NOW THE CARRRRRRRRR-NIVAL IS O-VERRRRRRRR…
Mallory O’Donnell: How many first times is she gonna have already?
Alex Macpherson: Carefully signposted grown-up signifiers? Check. Subtle deflection of the purity ring mockery? Check. The brilliant hook that everyone will quote — “You made a rebel of a careful man’s careful daughter” — containing as it does several separate stories of its own? Check. “Mine” proves, once again, that Taylor Swift is a master crafter of both her songs and her career. And, lest that sound too clinical, it’s also rich in both the details of interest that keep me coming back to it — the way that the narrator needs to be convinced of love again and again, the fact that Taylor’s playing the sceptic to her boyfriend’s romantic – and the relatable emotion that makes me liable to well up unexpectedly in the final iteration of the chorus, that surging affirmation of love that demands you abandon yourself to it.
Hazel Robinson: Uh, it’s ok? The ‘careless man’s careful daughter’ hook is catchy enough, her voice is perfectly adequate. I don’t really get it, perhaps but then that’s always how I feel about Taylor Swift; this is some mid-tempo country rock about a love story and if that sounds like something to go batshit over, then you are going to go batshit over this.
Iain Mew: This sets its story up so carefully and beautifully that it’s easy to get swept along with it, and as a result the chorus really takes off and soars as demanded first go round. There is an awful lot more of its glossy leaping still to come after that though, and I find myself switching off a bit as the musical stakes start to outdo the emotional a little too much.
Alfred Soto: Showing the adaptability of the “You Belong To Me” chug and vocal intonations (“I was a flight risk, afraid of fallin'” — nice), Swift unfortunately thinks she’s got too much of a good time: this cuts too quickly to its chorus, by far the song’s weakest moment. Subsequent plays revealed how crowded the final mix sounds, and Swift herself firing her upper register on words and melodies that deserve less energy. In short, she’s as uneven as she ever was, but is real good at it.
Jonathan Bogart: The production could stand to breathe a little more, especially as the background vocals circle in search of a landing towards the end, but otherwise it’s everything I want out of a Taylor Swift single: churning romanticism tempered with sharply-observed, economically-worded psychological realism. You can tell she’s proud of the “careless man’s careful daughter” line — her vocal is double-tracked on it, popping out of the mix and sticking it in the head for days on end — and deservedly so, it’s as elegant an emotional biography as any four words ever were; but the emotional climax of the song, when she braces herself for the goodbye and briefly wavers off-key in an a wrenching act of musical vulnerability, is what sticks in the heart.
Martin Skidmore: Taylor rather rocks out on this, and it’s terrific. The lyrics are as strong and full of precise and evocative detail as usual, and she sings it with some real fire. This is rousing and moving, and one of her strongest and most confident vocal performances. Wonderful.
Anthony Easton: As much as I love her work, and slow danced to “Love Story” last weekend, there is something less explicit, less concrete, and less powerful to this work — even the line about being made a rebel, or being taken by suprise, all suggest that she is not an autonomous agent –that she moves from a “careful man’s careful daughter” to the lover of this anonymous man makes me wonder when she will have her own voice?
David Raposa: Small town girl, smaller town boy, two against the world, funky moose, blah blah blah. Kudos to Swift & friends for making me more curious about her deadbeat dad than the lovers’ existential slap-fight.
Katherine St Asaph: I really tried to get it this time, I promise. There’s little to say about the music — Swift’s backdrops are rarely remarkable. As for the lyrics, they’re clearly not Taylor’s experience (not that that’s a bad thing, but I’d feel bad judging if so). The speaker’s presumably a normal kid dating someone in college, and she’s been in the public eye since her mid-teens. To write about herself here, she’d have to have dated a college guy at age 14-ish. Taylor’s family also seems pretty nuclear; the height of her father’s carelessness is practical joking. She’ll certainly never worry about bills until at least her thirties. I feel OK, then, calling out the speaker here as a total ninny. To Taylor, or her Taylor-analogue: Leaving a drawer of your things at a boyfriend’s house is not rebellious. A “flight risk” is something TSA agents call people who do not look like Taylor Swift. Paramore already did the “woe is me, love never lasts, except with you” spiel, and it didn’t ring true then either. And I know that better things belong to you and me and all of us than some boy. Wish Taylor would sing about them.
Jonathan Bradley: Since “Tim McGraw,” the most immediately appealing talent Swift has exhibited is her seemingly instinctual knack for turning everyday teenage experiences into concise pop songs. Because she had been a teenager throughout her career, she’s been able to do something rare in any medium: make smartly constructed art that was not only for and about high schoolers, but by one as well. Fearless came out when Swift was 18, and because it endured in the public consciousness for so long, those with a less developed understanding of the passage of time critiqued a twenty year old singer for sounding childish in songs she’d written before reaching adulthood. Which is all a lead up to saying that Swift is older now, and so she imbues “Mine,” a track about being in her early twenties, with all the vivid realism and narrative nous she applied to the material she wrote in her younger years. Like “Love Story,” “Mine” is a song that uses a plain story to explore specific emotion; the true thrust of the former was “This love is difficult but it’s real,” not fairy tales, and the latter seems to grow from the intricate phrase, “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.” This line unfurls into a narrative that can’t quite be contained in four minutes. So Swift is doing some of the same old — she’s still fighting in the early morning hours, still breaking and making up — but she’s now left home for the big city, begun sharing a lover’s bedroom, and started thinking about having to pay the bills. It’s excellently reminiscent of Ashlee Simpson’s excursions in post-adolescence at times, but throughout it’s Taylor doing everything she does best. Not only is she as talented as ever, she’s allowed her music to mature as she has.
Edward Okulicz: A little too similar to “Forever And Always”, and without that song’s glorious melodic pay-off, this at least packs in a few good lines and a big dose of the charm that sold so many copies of Fearless. But not as many of the hooks of that record. Still, autopilot Taylor Swift is reliably above average.
Frank Kogan: The tune’s nice and hummable, but the ringing, chiming guitars make the sound far too samey, covering up Taylor’s expressive hesitations and wobbles. I like what the lyrics are getting at (“You learn my secrets, and you figure out why I’m guarded/You say we’ll never make my parents’ mistakes,” “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter,” etc.), but they never seem to get there. Hope the ideas fill out over the course of the album.
Michaelangelo Matos: She can’t resist her dumb movie endings: Whoa, he vows to stay, surprising her and only her. High-grade, of course, and I’m glad she’s taking it upon herself to mature. But if tomorrow’s going to be a fairy tale, too, I’m probably not going to care. Fairy tales are for kids.