Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Taylor Swift goes proper pop? Surely nobody will have an opinion on that.


[Video][Website]
[6.17]

Katherine St Asaph: This is going to be this year’s “Countdown,” isn’t it? A melody seemingly chosen to make Taylor’s voice sound as yelpy as possible — bless her heart when she tries this live — an underwritten jam-session chorus with wimpy Max Martin drums that plod, not stomp, lyrics that confuse teen speech patterns with timeless resonance, that lazy, culture war-baiting “some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” line (no, Taylor, it’s not that your detractors find you “uncool,” though it’s hilarious if you imagine this is a defense of working with B.o.B), a spoken-word section that people will read volumes into when it’s no different than any spoken-word section since pop’s year zero. I’ve said Swift needed to find a new sound, but this isn’t it; it’s slapdash where Speak Now was professional. Predictably, everyone will love it.
[4]

Anthony Easton: I am interested in the argument that Swift makes here — that one of the reasons that she broke up with this lover is that he is claiming her work is inauthentic, or that his “indie” songs are more authentic than her (and she doesn’t define what she does), but cutting and pasting spoken sections that could be conversations or voice mails or something like this, makes the same intimacy = authenticity calls that the indie-loving boyfriend makes. It should be a done fight, that emotional texts come from a number of places, and claims of authenticity intertwining with intimacy are pretty permanently flawed, but I think that Swift plumbs the lines of authentic vs. emotional, especially as it relates to her own work, with a lot of grace here. I am not sure it’s a great song, but it’s really really smart. I am pretty sure that this is about John Mayer, and the image of the dude who sings “Your Body Is A Wonderland” listening to indie as a way of seducing Swift is really, really funny.
[8]

Edward Okulicz: Taylor Swift is erudite and emotionally literate if not always smart about it, and she projects this in an accessible way, but she’s also still a young woman. “Together” celebrates how the vagaries of an interjection such as “like… ever” and how in its own way it can say as much as one of those long-form letters she sang on Speak Now. She could go into detail, but she doesn’t need to (we know she could if she chose — Swift is nothing if not deliberate in her word choices). Essentially, the lyrics might be self-parody, but they’re affectionate self-parody. The beats are like fingers pointed in accusation, suggesting that the jarring attempts at introducing dance-esque beats to mixes “The Story of Us” and “Love Story” have actually led to a worthwhile place. It’s not a knock-out perfect Swift single, but it suggests she’s always finding new ways of being a clever, diverting, radio-friendly, unit-shifting populist goddess.
[9]

Alfred Soto: Because the stomps and vocal swoops bear the influence of Gotye and other pop hits so obvious I won’t name them, I distrust the chorus rush. Other than the euphoria of being mean — who else gets away with it in contemporary pop? — she’s doing nothing more than jabbing herself in the breast plate with an adrenalin shot. And Swift sings the indie line that all the indie-suspicious critics adore with unseemly emphasis; she’s like a villain with a pencil mustache winking at the camera. Get over it
[4]

Brad Shoup: Countering iPod-commercial pop with that classic Backstreet sound: what couldn’t go wrong? Basically just the wordless sung bits, and the swoop Swift puts on the multitracked “we,” turning it into “whee!” Maybe I wouldn’t be reading so much relish into the ride if I hadn’t heard her sing this song before. For someone who’s spawned a cottage industry of twitty guessing games, she sure sketches some generic boyfriends. The fly-on-the-wall spoken bit is a canny touch; it distracts from the grey acoustic fidgeting and the Avril-demo melody, and satisfies pop fans who want to hear Kimbra’s other other side of the story.
[3]

Alex Ostroff: The stop-start fingerpicked bit and the touches of cross-fading and fake DJ noises in between the strums are vintage The Matrix-era Avril (think less “Complicated” and more “Mobile” or “Nobody’s Fool“) and there are far worse directions Taylor could go in sonically in search of chart dominance. For example, the 4×4 Max Martin thump that takes over in the verses and the chorus. (The Country Mix of the track improves the situation vastly by filling out the chorus with fiddles and guitar power chords that wistfully remind me of “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” and “Should’ve Said No.” Miss you, Taylor of 2006!) The ‘indie’ line will draw cheers from some and boos from others, but it’s not a line in the sand, and I’m not entirely certain that it’s Mean-Girl-ing indie bros either. It sounds more like the sort of thing that passive-aggressive dudes in deteriorating relationships say to try and unnerve and undermine you; and she’s parroting it to her best friend over the phone — Can you believe he said that? — or to him during the final fight — Did you really say that? It’s a little bitchy, perhaps, but it’s not a taunt. She’s not angry. She’s tired. The spoken word interlude makes it clear: “This is exhausting, you know?” Which is why even in my beloved country mix, the chorus feels off. It should at least sound fed up, and instead Taylor sounds as triumphantly lacking in nuance as a Kelly Clarkson post-breakup anthem. At least in the verses, she dismantles his bullshit with some relish. (Which: extend the line from Fearless to Speak Now to Red, and maybe this genericism is what we get when there are fewer and fewer personal experiences to draw on that have a sense of grounded place and space instead of a celebrity existence that is everywhere and nowhere? Drew vs. boys on football teams vs. Stephen vs. Jonas Brother vs. John Mayer or whoever. Nashville high schools vs. Hollywood, etc.) I guess maybe what I’m saying is that, in the past, even when Taylor’s subject matter was uncomplicated, her perspective never was.
[6]

Pete Baran: Taylor is here continuing in her project to record a song for every possible event in a persons life. Here is the Charlie and Lola break up song, which has an irresistible title, which is even more irresistible in the song when you discover it is actually “never, ever, ever.” It loses a mark for self reflectivity in the second verse, and instantly regains it for dissing indie records.
[9]

Andy Hutchins: One of the secrets to writing songs that will end up being in everyone’s vernacular is to write them in the form of conversations that actually happen. On the fifth listen, this sounded exactly like conversations I heard my former roommate’s girlfriend have about the former roommate who she should probably never have gotten back together with. The difference is that Taylor has the sheen/crunch-pop stuff down to a science, and never sounds like she isn’t the smartest person in the room. Like, ever. Smart women should win as often as she does.
[8]

Iain Mew: I don’t think that I am invested enough in either Taylor or in the overstated musical or lyrical enactment of young relationship conversations to fall for this. It’s like I can see all the parts which should be funny or thrilling and get part of the way there, but not far enough that its one-dimensional sound doesn’t come through just as clearly. Apart from the level of disdain that she manages to put into the word “talk” in “talk to your friends.” That I can get behind wholeheartedly.
[6]

Mallory O’Donnell: Is this a Funstyle outtake? 
[2]

Jonathan Bogart: I intentionally did not listen to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” till just now, after I’d absorbed nearly a week’s worth of excitement, dismissal, even-handedness, and caviling, and I’m not sure a) what business any of us who aren’t young women from sixteen to sixty-six gearing up to finally shut down the needy asshole in their life have listening to it or talking about it, b) what useful concepts are being served by making fine distinctions between “country,” “pop,” “nineteen,” and “twenty-two,” c) why anyone’s complaining about the tempo not being fast enough for Max Martin when it’s clearly positioning itself as an anthem, not a dance song, or d) why no one’s talked about internal rhyme schemes and the self-reinforcing nature of the sloganeering title especially when chanted over and over again.
[8]

Josh Langhoff: Taylor’s always done teenpop — she’s effortlessly broadened teenpop’s scope to include country, or maybe vice versa, an accomplishment either way — but in taking on the classical teenpop template here, she’s produced a classic of the form, mostly because of her still-evident songwriting craft. The first ace line — “I remember when we broke up/The first time” — turns out to rhyme with “‘cuz like,” so she establishes the song as part parody, a tone that never lets up. Spoken interlude: bratty! (Shania’s were always so stiff.) Four chords: well-deployed! Whiplash plot developments: impossible to follow! At the end of each chorus, the extra “ever”: clever! And there’s real emotional heft, as well — mostly the giddy joy of a master excelling at whatever the hell she wants. We-EEEE!
[10]

Patrick St. Michel: The news hook is the Max Martin sheen, the twang of her previous singles replaced by the hands-together-now clomp one associates with Katy Perry or Kelly Clarkson. It’s what doesn’t warrant inclusion in headlines, though, that’s just as important: Taylor Swift still knows how to write about being a teenager. Here’s the song about that eureka moment when a teen finally gets over a significant other and gets cocky about. See the almost snotty way Swift says “what” after learning they need space, or the indie-record bit, or her meatheaded impersonation during the talking. She’s not just over her ex though, she’s over the old her as well, evidenced by the way she mockingly says the way she once said “I love you” and just generally sounding burned out on everything. The production matches the mood of the song – this is a celebration of maturing, and it deserves an upbeat soundtrack.
[8]

Will Adams: I want to like Taylor Swift so badly. I really do. Blasting “You Belong With Me” in the car with my friends and sing-shouting along sounds like the highlight of a lifetime. Karaoke with her must be equally awesome. My inner curmudgeon won’t allow me; “She’s cloying!” it says. “Her lyrics are diary entries written in verse! She can’t really sing! She recycles the same four chords for her songs! She’s eternally surprised!” And while her appeal is no mystery to me, it’s not something I can fully endorse, like a cake with a fruit filling. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” appears to be a test to see if I can have a change of heart; it attempts this by stripping all of her idiosyncrasies in favor of sounding like a watery composite of everyone else – Pink, Avril, Katy, Ke$ha. But the facile sentiment on “Together” is not much different than her previous singles. The difference here are the focus group-minded contributions from extra songwriters. Max Martin and Shellback’s mechanical chug sinks the whole thing like a lead balloon, and the awkward attempts to inject personality range from biting (the nose thumbing at indie records) to eye-roll worthy (the “authentic” spoken interlude) to nearly unlistenable (“We-EEEEEE!”) and beg the question as to who decided they should be included. And yet, it’s quite catchy and immaculately engineered to spend six months on the radio And yet, she’s very pitchy on the bridge. And yet, my preference for pop sheen is telling me I should like this more than her organic country offerengs. I’ve never been so confused by a pop song. Maybe I’m just stubborn. Maybe I should wait until Red arrives so I can contextualize “Together.” Maybe my enjoyment of her will forever remain a distant possibility that lies just out of my reach. As of right now, I am utterly confounded.
[5]

Ramzi Awn: The most annoying thing about “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is that it isn’t actually as annoying as it should be.  The kind of song that could easily be brought to life on a Gossip Girl episode, Swift’s new offering is as cute as it is possibly possible to be cute, with cute to spare.  It is true, she may not have necessarily shied away from this angle before, but it’s particularly …. self-conscious on the track.  And besides the coos on the chorus, the texture that past Taylor Swift songs have played with beautifully is lacking.  “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” will do what Swift needs it to do, but mostly, it is as memorable as a bad cupcake.      
[4]

Zach Lyon: This is the point where I admit to officially being tired with Taylor’s lack of lyrical breadth. This reads like a thesis statement for a good 90% of the songs she’s already written, and it certainly doesn’t take us anywhere we haven’t been for three albums. I know it’s a perfectly BLEAURGH thing to quote myself, but I’m thinking I should apply the essence of those two sentences to every Taylor review until she actually writes a single song that is not about the same damn thing. And yes, Increasingly-Intimidating-By-The-Single Rock Critic T.Swift Fan Club, that’s an exaggeration; you don’t need to rebut with the few examples there are or the stretched-flimsy non-examples there aren’t. I once held that card. “Mean” is still a favorite. But we’re four albums into this and I couldn’t even get past the title without rolling my damn eyes. If it were anyone else and if it were, I dunno, 1998 or 2002 or 2005, then “WANEGBT” would almost be a successful pseudo-novelty-pop song that debuts and possibly ends a young singer’s career (“Call Me Maybe” is actually sticking out as a comparison). I might’ve liked it then — hell, I may allow myself to enter pop catatonia when it comes on the radio and take in the chorus for the next few weeks — but if you had told me that the things I liked about it were the exact same things I’d theoretically like about her next thirty singles, with differences only cosmetic, I’d look at you with tired eyes. 
[3]

Jonathan Bradley: Let’s start — why not? — with the “some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” line, a tricksy piece of songwriting that has more facets than revealed on first listen. There’s the obvious reading, the one where it’s sung by Taylor Swift the multiplatinum recording artist, hitting back at some guy who never really respected her career no matter how nice he was to her. But it can also be Taylor the anywoman or anyperson, in which case “mine” would refer to the records she owns, and the zinger is at the expense of every supercilious douche overimpressed with his own taste. And these two readings play off one another, because lots of people who enjoy Swift are aware that plenty of supercilious douches consider pop records like Taylor’s to be frivolous and facile, and so a record like mine might easily be a Taylor Swift record. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is so incandescent because of these layered little tics, and Swift’s ability to deliver her dialogue with CW precision: the disbelieving what?; the snotty like, ever; and, of course, the just-stylized-enough spoken word interlude. And yet all of that’s frosting on top of a triumphant, gleefully bitchy, airy, stomping confection that should be her biggest hit since “You Belong With Me.” 
[10]

Jer Fairall: Honey, the latest Selena Gomez record is much cooler than yours.
[4]

51 Responses to “Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

  1. I thought it was alright.

  2. J.Bogz: I’m not sure a) what business any of us who aren’t young women from sixteen to sixty-six gearing up to finally shut down the needy asshole in their life have listening to it or talking about it

    i. Why? ii. Then why are you?

  3. I feel like I’ve been outbid by O’Donnell.

  4. I like to think the above comment is a prelude to Jonathan going ham on everyone that gave this below a 9. And that I will be safe.

  5. Olive branches to all you [3]s and [4]s out there.

  6. I like to think of us as the guajillos in this particular menudo.

  7. See, I think this is the big gender divide w/r/t Taylor Swift. I wish I had more data to back this up, one reason being that it’d result in there being more female critics, but: (many) male critics tend to be really, really impressed that Taylor Swift so accurately renders actual girls’ conversations. (Many) female critics tend to be really, really unimpressed, considering they accurately render actual girls’ conversations twenty times before eating lunch. I mean, Jersey Shore probably accurately renders girls’ conversations — or it does now that all the girls are saying GTL or whatnot, and no, I’m not going to look up which one said that first — and it isn’t a critical darling. (Though I’ve seen The Hills be cited neutrally to positively in a few Sheila Heti reviews, so maybe in 2015?)

    That said, re-fighting the Taylor Swift wars is somewhere around “sunbathe on the subway tracks” and “burn the contents of my bookshelves” on my priority list, so I’m not looking forward to the inevitable shitstorm.

  8. Really fantastic blurbs, everyone.

    Rebuttal to J.Bogart: a) see: J.Bradley’s comment; b) not sure about “country” and “pop” but Zach’s blurb begins to address the age issue, for me; c) but this wants to sound dancey! I don’t see why Martin of all people had to kowtow to radio’s obsession with the 4/4 thud (which is really a thud here). If this had a broken beat I would have given another point; d) this is fair.

  9. What impresses me about Swift is not that she accurately renders girls’ conversations (if gender is even sufficiently essential for such a generalism to be useful), but that she precisely renders a girl’s conversation — her own. (And that those conversations sound an awful lot like ones I’ve had in the past.) I don’t ask her to be an ambassador for all womanhood. She’s far more interesting speaking for herself.

  10. I thought the spoken bit was obvious parody, of herself-as-self-aware-but-bad-choice-making-teenager, doing self-aware pastiche of a different strand of teen pop to which she usually weaves. She’s reproducing — with some comic embellishment that will work for some people and not others — a retelling a girl like her might have made at some point. And Taylor is.. er.. a girl like Taylor.

  11. This discussion is more like indie/feminism/journo-major to two decimal places.

    Thank goodness a couple of you are actually receptive to pop music.

  12. Thank goodness “being receptive to pop music” is not synonymous with “being a Taylor Swift fan.”

  13. This discussion is more like indie/feminism/journo-major to two decimal places.

    Klassic Jukebox is back, baby!

  14. Just a quick note – Jer, the latest Selena Gomez album (Pixie Lott duet aside) was actually pretty great? Might have even been better than the latest Demi Lovato album, which I wouldn’t have anticipated two years ago. Not sure if it beat ‘Speak Now’ but the further Taylor moves away from country-pop and/or singer-songwriter mode, the less comfortably she inhabits her songs.

    I’m curious to see how the rumoured Taylor Swift dubstep pop number turns out, mostly just because while I’m one of the critics who normally loves her stuff unquestioningly, and would gladly listen to her spin her wheels on subject matter, I’m not convinced that she’s spinning her wheels ~well~. She’s written more intelligent and complicated things than this song when she was fifteen.

  15. Wasn’t dissing Selena—really meant single rather than album, but you know, by snarky little riff on the lyric only works if I use the same words Taylor does. Haven’t heard Selena’s last full album (or any of them for that matter) but did really like one of its singles (Who Says) and while I didn’t
    much care for its more popular hit (Love You Like a Love Song), cheeseball funk is cooler than 2nd tier Avril, IMHO.

    But yeah, was really just trying to knock Tay’s latest by noting its inferiority to an act that most music crit/nerd types don’t exactly consider the epitome of cool. Not even compared to Taylor Swift.

  16. (sorry for the typos and whatnot. typing on a phone screen yadda yadda)

  17. And not to belabor my frivolous blurb, but as an aside I’d originally addressed Taylor as “girlie” instead of “honey,” for some reason thinking of Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, but w/o context (and maybe even w/ it) that sounded too patronizingly sexist, so I changed it.

    From Clint voice to sassy gay voice in one easy word change!

  18. I thought most critics liked the Selena Gomez album?

  19. Most critics liked Taylor’s last album too.

  20. I absolutely love the line about “You go talk to your friends talk to my friends talk to me” and all the warm, messy, modern networking it implies, and that hardly ever get referenced in pop songs. It’s the polar opposite of something like “Somebody that I Used to Know”. It’s even better if you imagine it being directed toward John Mayer so I’m glad I had that image before I heard it.

  21. 1. I think Ya Boy (not the “Tebow” one, the Australian) is pretty dead-on about being impressed by Taylor’s autobiography being accurately rendered. If Taylor is good at writing songs for her audience (largely young American women, and white women more often than not, though race doesn’t get thrown into T-Swift discussions), it’s because she basically is her audience; her experiences are relatable because they are not all that uncommon. (And she doesn’t write/sing about all of the uncommon things — or, when she does, as on “Mean,” she writes about them in ways that contextualize them beautifully.)

    2. I think that’s not all that unlike what Drake does.

  22. “Whiplash” by Selena Gomez > This song. I mean that not as a slight on this song, it’s just.. “Whiplash” is so good.

  23. Young white Southern women, more like, with all the cultural implications of that. Listening to and liking Taylor Swift was as much part of the cultural script as making yearbook scrapbooks or (sorry) going to Chick-Fil-A on the way home from church. (Notice how, in “You Belong With Me,” she puts in a little extra twang on “the kind of music she doesn’t like.”)

    Which is all well and cool if you can relate, to song and/or lifestyle. I never could.

  24. Or if that’s too much in the past, how about this: what about this song is any different than what Thought Catalog does? (Other than smartass answers like “well, it is a song,” I mean.)

  25. An editor has looked at it, presumably.

  26. That’s pretty facile, Katherine. How is this song like what Thought Catalog does?

  27. I mean, dropping a collection of supposedly risible signifiers doesn’t actually establish that Swift has anything in common with them.

  28. It’s the sort of thing that gets praised for being “relatable” or whatnot when it’s slapdash, doesn’t betray much craft (I’m shocked I’m the only one who mentioned the vocals here) and only “relatable” in the broadest, easiest ways.

  29. The thing that kind of peeves me, is that she has not really copped to her ambition–she keeps singing the punished small town teenage girl vibe, when she’s a multi-p[latform mogul who is fucking a Kennedy. She isn’t having the same conversations with her friends–and you know, as talented performer as she is, i would like to see her work it, but it would mean she was less relatable.

  30. I don’t think my comment went thru–but i think relatable is the key here. She is a multi-platform mogul who is fucking a Kennedy, one does not get to that position w/o knowing who you are marketing too, and if she loses relatable, she loses her career. I think that she comes across as relatable is a mark on her skill.

  31. (Praised by its readers, that is. Derided by critics. Which is why I’m having a hard time accepting a lot of these arguments; it’s logically inconsistent. Either you accept that “relatable” and “accurately renders the ___-age experience” are universal markers of praise, or you don’t. If they are, you’re now praising TC as well. If they’re not, you should probably praise Taylor Swift’s music in other grounds.)

  32. OMG. I did NOT mean to miss this one, but it happens. I actually don’t like it very much; it’s only the funny the first time and then eminently forgettable. But I have no doubt that it will become that song you are contractually mandated to open (or close) breakup playlists (er, mixes, whatever) with. And I’m not sure I’m happy about that, because this song, at its core, just is not good.

  33. The male-to-female ratio of reviews here is amazing and I only just noticed it.

  34. Taylor’s saying “it’s exhausting” in the gif at the top, by the way. I didn’t intend for it to be this thread’s epitaph, but…

  35. I was meaning to ask where the gif came from, actually. Is it the real source of the spoken word interlude?

  36. Katherine, thank you for making me google Thought Catalog, which I’ll now try to avoid forever. I don’t get how this song doesn’t betray much craft, when, with the exception of the talky part, every lyric seems precisely placed for maximum persona-building impact. It’s airtight. Vocally, I guess she is kind of yelpy but she sells the song she’s singing. I can’t really speak to its relatability, but fwiw, the three women I’ve talked to about the song like it a lot (one as much as I do, I think), and the men not so much. I can relate to walking around the house singing “WEEEE” all day long, though.

    So yeah, I guess ultimately I’m less impressed with her verisimilitude or whatever than I am with the finished product she creates. It’s like all those slow boring Drive-By Truckers songs where they convincingly describe engine blocks, vs. all those catchy Beach Boys songs that convincingly describe engine blocks. I don’t particularly care about engine blocks or actual girls’ conversations as rendered in song, but this is a Beach Boys song.

  37. (please nobody ask for examples)

  38. @Will: no, it’s from this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6gFma4H7fA

  39. @Katherine It’s not that “accurately renders x experience” can’t be a universal marker of praise, it’s that ThoughtCatalog does it artlessly while Taylor does it superbly. TC could publish “I Grew Up In A Project In Queensbridge” and it wouldn’t be Illmatic. There’s no logical inconsistency in distinguishing the two.

    I’m reminded of something Alfred Soto wrote a while back on shibboleths in criticism:

    1. Guilt by association. For example: “I hate Sade. Her music reminds me of yuppie wine bars.” Or: “Metal reminds me of the guys who used to beat me up in the high school parking lot.” Why blame Sade for what goes on in yuppie wine bars? What’s your problem with yuppie wine bars? What is a yuppie wine bar? If you need to examine your prejudices, try epistemology, not criticism.

    Also, FTR, I mentioned the vocals: “Swift’s ability to deliver her dialogue with CW precision: the disbelieving what?; the snotty like, ever; and, of course, the just-stylized-enough spoken word interlude.” Her delivery is more important to the song than any Simon Cowell–notes on pitchiness.

  40. Except that I don’t find this superb at all:

    - The delivery is absolutely nothing special (I’m the worst actor in the world and even I can do “exhausting” with roughly the right cadence), and the problem with the vocals isn’t that they’re “pitchy” — though they are, a lot — but that they do not play to Taylor’s strengths at all. You are Taylor Swift working with Max fucking Martin — surely you can pick a melody that actually suits you? It’s like if Annie Lennox released a version of Der Holle Rache transposed down a lot.

    - The chorus is underwritten. It just is. You could argue that it’s supposed to be anthemic if there wasn’t such a rash lately of underwritten pop choruses.

    - That guilt by association line is pretty much exactly what the “indie record” line does, though! I’ll give Taylor the benefit of the doubt and assume she knows which indie record is the one in question. But I don’t think she thinks it matters, and I doubt her audience will either.

  41. “I hate Sade. Her music reminds me of yuppie wine bars.”

    Re: this and Katherine’s TC comp: maybe Alfred can pitch in, but I don’t really think this comparison itself is valid, not when you’re comparing writing to other writing.

  42. - I don’t hear an underwritten chorus. As J. Bogz says, it’s written so as to be self-reinforcing as its repeated, which switches up to the “you go TALK to your friends, TALK to my friends” part, where the emphasised talks serve to disconnect who’s talking to whom, creating the impression of a swirl of conversation untethered from individual actors. (Note also that this does play to Taylor’s strengths — it lets her stridently spit talk, which works because she uses her words to build characters out of the emotions they feel.)

    - I don’t hold musicians to the standards I do critics. Taylor’s tasked with telling a story, and part of telling the story can involve populating it with the protagonist’s prejudices. Critics should avoid such indulgences. We’re talking about how music works, not dumping a boyfriend.

    - @Zach Katherine’s list of signifiers also included yearbook scrapbooks, Chick-fil-A, and church. I understood her to mean TC-as-internet-experience, not the-content-of-TC. But if we’re not talking about TC-as-internet-experience: Which TC article? Which specific other writing? If we’re just talking about the vibe of TC, that’s a signifier, not other writing.

  43. There’s a fine line between “written to be self-reinforcing as repeated” and “repeated because nobody could think of anything else to do.” I mean, back when I was taking Intro to Graphic Design all my designs were “minimalist,” but that was equal parts an aesthetic choice and a choice made because I sucked at drawing and wanted to mask that. Like I said, Swift isn’t some kind of lone songwriting maverick here. “We Found Love” had an underwritten chorus too in the same way. Almost all of Drake’s choruses are underwritten. Et cetera.

    Re: scrapbooks, Chick-Fil-A and church: This has nothing to do with the music but Swift’s intended audience. It’s what’s missing when everyone talks about Swift’s effect on culture. It’s kind of like what Anthony said — she’s a multi-platform mogul, involved with a Kennedy enough to be photographed, and she didn’t even go to high school or grow up in the South, but she knows her audience. Better than most critics do, Id say.

    Re: TC — No, I meant the content, plus the wide yawning gap in critical reception for essentially the same thing. Any of these will work.

  44. … Wow.

  45. Care to share with the class?

  46. …We seem to have this conversation every time a Taylor Swift song shows up? Odd. (Last time I liked the song, IIRC, and this time I don’t. But it’s essentially the same argument.)

  47. I’ve realized this, and it is absolutely maddening, because I don’t think I’m wrong.

  48. I’m glad that even with 18 contributors this didn’t knock “Gangnam Style” out of the controversy top spot (it’s #2, in front of the also-more-deserving “Sam and the Womp.” “GS” is far more deserving of spleenery (or at least words) from all sides. No more energy to get agitated about my relationship to Swift’s music (yeah, I’m demoting her from first-name basis AND I’m going to start changing all my junk Russian MP3 site passwords to norahjones). This one just seems…I dunno, kind of lazy? Would have liked an actual indie record, e.g. — come on, make fun of Neutral Milk Hotel! Look at all the silly names you have to choose from! No way is she dating this guy long enough to write the song but also doesn’t have an opinion on some of this stuff more specific than “you think your indie records are cooler than mine.” How about HOPE YOU LIKE JERKING OFF TO XIU XIU, FUCKER.

    Taylor’s an A-minus-without-trying student who gets by on charm to gullible teachers, or to the ones who admire her spirit for implacable reasons that they’re preeeeetty sure aren’t as superficial as colleagues suspect, or are just plain easy graders (A-minus-without-trying students usually earn their A’s, but sometimes they don’t, like how Marlon Brando would test directors with a purposely shitty take to see if they were worth taking seriously), but this is that paper she phones in her second year of college and actually gets called out for bullshitting it the night before with a totally-deserved C minus. Anyway, I’m just projecting. I’d give it a 6, which is hardly a C-. But I’m also an easy grader.

  49. Evidently, one can never think too much about Swift, even at this late date.

  50. Think shmink. I spent a half hour Sunday seeking and scanning trying to find this song. We-EEEE!!! (Heard way too much Flo Rida.)

  51. Can I say the line: “HOPE YOU LIKE JERKING OFF TO XIU XIU, FUCKER.” made me giggle for days.