Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

Taylor Swift ft. HAIM – No Body, No Crime

First song we’ve covered that references Olive Garden…?


Alfred Soto: Evermore‘s catchiest number, it turns out, is the one Taylor Swift wrote by herself. Perhaps she needed a foil, but even at its most arch — I didn’t need Este Haim playing fact-checking cuz — it has more bounce than what many of her former male country colleagues cough up about and on whiskey. 

Al Varela: “Taylor Swift Murder Ballad” is already enough to sell the song on its own, but I’m glad that this turned out exactly as good as I hoped it would be. I love how sour and foreboding the production is. Powerful and textured enough to stand out, but still leaves the storytelling to shine as the song’s most powerful element, where Taylor goes into detail about an affair turned crime scene that she gets involved in for the sake of justice. The chorus is delightfully quotable and sinister, and the HAIM sisters add that little bit of suspense in their backing chorus to sell the inner demons swirling in Taylor’s mind as she plans to kill this man for what he did to her friend. It’s compelling all the way through, and the way the chorus changes with every story beat is so exciting and paints such a vivid picture.

Jonathan Bradley: A gothic update of her debut’s “Should’ve Said No”: it seethes with the same venom, the same carefully tethered control. Added now is a rich cast of characters, played by our friends from Haim (Danielle’s “She was with me, dude” is an interjection for the Swift annals) and a twisty plot that plays like a Megan Abbott story. Swift has often been cast as the naif, the innocent, but everything from “Better to Revenge” to Reputation made clear something else she well understands: there’s a bloody joy in hatred, in extracting one’s own definition of justice, and that sense underlies this song as novella.

Alex Clifton: Do I think Evermore-era Taylor could actually kill a man? The answer is a definitive “no,” but she can tell a damn good story about doing so. HAIM are badly used here, which is unfortunate — I love the minimal flair they give and do wish they could’ve been incorporated more into the song — but even then this still kicks ass. I like hearing dark!Taylor emerge during this era in a way that differs substantially from Reputation‘s theatrical villainy. It feels weird describing a murder story as “subtle,” especially when Swift almost cackles while delivering the life insurance line, but the desire for revenge is far more real than it was in “Look What You Made Me Do,” and I’m absolutely sold on it.

Tobi Tella: She hasn’t cornered the market on murder ballads; even though there’s a “happy” ending it doesn’t reach the joyous revenge fantasy heights of a “Goodbye Earl” or even the overblown schlocky catharsis of a Carrie Underwood song. The whole thing being played with a wink doesn’t really bother me; I’m sure the people who find Taylor legitimately threatening can be counted on one hand and the composition puts the focus on the narrative without sacrificing the ~shady vibes~. It doesn’t bore, and every weird bit that takes you out for a second like the Olive Garden mention or “she was with me, dude” (s/o Danielle) is specificity that makes the ride stronger and more entertaining.

John Pinto: I asked my girlfriend — a Swift diehard who spent a big chunk of her life visiting family and then attending college in rural Iowa — about “Tuesday night at Olive Garden,” and she said, regardless of the fun Este Haim metatext, “it would probably be more like ‘Tuesday night at Pizza Ranch.'” Points off for that missed detail (and as an aside, Pizza Ranch is a culinary disaster that fills me with perverse glee and would probably make my dad go full North Jersey, and I recommend you visit if ever in America’s middle), but Taylor lands every other “true” crime beat here. I’m especially partial to the hop she does on “He RE-ports his missing wife.” There’s a lot in that little vocal tic: the obvious rage and sadness at the crime itself, the thrill of the hunt, the simple excitement that comes from seeing point a lead to point b, and all of it repressed by the cool delivery of someone who knows there’s still dirty work to do. That vocal tic is in every true crime doc talking head, so of course it has to be here, too.

Will Adams: There’s a frustrating contrast between the intrigue of Swift’s true crime storytelling and how plain the underlying music is. The crisp folk lilt is nice, but the chorus melody goes nowhere, and HAIM’s barely-there contributions make their involvement feel like an afterthought. In short, I’d rather listen to “Sunny Came Home” instead.

Edward Okulicz: I know Taylor comes back stronger than a ’90s trend, but “Sunny Came Home” was not actually a trend.

Katherine St Asaph: “No Body, No Crime” pleads to be canonized alongside “Independence Day,” “Goodbye Earl,” “Gunpowder and Lead” and the rest, but its real peers are “Before He Cheats” (the verse intro) and “Lonely No More” (the chorus outro) — the stuff of Adult Hits radio, where Taylor is heading and where Haim already were. The song’s far too subdued to be camp, too glum to be righteous fury, and the murder’s the least compelling part. Both scansion and details in the bridge seem rushed compared to the rest, genteel Swift tries but can’t remotely sell a line like “I’ve cleaned enough houses to know how to cover up a scene,” and Danielle’s interjection is way too glib for the surroundings — it sounds plucked from an in-jokier song, the sort of thing that’d reference bass face or mimes. This murder is best left metaphorical, and if you listen that way, the song suddenly makes sense. “I think he did it, but I just can’t prove it” becomes a companion lyric to “The Man”‘s “when everyone believes you, what’s that like?”, about the resigned misery of both knowing the wrong someone did and knowing you’ll never convince anyone. There’s no joy there, and no company. When Swift imagines her murder, she imagines doing it alone, and Haim’s backing “he did it” refrain doesn’t convey the sisterly Thelma and Louise solidarity it otherwise might, given how faint they sound (and also given how, in the song, one of the singers is dead). There’s no vindication there, either; all that comes of her revenge is inflicting that state upon someone else. Now there’s a true crime.

Andy Hutchins: For anyone with even a passing familiarity with the various things being riffed on — “Goodbye Earl,” “No Woman, No Cry,” true-crime and revenge fantasy as genres, the legal concept of the title — there’s no way to come to “No Body, No Crime” without expectations. It’s a shame, because the song’s own merits are ample: This is Taylor with her pen dipped well, sharp details and mastery of conventions like the subtly shifting hook on display, and the harmonica and guitar are suitably swampy. But c’mon: This was supposed to be the 2020 “Goodbye Earl,” and it’s not that for reasons well beyond the tone being deliberately different. Taylor’s voice has never had the cigarettes-and-whiskey quality or natural twang that helped Natalie Maines sell “Atlanta” as a slant rhyme for “Ann,” “hand,” and “plan,” there’s no line here half as good as “Wanda looked all around this town and all she found was Earl,” and the catharsis of an unspoken, unseen murder barely confessed to in the final word pales in comparison to that of selling Tennessee ham and strawberry jam while not giving a damn. Taylor’s bragging, barely, about getting away with it on a technicality; the Chicks were gleeful to have done the deed itself. This sort of lethal misandry plays best in Technicolor — and would it really have killed the mood to get a winking “na na na naaaa” in there from Este and Danielle?

Thomas Inskeep: This “Goodbye Earl” manqué isn’t Swift’s best songwriting, largely because it’s too straightforward in its storytelling: verse/verse/bridge/verse, a little too simply. Musically, however, it’s great. HAIM make a lot of sense as Swift’s backing vocalists here; even as the song sounds like a “return” to country, Little Big Town, for example, wouldn’t have the same vocal impact. And Swift and Aaron Dessner’s production is lovely — his mandolin is especially effective. With better lyrics, I’d love to hear an entire album’s worth of this. (On Eevermore it’s a bit of an outlier.)

Vikram Joseph: In the rather subdued expanse of the mid-section of Evermore, “No Body, No Crime” serves as a necessary palate-cleanser; to over-stretch the analogy, it’s a zesty lemon sorbet, light and airy but pretty acerbic all the same. From the opening police sirens and the HAIM sisters’ Greek chorus, there’s a camp, dramatic archness to it which appeals, especially because for all of Taylor Swift’s manifold songwriting ability her occasional attempts at humour in her music have often fallen flat (“Shade never made anybody less gay,” anyone?). There’s a real deftness of touch here which prevents the song from being weighed down by its (deceptively complex) narrative, and all of that notwithstanding it’s a gently rollicking folk-pop bop.

Oliver Maier: Hilarious enough, both in content and context, that I prefer it by default to anything on the drab Folklore. I don’t know if there’s disagreement on this being a funny song but I think it’s the ideal spirit to take it in, given that it takes an outrageous level of self-confidence (possessed by few other than Taylor Swift) to write a song about your friend getting murdered and then ask said friend to sing on it with her sisters. It’s called commitment to the bit, look it up. The music is mostly a vehicle for all that, but Swift’s aptitude for checking musical boxes means that it goes over pleasantly if not surprisingly. The lovely melisma on the penultimate “he” pushes it past the finish line.

Aaron Bergstrom: I’ll be honest, I already had my negative review written (“Given the success of the all-female Ghostbusters, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’ve already decided to remake that movie where the guy realizes he’s the only person on the planet who still remember the Beatles, only now it’s four girls and “Goodbye Earl.“), but the sheer inexplicable playfulness of this song has won me over completely. From the campfire harmonica to the gratuitous Olive Garden reference, a revenge killing comes off like a clique of small-town teenagers playing a particularly mean-spirited prank on a classmate. (“She thinks I did it, but she just can’t prove it” is basically a playground taunt.) Danielle’s tossed-off “she was with me, dude” ad-lib is absolutely perfect, and it’s even better if you imagine her sitting in an interrogation room with that same too-cool-for-school attitude while two hapless cops become increasingly incensed by her refusal to crack. I’m legitimately interested in whether this song has led to a spike in boat license applications. You know, just in case.

Rachel Saywitz: I haven’t been enjoying “No Body, No Crime,” as much as the general population has, which might have to do with its lyrical content more than anything else. Like, did we have to bring the mistress into this? And can we get a sequel where Swift is dealing with the consequences of her revenge murder, being forced to kill the mistress because she’s found out the crime, then being forced to kill the rest of the HAIM siblings because they found out about those two crimes, then being forced to drown the sexy female police officer who’s been following her tracks all this time, even after they have an illicit hook up in the back of her boat?? “No Body, No Crime Pt. II: All Bodies, All Crimes (feat. boygenius).”

Reader average: [9.25] (4 votes)

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One Response to “Taylor Swift ft. HAIM – No Body, No Crime”

  1. In SwiftCU canon, the Este of this song appears to be a character based on Este Haim (down to chain restaurant preference) who is not actually supposed to be Este Haim. Does that matter to any of you?

    (Doesn’t change my score, but does make me think even more that this song would have benefited more from being a HAIM ft. the self-anointed fourth Haim sister joint than it does from Taylor getting two of them to sing.)

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