Well, the roll out for Taylor Swift’s sixth full-length album has been quite different than in previous years. While Taylor has been a critic’s darling almost her whole career, the reaction to Reputation‘s lead off single “Look What You Made Me Do” was mixed to say the least, even if the video, which debuted at the VMAs shortly after the song, won some people back over.
So, when she released her second single “…Ready For It?” over the holiday weekend — after teasing it via sports-related outlets — it felt like a chance to see what the continued response to the New Taylor would be. The fact is though, in 2017 there is a weird pressure to come up with a reaction right away, and package it immediately for consumption.
But Taylor has always been such a wait and see artist — I remember I hated “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” when they first came out, and now, they’re two of my favorite songs off 1989. So while some critics think that Taylor’s second single is “weirdly mercenary,” I decided to wait a full week to weigh in.
What I discovered over the course of the past few days, while listening to “…Ready For It?” approximately 400,000 times, is that it’s a really good Taylor Swift song. The other thing I discovered is that I’m not alone — plenty of her fans feel the same way. But they also feel like their reaction to the song has been drowned out by louder voices.
However, this bring us to an interesting crossroads: Sometimes the most interesting time to be a fan of an artist is when the critics have turned their backs. Besides, what does history show us over and over except that critics very, very frequently get it totally wrong?
So in the interest of celebrating Taylor’s fans, here’s a bunch of reason why I like her new song. Reasons related to music, and the actual content of the song, not larger, overarching theories about the blown out likability of women, or forced political commentary on the significance of being a white woman in America at the moment. Just pop music shit. Okay? Okay, let’s go.
It breaks the fourth wall again, right off the bat
That throat clear! Taylor has long been known for her uncanny sense of timing, phrasing and vocal affectation, so her clearing her throat as literally the first thing you hear on the new record, Reputation (“…Ready For It” is the first track) is a sly little signal to longtime fans that she’s about to speak her piece. Obviously, after over a year of silence, and an overwhelming backlash after drama with Kanye and Kim, team Taylor are ready to hear what she has to say. Plus, there’s something so satisfying about her breaking the fourth wall, yet, again, a wink to fans that assures us her sense of humor is very firmly intact.
It’s dark and dramatic as hell
Just like the first single, Taylor is clearly going in a much darker direction than the light and airy 1989. On what will clearly be her second straight pop album, she’s got some pulsing Yeezus drums and bass kicking off this track, and a lot of electronic influences. Let’s be real, as much as people “hated” the pettiness of “Bad Blood” (guilty), it was the dark pulse of that song that kept it swirling on playlists long after the record came out.
What I haven’t seen anyone mention about these two new Reputation songs is that they both are way more EDM and tropical house than anything Taylor has done before — save “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which was a Red one-off with no sibling tracks. I can’t help but think her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris exposed her to some of the music he’s renowned for making, and influenced her sonic palette a bit. When had Connecticut-born, Nashville-raised Taylor ever heard dancehall before? (I mean, maybe Lorde played her some.)
Or sure, maybe she just bumped More Life and “Sorry” for a bit. But, actually, “…Ready For It?” has a lot in common with “This Is What You Came For.” Those slight “mmmhhhmmms” in the background of the chorus? Interchangeable with the background vocals Taylor sang on that Calvin track, even if Rihanna came in with the official feature. Also, plenty of 1989 fans will catch the callbacks to “Wildest Dreams,” “Style” and “I Know Places” — this is like the film negative of those brighter pop songs.
She’s rapping… and she’s actually good at it?
The first thing I noticed when I heard this song is the syncopation on the verses, which, paired with the aforementioned Yeezus production elements make this feels a lot more hip-hop than anything Taylor has done since she invited Kendrick Lamar to guest in the “Bad Blood” video remix. It shouldn’t work, but as one critic pointed out, Swift is ridiculously good at staying on beat, and in the pocket. Her sneers have always been on point, and finally, here, they have found the perfect home. She even works in the kind of pun/wordplay that makes old head rap fans swear up and down their generation was the only one with artistes in it. Burton to this Taylor? Checkmate, Nas stans.
She’s explicitly expressing sexual desire
If you follow country music at all, then you know it is one of the most conservative genres on the planet. Taylor has been carefully practicing her pristine act for years now, to cater to this demographic, and has only recently begun to strip the layers back. Some of the songs on 1989 hinted at sex, yes, but “in the middle of the night / in my dreams / you should see the things we do” is just about as horny as Taylor has ever gotten. Is she up there with Rihanna yet? Certainly not. But everyone has their own pace, and it’s nice to hear Taylor quicken hers. If there has ever been a pop star who clearly needs to get laid… it’s Taylor. No shots!
It flips the script on her heartbroken narrative
Instead of continuing the themes of “Shake It Off” and Taylor as the serial dater who can’t keep a man, “…Ready For It?” casts Taylor as the heartbreaker instead. Not only that, but a heartbreaker who reforms her ways because she’s so happy in a relationship. It’s a Taylor who isn’t rejected or rejecting, instead, she’s whipped! And it’s apparently because the sex is that good. This is a delicious new role for our girl.
It’s a massively girly pop song that’s already infiltrated the sports world
Look, I know it’s not totally a nice move to be delighted by other people’s uncomfortableness. I know. Still, I can’t help but relish the fact that Taylor Swift is now coming packaged into some of the year’s biggest sports moments, and this will probably make a good portion of those male fans upset. And why will they be? Because they’re too masculine to enjoy a good rap/EDM song about fucking? Like, if you love TNGHT or ASAP Rocky, then you’re half sold on this song already. I hope that the uncomfortable bros find themselves humming it to themselves later, and break down their own stigmas about pop in the process. That would truly be a win-win.