened to her. Kardashian’s video calls that authenticity into question, and also fuels the charge that everything Swift does is a measured publicity stunt — a charge floated by Swift’s ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris just last week.
"You guys wanna call this a feud, you wanna call this throwing shade," Swift says to West in the Snapchat video. "But right after the song comes out I'm gonna be on a Grammy red carpet and they're gonna ask me about it and I'm gonna be like, he called me."
That never happened.
On one level, there’s nothing wrong with Swift’s approach — pop stars and the management teams behind them are devastatingly smart and calculated. It’s just that, well, Taylor Swift’s image isn’t built on that.
Here’s Vox’s full explainer on the Kardashian Snapchat in question and the ongoing feud between Swift and West.