Whaddya mean, “No way are those her glasses”?…
Jessica Popper: After years of thinking Taylor’s music was boring, I heard this song performed on American Idol, and although the performance was utterly terrible, I instantly loved the song and had to hear the original. I’m not sure if this is really classifiable as country, but if it is it’s the best country song I’ve ever heard.
Ian Mathers: My voting record here indicates that I don’t like country at all, but Taylor Swift is more proof for what I said about Katy Perry – aside from a little bit of banjo spangle, I’m not convinced this is country at all! It’s power pop with a vaguely down-homey gloss, and seeing as how Swift has such a great voice and how this song nails one of my secret favourite dumb pop song tropes (the one about wishing the guy/girl you’re pining for would just realize how wall-to-wall awesome you are), that gloss becomes endearing rather than annoying, and doesn’t get in the way of me appreciating one of the finest pop songs we’ve seen yet on the Jukebox.
Dave Moore: On Taylor Swift’s second album, all songs were created equal — any of them could be singles, and I imagine at least two or three more will be. This one is a confidently strolling juggernaut that manages to make a throaty hop up to strained falsetto in the chorus feel like an old-skool Mariah stained-glass-shattering siren shriek in context. As for the song’s potential significance, I’ve given up speculating on where the next Taylor Swift single will wind up: “White Horse” was an unexpected gap-bridger to Radio Disney, “Love Story” has a club remix, and who knows, maybe “You Belong with Me” will break her on Christian radio (You = Jesus!), or Satanic radio (You = Satan!), or that Bob Dylan radio show on Sirius (You = tasteful eclecticism!), or maybe it will be declared the new U.S. national anthem (You = America!).
David Raposa: This tune’s more about the pop than the country, but that doesn’t mean that the drum machine pishes can’t co-exist happily with the tacked-on twang and banjo. And with Swift navigating her winning lyric with a healthy helping of aw-shucks charm, radio-format concessions don’t matter all that much. Not that Swift needed her own “Since U Been Gone,” but it’s nice to have all the same.
Hillary Brown: This is the first of Taylor Swift’s string of singles that really made me get it. Her voice is still a little breathy and weak, but she knows how to spin a story out, and while the subject matter isn’t anything new (it’s the Duckie), it’s tattered for good reason and she does good things with it.
Edward Okulicz: Swift has bucketloads of charisma, sweetness and toughness, to say nothing of her attention to detail. Every single breath is a swoon waiting, nay begging to happen. Her voice is beautiful, the lyrics are simple (in the sense of being smart, not clever), and their simplicity strikes right to the heart of the matter; very few songwriters in the world today have her gift of writing sweetly charming, disarming melodies. Fearless is a great pop album and this is its inviting, open heart, not so much begging to be loved as creating an airtight case for it.
Frank Kogan: Fearless is a deep sea of feminine feeling, Taylor on the grand search for self by way of busted relations with boys. “You Belong With Me” is atypically cheerful and airy, her shaking the drops off her wings with “can’t you see-ee-ee, you belong with me-ee-ee,” but it still draws on the anger and hurt drifting up from below.
Jonathan Bradley: Swift’s songwriting talent is nothing short of incredible. Though it seems to be effortlessly constructed, “You Belong With Me” is loaded with precise but lightly drawn observations, capturing great depths of character and motivation in a few lines. Her approach is diaristic; the song starts on “a typical Tuesday night,” which means little except that Swift seems to have a fixation with Tuesdays; in “Forever and Always”, she describes meeting a boy on “I believe it was a Tuesday.” The repetition across her oeuvre of these motifs (she is also fond of kissing in the rain) suits the obsessive close reading of relationship turmoil at the heart of nearly all her songs. On this particular typical Tuesday, she’s hanging out in her crush’s bedroom while he argues on the phone with his girlfriend. It’s so natural you could miss how perfectly revealing it is: who else but a high school boy would force his guest to hang around listening to his relationship’s dirty laundry? Later on, Swift captures the giddy thrill of spending time with someone you adore with a few offhand remarks about “worn out jeans” and an amazed sigh of “hey, isn’t this easy?” But I fear the title and the (adorable) video get it wrong: The boy in question does not actually belong with Swift. Listen to her audible inhalation at 2:47, when her breath catches in her throat before she piles on the reasons her object of affection should be with her — Taylor knows his favorite songs, his dreams — delivering them in a rushed, too-insistent torrent, in case he should dare interrupt her with the horrible truth that love is not a legality to be argued in a courtroom, and each certainty of which Swift has convinced herself probably means nothing at all. This is the sound of a girl fighting against the gradual realization that she’s stuck in the friend zone, but it’s also the work of a truly impressive pop writer.
Martin Skidmore: I like the details in this song about a boy preferring a cheerleader type to our heroine (high heels vs sneakers is a nice summary of this). Trouble is, however well she handles it, it is a cliched subject. She sings it nicely, of course, and while I could do without the soft rock elements, it’s pleasant to listen to, but I wish it were a more interesting song.
Alex Macpherson: Taylor Swift’s genius lies in her ability to bring familiar, well-worn scenarios to vivid, brilliant life without ever losing the value of their familiarity. You’ve heard all the details before, from the music taste Taylor shares with the boy she admires to the fashion sense she doesn’t share with his girlfriend, but hearing them from Taylor somehow pulls you right inside them; she captures their emotion with astonishing exactitude, crystallises it in a driving melody, and sings it with a wild, heart-swelling optimism.
Michaelangelo Matos: For someone so young and presumably biz-cloistered, she’s a very good writer. Her teen-movie scenario never transcends itself, but it doesn’t have to, because she gets the emotions right, which is easier to tolerate in a song than over 100 minutes onscreen. I also find her vocal perkiness is exactly right — she seems like a genuine optimist, and not because she’s a megastar with shitloads of money, either.
Alfred Soto: Swift’s become such a resourceful singer and songwriter that the hysteria of the chorus is balanced not just by diary details in the other verses, but the way she deliberately flattens her voice when she gets to the “me” part. She’s so generous a singer and songwriter that one of my students, looking over my shoulder as I typed this, assumed the song was about Swift’s crush on the cheerleader in the video.