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MUSIC CHEAT SHEET: The diss of death

Carly Simon's iconic 1972 hit, You're So Vain, is one of rock's greatest slams. But who is she slamming? Getty

Carly Simon's iconic 1972 hit, You're So Vain, is one of rock's greatest slams. But who is she slamming? Getty


Swifty knows how to turn a beef into a tune

Taylor Swift has done it again. The Grammy-winning superstar is cashing in on alleged recent squabbles with the release of her latest single, Look What You Made Me Do. Despite the song's catchiness (which can be attributed to its interpolation of the hook from Right Said Fred's 1991 hit I'm Too Sexy) and its speedy climb to the top of the Hot 100, Swifty's passive-aggressive lyrics have become a staple for the former country singer - and people aren't having it.

Is Tay-Tay talking about Kayne and his secret recordings of her? Dishing about writing ex-boyfriend DJ Calvin Harris'song This Is What You Came For? Slamming Katy Perry for stealing her backup dancers? Yep, the Reading, Pennsylvania native reportedly took jabs at all three on the already-polarizing new single. Somehow Swift has forgotten the music and is solely obsessed with lyrics that shame. That explains the lack of true heat in her tracks. #Burn Recalling all the myriad musical diss tracks of the past makes Taylor's lines - "Isn't coo, no, I don't like you" and "I've got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined" - sound more like a toddler having a temper tantrum than a successful adult with a score to settle.

Since Swifty is focused on penning songs with beef, you gotta start to wonder - is Taylor fighting just so she has material? With all of Swifty's celeb feuds, one needs to ask: Who is the common denominator here? Memo to Swifty: Want to throw proper shade? Listen to my favourite songs involving a duel:


ShETHER - Remy Ma

The most quintessential of music feuds are about pure ego; the desire to be the best. The decade-long public fight for the crown between New York rap queens Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma culminated in a seven-minute scathing summary of the former's rise to fame by the latter. After years of subtle disses in songs, while showing public support, the two were due for a blowout and no one argues Nicki started it, but Remy Ma - the Love & Hip Hop: New York star - ignited the fight with the release of shETHER (the song is a nod to Nas's famous diss track Ether, aimed at Jay-Z, which should also be on this list). Nicki's response with No Frauds ft. Drake and Lil Wayne is a fiery hit too. The best thing about this war is that both females end up winning. What some are calling a well-calculated PR move has garnered both artists and their talented lyricism a boost in attention - and sales.

Cry Me a River - Justin Timberlake

JT and Britney Spears were the pop version of Friends' Ross and Rachel. In the late 90s, early 00s - their very public relationship made headlines on trashy tabloids to respected newspapers. So when their relationship ended abruptly in 2002, it seemed like the whole world wanted to know: what happened? When Timberlake released Cry Me a River the same year, we found out: "You don't have to say/what you did/I already know/I found out from him." Cry Me a River is haunting, operatic and catchy, plus it showcases Timberlake's octave range. It is included in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time list.

You're So Vain - Carly Simon

Before subtweets and emotional Instagram posts, there were obscure music lyrics. Carly Simon wrote You're So Vain so well that multiple men - including ex-boyfriends Mick Jagger (who sang background on the song), Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens and James Taylor - have presumed the song is about them. Which makes sense. I mean, Carly says it in the song itself: "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." While Simon herself stated publically last year the second verse of the song is about Warren Beatty, she has never said which man was the vainest all them (it is most likely a composite). Whether it is a case of art imitating life or life imitating art, this sultry, highly singable, piano-heavy tune will forever be remembered.


You Haven't Done Nothin' - Stevie Wonder

Considered one of Stevie's angriest political songs, You Haven't Done Nothin' from his Fulfillingness' First Finale album was aimed at former U.S. president Richard Nixon. The song was released two days prior to Nixon's resignation after the Watergate scandal broke wide open. This heavy call-out track packaged as a funky, upbeat, horn-filled jam comes complete with doo-wop backup vocals from the Jackson 5. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for a week in 1974. It is an incredible piece of music history as well as a great piece of sound. In our current political climate, we need more You Haven't Done Nothins and less Look What You Made Me Dos.

Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

There is no real proof to substantiate the rumours that this famous Dylan song is about debutante Edie Sedgwick and her tug-of-war relationship between Dylan and notoriously eccentric artist Andy Warhol, but they persist 50 years later. Dylan lays it out - emotionally and lyrically on this unquestioned classic. Whomever Like A Rolling Stone is about, the subject definitely felt the burn: "Ain't it hard when you discover that/he really wasn't where it's at/after he took from you everything he could steal?"


Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd

The southern rock band gets points for directness: "I hope Neil Young will remember, A Southern Man don't need him around anyhow." But this call-out is a convoluted mess. Neil Young's musical critique of racist Confederate culture in America titled Southern Man got the attention of the band. However, their infamous lyric was never meant to be more than a "joke," they claimed years later. Many bigoted southerners adopted Sweet Home Alabama as their anthem assuming the line about Young defended racism, a message which many Skynyrd fans argue the band never meant. Because of the confusion and the legacy attached to it, Sweet Home Alabama definitely goes down in my books as a response song gone wrong.

Swish Swish - Katy Perry

If I am calling out Taylor Swift for a bad diss track, I have to give Katy Perry the same treatment with her latest single - Swish Swish, which is presumably about the longtime feud she herself has had with Ms. Swift. In it, she calls Taylor a "shellfish or a sheep" and warns "don't you come for me" over finger-snapping and repetitive techno beats. Nicki Minaj's featured verse is fun but the rest of the song is a total air ball.

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