Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Sugarland ft. Taylor Swift – Babe

Now that she’s back in the countrysphere…


Alex Clifton: Red is my favourite Taylor Swift album; it’s a raw look at a relationship that went south, with lyrical moments that land with the ferocity of punches. “Babe” is a relic from that time, a more upbeat and vaguer version of “The Last Time.” Sugarland duetting with Swift brings out tenderness the song needs, but there’s not a lot of emotion behind it. While Taylor’s offcuts are still stronger than what many produce on their own, it’s like reading from something you wrote as a lovesick teenager and reading it over years later, trying to conjure the feeling and coming up empty.

Alfred Soto: Co-written by the dude in Train and the head of Taylor Swift ™, who also sings prominent background vocals, “Babe” is called a return to country for Swift. Who’s doing whom the favor is a question I won’t answer. Because Jennifer Nettles can express rueful pride as good as anyone in country and I dig how the guitar chords snap at the end of each verse, I give this fluff the mildest of passing grades.

A.J. Cohn: For being Swift-penned, this is a surprisingly bloodless breakup ballad. Perhaps it’s interesting as a “The Last Time” draft. 

Thomas Inskeep: I like Sugarland quite a bit — they’re smart music-makers, and Jennifer Nettles is a superb singer. Taylor Swift I’m much more mixed about, and to hear that she wrote this song with the lead singer of Train, well, that doesn’t exactly give me hope. But this simple little “why’d you cheat on me” ditty is fine enough, and Taylor’s harmony vocals on the chorus sound good. 

Stephen Eisermann: “Oooo,” I thought naively, “Red was a terrific album, and even if this is a leftover, it’s probably terrific.” I immediately added it to my everyday jams playlist. Then the handclaps started. Then I heard the first “babe.” Then I looked at the writers and saw Pat Monahan’s name. Then I heard Taylor’s voice in the background, without getting any actual verses. Then the sugary, way-too-pop-to-be-country song ended, and I remained unsure of what “babe” did. Finally, I deleted the track and replayed the entire Red album as a palate cleanser. 

Jonathan Bradley: On “Better Man,” Taylor Swift subsumed Little Big Town into her own work; they made her song by tracing her outlines. Jennifer Nettles is a brassier performer, someone who gathers archetypes and populations into stories that seek to show something to everyone who wants to see it; her instincts do not accord with Swift’s careful intimacy. That’s why “Babe” struggles against itself; Sugarland can make a Swift song their own through force — and do a reasonable job of it — but they can’t hide the bones of something very different it has buried within. The most natural part is the coda, when Swift’s voice — her physical presence until this point only there for the sake of appearance — takes the counter melody, and the two acts wander in their own directions. Freed from one another, they almost sound like they can work together. 

Ryo Miyauchi: Oh, the classic Taylor Swift brand of guilt trip and reminders that you — yes, you — were the one who broke that promise. “Babe” initially makes that shtick sound novel again, thanks to a different voice bringing it to record. But it’s too shallow and flimsy to be delivered by someone like Jennifer Nettles, whose wizened voice exposes the tediousness behind Taylor’s fight to get the very last word.

Katherine St Asaph: After Reputation, the sonic equivalent of Justin Bieber getting a Hillsong United pastor to do reputation control, and roughly the same kind of megachurchy music. The conspicuously digital clipping on Taylor’s backing vocals is like the church bringing in strobe lights to appeal to the youth demo.

Iain Mew: The song’s sturdy enough for the thicker country treatment to work fine, and it could do without Taylor turning up to lean over its shoulder like an anxious parent. 

Reader average: [8.33] (6 votes)

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One Response to “Sugarland ft. Taylor Swift – Babe”

  1. Non-controversy!