There’s been a lot already said about the latest Taylor Swift single from critics and fans, and not a lot of it has to do with the actual music. There’s been drama expounded upon and personality quirks analyzed, but I unfortunately keep as many tabs on celebrity feuds and lifestyle happenings as I do my cat’s bowel movements – and to be honest they mean about the same to me. Thus, this little blog post has less to do with what fiery quip Katy Perry just came back with and more to do with a flawed, but pretty good, pop single. I’m sorry to disappoint the frequenters of Consequence of Sound, who are no longer capable of actually writing about music.
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Anyway – the music.
So Taylor Swift has sort of run out of places to go already. She’s played the innocent country girl and the pop star, and unless she soon decides to whip out an electric guitar and start shredding, her scope is sort of self-limiting. She could, of course, revisit the success of 1989 – but that record was so overwhelmingly successful on a commercial level that writing a new piece in the same voice would effectively begin to stale her appeal. It’s the same reason that Red forced her to start wading into pop waters, because Fearless and Speak Now covered every square inch of country-twang that Ms. Swift had in her. There’s no guarantee that another self-empowering pop record wouldn’t be a hit, but moving away from that sound now is probably the smartest thing Swift has done.
The question is, can Taylor pull off badass chick? Although I’m not one to complain if she wants to dress up as a dominatrix and yield a whip (see video), I’m just not sure I’m really buying it. Either being in the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack really influenced her…umm…tastes, or it’s another manufactured move for a musical star so wildly successful that everything she does from now on, whether we like it or not, is reviewed by a panel of advisers who decide what she should look and sound like. The connotation there is inherently negative, which it should be, but that doesn’t mean that she’s incapable of producing something extremely fun and enjoyable. After all, that’s what 1989 was.
“Look What You Made Me Do” is an obvious statement about all the drama and headlines surrounding her recently, but don’t pretend for a second that she hasn’t enjoyed all the attention. She thrives on it, and always has dating back to her, well – dating – drama. This single is no different. Her vocals are as sweet and edgy as ever, especially in the verses – and the hilariously Fergie-esque chorus, while devoid of individuality, is still catchy as all hell. The stutter-step beat in the background is dripping with authoritative bass, and it vanishes just in time to let those magnificently produced vocals shine through: but I got smarter I got harder in the nick of time. The whole “Taylor can’t come to the phone” bit is painfully contrived, but it’s no worse than the rap solo in “Shake It Off.” I guess all her lead singles need an embarrassing bridge.
All in all, this is quite a pleasant surprise. It’s not one of her best songs, not even by a country mile (ha), but it is a calculated departure from her last album that still retains that mega-accessible pop sound. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to discover that half of Reputation‘s lyrics stemmed from manufactured drama, but if it makes for good music then I’m not one to complain. After all, the music is all we really should care about.
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