Chances are you saw it coming, whether or not Swift is the kind of star you feel like having on your radar. She’s been covering all the magazines, making the talk show rounds, hinting, hinting, hinting. She’s been firing on all the social media cylinders. Leave the unwelcome surprises to the pathologically uncool dad-rockers of U2; Swift leads hashtagged countdowns on Twitter and Instagram to whip her fans into a frenzy: #1989SecretSessions. #3HoursTilOutInTheWoods.
When Taylor Swift made her break-up with country music official, she surely lost a pack of “purist” fans: there will always be the contingent that thinks she was “better before,” that misses the twangier stuff, the put-on Southern accent, the slammin’ screen doors. I am pro-pop almost always, but in hearing “Shake It Off,” the debut single off 1989, I felt a different twinge of loss: is Taylor Swift going to start sounding like everybody else?
Whenever she gives the reins of songwriting over to Svengalis like Max Martin, she trades narrative individuality for universal appeal. She has a songwriting credit on “Shake it Off,” naturally, along with Martin and Shellback, but you’d never know it; the song sounds like it was penned by a Martian who doesn’t know anything about Swift or her public persona. As I noted when the video debuted, the opening line in particular is a hilariously jarring one, as no one has ever accused noted homebody/Law and Order watcher Taylor Swift of staying out too late or having nothing in her brain. “Shake it Off” is a snappy little earworm that could just as easily have been a hit for Miley Cyrus (framed as a middle-finger to her critics) or Katy Perry (in the mode of her usual platitude-as-empowerment-anthem thing) or Ariana Grande (no discernable onstage personality so what difference would it make).
Swift co-wrote “Out of the Woods” with Jack Antonoff of fun. and Bleachers fame, who is the boyfriend of a voice of a generation Lena Dunham, which certainly doesn’t hurt the social media buzz.