Friday, October 20th, 2017

Taylor Swift – …Ready For It?

After the last one, sure!

Katherine St Asaph: The old Taylor’s not quite dead — that pre-chorus is pure Nashville, from melody to bowdlerization (“you should see the things we do” is about as explicit as someone marveling over a particularly large pumpkin harvest.) Like her former/current/who knows anymore rival, “Ready For It” pumps up Swift’s numbers by sounding like interstitial music for Big Sports — premiered for the NFL, currently being stripped for instrumental parts by NBA promos — but also like blood sports. The track’s a bombed-out, post-apocalyptic version of 1989, the Yeezus to “LWYMTD”‘s 808s. Or possibly approaching NIN: the pretty date machine of “Blank Space” gone rogue, locking onto someone arbitrary (the gossip algorithms still cross-referencing it against increasingly nonentity dudes) because “I see nothing better.” It’s romance only in the literal sense — the jailer/thief scenario is even pulpier than “Bad Romance” managed — and otherwise love reduced to plan and execution. The verses are alternatively tryhard, artificial and vaguely offensive, as if it isn’t Taylor on the mic but Microsoft Tay. But the all-consuming, heat-seeking mania of a certain inadvisable sort of crush is palpable as adrenaline, and stokes the all-consuming, heat-seeking maximalism of Max Martin and team throwing every resource and songwriting trick into ensuring this is a hit. Petty points for Swift saying the word “island” this many times in a track with no trop-house whatsoever, and given that she’s enough of an in-joker to come up with “Nils Sjoberg,” I bet it’s on purpose.

Ramzi Awn: The most commendable thing about “…Ready For It?” is that it completely erases any memory of the single that preceded it. A confusing, feverish dash for relevance, the song makes Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” sound even more fun, an accomplishment not to be taken lightly.

Alex Clifton: The rapping is an atrocity. The production is a slicker version of Sleigh Bells with half the heart. Taylor’s enunciation is bizarre: “no one has to know” is such an awkward line delivery, second only to the nasally “he can be my jailor” and “let the games begin.” Her vocals are a piss-poor imitation of Rihanna; at first listen, it’s hard to find a shred of the Taylor I’ve known and loved. It’s a travesty. And yet. It’s 100% a Taylor production, overdramatic, narcissistic, full of easter egg references to old songs like “Haunted” and “Wildest Dreams”. It’s obsessive dark love writ large: “I keep him forever / like a vendetta” marries romance and vengeance perfectly. And the sheer force of that chorus makes me want to scream “IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIIIIIGHT” in public. I love the idea of sexy, dirty Taylor, less concerned with perfection and more with ghosts and robbers and gritty feeling, but the haphazard execution of the verses is so frustrating. Par for the course with all Max Martin creations, though, that chorus is a melodic masterpiece. I’ve got this on repeat and I’m upset about it.

Eleanor Graham: Who would have guessed that the legacy of Taylor Swift’s fifth album “reputation” would be to have production so DIABOLICAL that it makes “Welcome To New York” sound like “Heroes”? No one on pop’s A, B or C list should come within 100 feet of something that sounds like this. I’ve seen comparisons to Yeezus, which is fair because they are comparable in terms of sheer nerve, but on tracks like “New Slaves” or “I’m In It”, Kanye’s sleaze is a feasible sparring partner for electro-roar. Taylor’s Pennsylvania-goth-Bratz-doll-masochism-adjacent-revenge-core is not. You’d think that would be obvious! To, you know, anyone! I don’t even know what’s happening anymore. The 2 points are mainly for the way she says “go”, which does something to me; no, I don’t want to talk about it.

Stephen Eisermann: Taylor’s thrown caution to the wind and no longer gives any fucks. The provocative chorus and the weird, rapid-fire, off-putting rap/sing hybrid verses are the most prominent examples of her willingness to toss out all consistencies previously found in her music. None of this feels like Taylor and that’s fun, but I’m not sure everything works. The verses especially, though lyrically fun, are delivered so oddly that the parts that should be “cool,” instead make me cringe – the “Burton” line, specifically. I mean, I’m not sure what I was expecting based on the first single, but it certainly wasn’t this, for better or worse.

Ryo Miyauchi: Taylor writes her tried-and-true narrative of love as tragedy into self-parody. The bare-bones beat and the anti-chorus structure of “…Ready For It?” laughs at the many hits of 1989. Her self-satisfaction is maddening, truly: the snicker to “the Burton to my Taylor” is designed to drive everyone nuts. But I should remind: the real target is not exactly you but, as always, her exes, who she destroys without lifting her voice: “every love I’ve known in comparison is a failure” doesn’t so much rip apart the journal pages where they’re enshrined than it sets her entire bookshelf into flames like some great purge.

Claire Biddles: Speculating who the ‘real’ Taylor Swift is is reductive and boring, but my favourite Taylor Swift is the wide-eyed, extra, romantic, saying-too-much-too-soon Taylor Swift that we get a glimpse of in the bridge, swallowed up before she even gets started by that sub-Kanye womp-womp in place of a chorus. There’s a mutated version of her in the verses (“We’ll move to an island/and he can be my jailer” — I’m imagining she’s just met the guy for full effect) but the self-conscious, sub-Lana Del Rey delivery dampens it. Perhaps I’m just being selfish, wanting for the Taylor who most relates to (and thus excuses) my embarrassing romantic tendencies, but Cool Girl Taylor’s attempts at aloofness are unconvincing.

Alfred Soto: A bad single, an uninteresting bad single. Mouthing “are you ready for it?” over synth bass farts comes off like preparing listeners for the punch line: Taylor Swift rapping with as little regard for cadence as Lou Reed in 1986. At least “The Original Wrapper” had the performer’s rage as its subject, affected or not; Swift is writing bad bumper music.

Will Adams: It’s standard practice now for Taylor Swift to drop an incendiary lead single that gets the discourse a-churnin’, only to reel in the masses for the more palatable, less batshit follow-up (and she’s not the only one to do this). But for “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Blank Space,” there was still a distortion of who we thought Taylor Swift was (dubstep; dissection of public image). The distortion in “…Ready For It?” is… distortion. But it’s hard to care about whether Swift is stoking more controversy when the song is so bracing. There’s nowhere to run as blocks of drums stack atop the opening pounds and warped roars, all culminating in, finally, an actual chorus. Where “Look What You Made Me Do” was a firebomb kindled by thinkpieces, the fire in “…Ready For It?” comes from the song itself.

Iain Mew: Like “Wildest Dreams” with the wild dreams added in.

Hannah Jocelyn: A couple of years ago, I actually co-wrote a song where we used that phantom/ransom rhyme. Until that song actually comes out, here’s Taylor being the ransom phantom instead of someone else haunting her. I wish that the opening line was “Loki was a killer/first time that I saw him,” because that would be hilarious for her to bypass the “tilted stage” subtweets altogether and talk about how Hiddleston’s now pining over her. These lyrics are also as good as anything she’s even written, so a “Loki” joke would work better than whatever she was on about last time. What bugs me, though, is the empty space in the chorus. Taylor’s best melodies are stream-of-consciousness, but “in the middle of the night/in my dreams……………….. you should see the things we do” feels like something got cut out last-minute. I do love the idea though, the way it flips the narrative of Wildest Dreams in a really interesting way – now, she’s seeing him in her wildest dreams. That’s the kind of self-referencing and subversion I’d rather see Taylor do.

Edward Okulicz: So many of the ingredients of Good Taylor Pop Songs are in this one — dreamy and melodic chorus, don’t care attitude, groan-inducing but quotable lyrics — but the production feels really dated (to around the time of Red, in fact), stalling the track when it tries to accelerate.

Sonia Yang: On one hand, this is generic pop I would have brushed off had it been any other artist. On the other, it’s refreshing to see Swift step out of the zone of what I’ve come to expect from her in particular. I love the ominous synths and how the entire track has a spy thriller vibe. The best part is that breathy prechorus, you can really feel the “island breeze” as Swift delivers that line. The chorus, unfortunately, is a wisp of a thing that doesn’t have any impact. The melody neither compels nor is purposefully anticlimactic. The lyrics, while not quite Love Story levels of awkward, are not great; the Taylor-Burton reference is campy at best and cringe at worst.

Jonathan Bradley: Taylor Swift has rolled out singles from Reputation like trailers for the next release from a blockbuster film franchise: not only songs, “Look What You Made Me Do” and now “…Ready For It” (next: “Gorgeous“?) have acted as teasers for a new product launch. Unveiled during a college football broadcast, “…Ready For It” sounds like sports, like a pre-game huddle, like a highlights reel from last season building excitement to see how the new line-up will perform. “Welcome to New York” did the same for 1989 and was fine, but “…Ready For It” is better because it crams more into its pop overload: a rap that traces the “Empire State of Mind” flow, K-pop synth blasts, a gleefully audacious pun on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and a chorus about “dreams” and doing things in the night that throws it all in for the romanticism Swift has always been so resolved to earnestly commit herself. If Reputation should turn out to be her New Jersey album, and if all the stage-setting should ultimately overshadow the show itself, I hope we’ll one day rediscover how good the songs themselves were.

Reader average: [6.24] (25 votes)

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27 Responses to “Taylor Swift – …Ready For It?”

  1. Well done again, everyone! I wasn’t expecting to come around to this as much as I did, but even upon first listen my reaction was “oh, so THIS is the one Max Martin was involved in”

  2. What’s going on with her and this album?

    Gorgeous is even worse than this and Look.

  3. Sonia!

  4. How many times better would this be as a Rihanna song?

  5. How many times better would this be as a Charli XCX song?

  6. Look no further than Gorgeous for the ultimate proof that she has disappeared up her own ass, a self-absorbed, borderline abuse-endorsing and musically completely uninteresting Blank Space knock-off that the Weinsteins of this world can sing into their hairbrushes. Or maybe this is all just parody by now, who knows?

  7. please don’t co opt random famous women into your weinstein discourse

    anyway i like Gorgeous who agrees with me

  8. I’m so down with “Gorgeous”

  9. I wish I liked “Gorgeous” – the lyrics are sometimes fun, but the production just feels very sparse and not in a good way.
    I’m totally down with the “guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats” part, though.


  11. Ew ew ew ew ew ew ew at the Weinstein mention. Never here for that. I think “Gorgeous” is indicative of two possibilities: Taylor has fully embraced the role of the rich, white feminist who is probably head of the stereotypical sorority OR Taylor is releasing an album where she uses views each song as a costume that she can wear – a costume made up entirely of descriptions of herself that she’s found online. I think, sadly, it’s the former, but I pray it’s the latter.

  12. People are so invested in their Everything Taylor Swift Ever Does Is #Problematic discourse that they seem to have forgotten already about that court case where she was a victim of sexual harassment and got sued because she wouldn’t put up with the dude’s shit. Like, it was only a couple months ago, but I get it: what does that matter when there’s narrative at stake?

  13. Anyway, “Gorgeous” was obviously written for Stephin Merritt and he should cover it immediately.

  14. Having been harassed before is no excuse at all for blaming your toxic pantsfeelings on somebody else’s existence. If anything, you should know better. “I hate you, because you’re so handsome that you make me want to cheat on my boyfriend” is typical narcissistic swiftian bullshit, but maybe a topic worth exploring by a songwriter possessing an ounce of self-reflection and who doesn’t turn it into a lightweight little ditty.

  15. so glad someone else was thinking of Merritt hearing “Gorgeous”

  16. oh for fuck’s sake, “you’re so gorgeous I hate it” is just a colloquialism, no one actually hates the person, read literally any post on the internet or like in fandom by anyone under the age of 25

    are we going to say Gwen Stefani’s “Make Me Like You” or Ledisi’s “I Blame You” (both covered here) are also abusive tracks?

  17. also there’s something particularly gross about likening Taylor Swift to Weinstein when she was just in court for being sexually harassed

  18. like, comparing Taylor Swift, or any other woman, to Weinstein, is not a valid comparison for the same reason “objectifying men” is not a thing. the power differential does not work that way. the Weinstein allegations aren’t about “you’re so handsome that you make me want to cheat on my boyfriend,” they’re about a man (with very few exceptions) in a position of power using that power to extort sex while undermining or destroy women’s lives and careers.

    (before you call me a Taylor Swift stan, I don’t even particularly like “Gorgeous,” it’s a chintzy attempt to recreate something like “Hands to Myself,” which is just not Taylor’s strength at all. the entire reason I started writing about music was because I just did not get the near-unanimous critical love for Swift, so this is particularly (bitterly) hilarious to me)

  19. i second everything katherine said

  20. (clap emojis for Katherine)

  21. Preach Katherine!

  22. thirding the gorgeous stephen merritt comparison – part of me wants to think the “magnetic field” line is a deliberate shout-out

  23. While I generally agree with Katherine’s sentiment, Taylor Swift is a pretty powerful person. To say that you can’t compare her to Weinstein because “the power differential just doesn’t work that way” is either a hyperbolic expression of ideology that isn’t meant seriously, or ridiculous; one might as well say that you can’t compare Kevin Spacey or any other gay man to Weinstein because the power differential just doesn’t work that way. Now, I see no basis on which to compare her to Weinstein, but with lines like “you should think about the consequence/of your magnetic field being a little too strong,” or the entirety of “Look What You Made Me Do,” she is developing an uncomfortable habit of blaming people for “making” her behave in crappy ways. Other than that, all of the recent songs are terrible on their purely aesthetic merits.

  24. Well lbr it’s not like Taylor’s ever been one to accept fault or blame for anything

  25. Harvey Weinstein has substantially more power than an 18-year-old aspiring actress. Kevin Spacey has substantially more power than a 14-year-old boy. Taylor Swift does not have a power differential over a fictional addressee in a fictional song. This is really not difficult.

  26. You can say her songwriting persona has become a selfish person or whatever but there’s a lot of wide range of people who behave without accountability that don’t assault people so hey, maybe get some better comparatives if you wanna have this debate folks! Katherine’s right here on an area that’s kind of doesn’t have wiggle room even if you look at this person and see someone who comes off unscrupulous.

  27. great news, though: if you really do insist on comparing Taylor Swift to a powerful man, the man you want is Peter Thiel: