Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Taylor Swift – Delicate

Clawing her way back up the sidebar…


Tobi Tella: The point on Reputation where the mask drops, “Delicate” is amazing because it’s not afraid to be afraid. The slow dreamy admission of the seeds of a relationship forming in the verses followed by the panicked questions of the chorus trying to discern how much emotion it’s cool to show these days. Not to mention the fantastic bridge and the great vocoder intro. Say what you want about Taylor Swift as a person, but the girl can still write a good song.

Alex Clifton: Much of Reputation is a series of masks and bravado, and the choice of “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t turn people fully onto to the concept of the project. But here Taylor goes quiet, chilled, and tentative, which has always been one of the more successful hallmarks of her music. We know she’s not actually the everygirl these days–she’s living in another stratosphere, and the songs on Reputation remind of us of the fact that us plebeians don’t have celebrity feuds and can’t go out drinking at Sunset & Vine. But the doubt and insecurity that come with every new relationship–is it cool that I said all that, is it chill that you’re in my head–aches with realness. Forget the cameos from famous friends, forget the complaints of tilted stages, forget the awkward Elizabeth Taylor reference; Taylor’s best reputation has always been as a singer who translates complicated feelings into song effortlessly, and she does fine work here.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Reputation was an interesting development after the haphazard and poorly written 1989, particularly for how Swift seemed to have a better handle on working with the production to capture specific emotions and experiences. While this was present in her earliest works, her lyrics often took precedence–be it in actuality or in listeners’ minds–to everything else; the instrumentation was the stage that hosted her dramatic narratives. The equal importance of lyrics, vocal melodies, and production on Reputation, as well as the lack of immediate earworm hooks, made several tracks feel more experiential than anything she’d done in the past. It felt absolutely necessary to hear a track like “King of My Heart” or “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” to fully comprehend what Taylor Swift was trying to accomplish. While the lyrics weren’t as specific, particular words and nuanced intonations became potent signifiers that led to her most visceral, lively songs to date. But for those who refuse to detect the Taylor Swift of old in “…Ready For It?” and “End Game,” there’s “Delicate.” Like “New Year’s Day,” it’s a half-baked song that gets excused by fans because of a couple lines that are perceptibly sensitive and emotive from miles away. While the sudden stripping of sound in the chorus is affecting, the rest of “Delicate” confuses a soft tepid beat for vulnerability. And as much as her vocalizing helps to make up for it, the awkward delivery in the bridge is a strong reminder that Reputation was still a stepping stone in many ways.

Ian Mathers: Damn it, everything else about Taylor Swift either always has been or recently became so incredibly tiresome, why does this have to remind me of all the things I really liked about 1989

Stephen Eisermann: It’s no surprise that the most Taylor song on Reputation is seeing the most success. Delicate in both composition and title, the track finds Taylor singing about the nerves and anxieties surrounding a new relationship. The vulnerability in Taylor’s voice plays well with the metallic production, and the finished product makes me long for the album that would’ve succeeded 1989 had all the Kanye/Kim drama not gone down. We deserve that album. 

Elisabeth Sanders: As has been stated countless times, one of Taylor Swift’s greatest talents is her acuity with detail, the way she can somehow make a tiny specificity feel universal, personal not just to her but to the listener. “Phone lights up my nightstand in the black,” she sings at the beginning of “Delicate,” and somehow that really does evoke that strange liminal feeling at the beginning of a crush, talking too late at night just because they’re talking back, going out to meet someone even though it’s too late just because they asked. “Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head?” the chorus asks, somehow both tentative and absolutely self-assured, the way you make fun of yourself just in case you’re not supposed to mean it that much.

Lauren Gilbert: So let’s get the negatives out of the way first: this song contains Taylor Swift asking “is it chill that you’re in my head?” A) anyone who has to ask if they’re chill is definitely not chill, and B) Taylor, I love you and all, but “chill” has never been one of your defining qualities. Remember, you made a whole music video about it?  But no matter how unchill she is (and she is extremely unchill; have you fucking heard “Enchanted”?), girl can write a song. This is sleek and loath as I am to say it, even sexy. It’s certainly better advertisement for New York than “Welcome to New York”; what teenage girl in the Midwest doesn’t daydream about meeting a handsome blue-eyed man in a chic Manhattan bar? You’ll wake later in his giant white-sheeted bed, the city spread out beneath you. Never mind that a more typical experience of one’s late 20s in New York involves rather more rats and blockchain bros; “Delicate” feels both cinematic and relatable.  More successfully than anything else on Reputation, it straddles the divide between Old Taylor’s everygirl persona (I mean, really, who has not gone “oh shit I should not have said that much” in front of a new crush) and New Taylor’s Reputation. I have complicated feelings about Taylor Swift The Cultural Event, but Taylor Swift the Songwriter can still write a damn good track, and I — another deeply unchill twenty-something, dreaming of possibilities and promises yet to come — am still here for it.

Will Adams: A glint of vulnerability that’s a welcome refreshment in the Reputation era, unfortunately subsumed by trop-house bilge and tossed-off Manhattan references.

Katherine St Asaph: Other than Sarah Jessica Parker, Rupert Murdoch, or people who get off to Corcoran listings, who lives in a “mansion,” as opposed to a penthouse, condo, high-rise, brownstone, or shitty walk-up on the West Side? Wouldn’t a mid-price high-rise offer better views than the spendiest third floor? What are the chances someone who lives in aforementioned mansion would hang out in a “dive bar on the East Side,” even if it’s in Murray Hill like you just know it is? Such are the perils of mishmashing into one supposedly relatable song the lifestyles of the New York 1%, the lifestyles of the slightly less rich New Yorker, and the lifestyle of whomever owns enough of a mansion to be the assumed source of the footsteps on the stairs, yet still refers to “girls back home.” Even the Taylor Swift of “Fifteen” would find “my reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me” laughably naive (gently-sisterly-pat-on-the-backly naive, at least). The same for the titular conceit — never attribute to ~delicate 💗 love~ what can be explained by dudes being shitty. (The insistent “isn’t it? isn’t it?” would suggest she’s doubtful too, if it didn’t seem so much like songwriting filler.) The same for the beat kicking up as the story gets intimate, which seems backward; the same for emulating Francis and the Lights seeming like a timely thing to do.

Matias Taylor: The vocoder, as if the ghost of her hidden desires, suits Taylor well as she dives into a classic millennial love story motif: anxiety over relationship status. This is also the most millennial her lyrics have ever sounded, with references to dive bars, “where you at”‘s, and whether or not it’s “chill” that she said all that. It’s not just a calculated update for the Instagram era; she’s still finding new pockets of experience to illuminate with her ability to zero into specific details and turn them into entire worlds of emotion, and the lyrics read as a genuine window into her life as a young adult. Whether it’s the Disney villain glee of “Look What You Made Me Do” or the unrepentant devotion of “Don’t Blame Me,” Reputation is, among many things, an album about allowing herself to feel and fully embrace the emotions of each moment. And with “Delicate” she shows the self-doubt and reticence that may tempt her in that endeavour, particularly when someone else’s feelings may be dependent on how she portrays her own. The Taylor on Reputation has several songs more to go before the closure and resolve of “New Year’s Day,” but for us listeners, hearing her moment of hesitation this finely articulated and brought to life by the music is an emotional high point in itself.

Alfred Soto: CHVRCHES have waited their whole careers for a song that fits the rattling synthtastic regret they hear in their heads, and it had to be Taylor Swift who wrote it on her most ephemeral album. 

Rachel Bowles: It may be a low bar, but I love when a song does what it says on the tin. Being told but not shown is a common irksome misdemeanor in pop, lyrics disparate from music with no ironic intention ( is a persistent offender.) “Delicate”‘s gentle yet insistent chorus, “is it cool?… is it chill?”, quietly reflects the precarious nature of a nascent love affair. Is this mere flirtation, or could you become my everything? Taylor dares to dream but knows to tread softly, her vocoded vocals allow for a soft yet layered soundscape of second guessing, which when stripped back to her naked voice shows a vulnerable, romantic optimism. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A perfect encapsulation of what makes Swift a compelling writer and vocalist– the way she moves between faux-conversational and melodramatic styles, in the transition between the soft “isn’t it”s of the chorus and the vast yearning of the bridge, is maybe her best performance since “Blank Space.” Yet it’s wasted on a completely uninspired, sub-tropical house beat, too chill to elevate “Delicate” to anything more than a well-crafted love song that lacks some certain spark– something you appreciate rather than fall for.

Reader average: [8.48] (50 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

15 Responses to “Taylor Swift – Delicate”

  1. joshua completely otm here

  2. A+ writing here, and special shoutout to Lauren for the Enchanted mention as the unchillest of Taylor tracks

  3. katherine gets it.

    also, are we going to cover the best taylor swift song of the year, ‘better now’

  4. taylor make “dress” the next single challenge

  5. “Dress” is one of only two songs on the album I like :(

  6. Late to this one, but broadly I agree with Jacob and Will. The chorus feels like a watery rewrite of “Never Be Like You”, which was already quite watery

  7. the mansion thing is really bugging me, like, where does this person even live? I was looking up sarah jessica parker’s mansion for this (I was in public at the time, so a bunch more strangers are now on the cosmic “thinks I’m the worst” list) and while clearly a mansion, this… is not a great view! this is tree asses and the side of a building. my apartment is a fraction of the cost and it has a much better view than this, simply by virtue of being higher up.


  8. Wow Taylor won

  9. Bummed that I didn’t get a blurb in for this, but I would have given it a [9], and if my math is right, I think that means it would then have averaged [8.58] or something like, that so mentally adjust pls

  10. katherine – What makes you so sure the song is about New York rather than London? Considering Taylor and her current boyfriend escaped the public eye for the first 6 months of their relationship and the paps aren’t permanently camped outside Taylor’s front door in New York, I think it’s much more likely to be about her boyfriends home town of London.

  11. a “dive bar on the East Side” doesn’t sound remotely British (surely it’d be a pub? do people in London refer to the “East Side” as a thing?), even if Taylor Swift hadn’t kicked off her last album cycle with “Welcome to New York”

  12. I have heard one notable adopted Londoner refer to a “dive bar in a west end town”, but think that might be the closest you’d get.

  13. “Do the girls back home touch you like I do,” would seem to discount London as a location. I think I imagine this as being in L.A., probs mostly because of the “Sunset and Vine” in “Gorgeous” and, yeah, the way the real estate doesn’t seem to quite suit New York. The sense of motion in this song also seems to suit a driving town: it shuttles between spaces without existing interstitially, and NYC is a city where travel takes place block by block. (By contrast, “New Year’s Day” seems quite New York to me, which makes sense: this was a restless album that roamed from country to country, city to city, mansion to island.)

  14. “NYC is a city where travel takes place block by block” — I mean, not if you take the subway (though A, Taylor probably wouldn’t, and B, these days the MTA basically does run block by block)

  15. wow i underrated this last year