Speak Now tour + internet
Taylor Swift Is Going Pop. And That’s a Good Thing.
Confession: I love Taylor Swift’s country side. She’s an incredible songwriter that has built an empire on evocative storytelling and polished guitar arrangements. So when I first heard her new single, “Shake It Off,” I didn’t know what to do.
Swift has done straight-up pop music before, working with “Shake It Off’s” producers, Max Martin and Shellback, on multiple singles from her last album, 2012’s Red. But this was something entirely different. Gone was even the pretense of her country influences, the invigorating guitar lick from “22” swapped out for a low-punching saxophone riff, the conversational details in the lyrics of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” replaced by universal mantras that could belong to anyone. It was a jarring first listen, and when it was over, I started counting backwards to the release of “Mine,” the intricately crafted lead single to her 2010 album Speak Now. Was that story only spun four years, and two albums, ago? Was that Taylor Swift gone, replaced by an artist whose most unique features had been sanded off?
But then I listened to “Shake It Off” again, and started noticing the immaculate design — the way she connects the lines of her verses with “mm-mm’s,” the handclaps that she conjures when she’s about to drop that “sick beat” in the bridge, the descending notes in the chorus (“Players gonna play, play, play, play play”) that make her declarations about the state of the world sound all the more inevitable. Again, Swift has done this before: “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” were lynchpin moments on Red, one of the most fully formed mainstream albums of the decade. But she’s never barreled through hooks so efficiently, or presented her melodies so euphorically.
"Shake It Off" is not, in fact, the sound of Swift losing her most defining features, or becoming a generic pop artist. Taylor is still being Taylor, the type of writer any musician would dream of becoming, but she’s shedding her damaged skin like a snake and morphing into a more carefree, confident narrator. The lonesomeness of a line like "Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?/The girl in the dress cried the whole way home," from her stunning 2010 ballad "Dear John," is now a nonchalant shoulder-shrug; Swift is now older, more world-weary, and less prone to crumbling when she gets pricked.
"I go on too many dates! But I can’t make them stay!" she jubilantly cries in the first verse of "Shake It Off," sounding like she doesn’t give a damn about how that line is construed in relation to her well-documented dating history, because, as she concludes, haters gonna hate anyway. On "Shake It Off" and its accompanying music video, Swift is demonstrating a complete lack of vulnerability — speculate about her love life! Watch her mess up her dance moves! See if she cares! — and has selected the medium of pop music to make her sloganeering all the more crystal-clear. Haters can, indeed, keep hating. Meanwhile, Swift will keep serving up choruses that every college party sings along to come autumn.
Everyone hates change, especially when the old way of doing things feels so reliable. However, why would anyone want the world’s most celebrated artists to do the same thing over and over? The best musical minds change and evolve, moving beyond their well-proven formula to try and crack another code. Kanye West did it last year, momentarily leaving the warmth of his soulful hip-hop to create a pissed-off rock opus. Gwen Stefani left her rock band No Doubt to make a solo pop album — imagine if that had happened in the Twitter era! Swift more or less made a stylistic sea change on Red, moving into a more diverse array of bubblegum, folk and arena-rock after perfecting her country-pop aesthetic on Speak Now. She could have kept straddling the line between genres on 1989, but isn’t this — a full-on pop spectacle, as Swift has announced — more exciting? It might be great and it might be terrible, but Swift’s first post-Red project will be a bold foray into the unknown, rather than a predictable hit that she can toss upon a mountain of other accomplishments.
Taylor Swift may not be a pop artist forever, or even for very long; perhaps later in her career, she’ll return to country music with open arms. I wouldn’t be shocked if she made an acoustic album someday. However, this is where she is right now — holding oversized boom boxes in gaudy music videos, jiving with Max Martin in the studio, flipping off the naysayers who don’t think she can make spectacular pop music. She can, and she will. The rest of us will just have to get used to it. (x)
Taylor Swift Turns Radio On With ‘Shake It Off’
As expected, Taylor Swift soared onto radio airwaves with her highly anticipated new single “Shake It Off.”
Swift released the high-energy, anti-haters pop anthem Tuesday during her Yahoo! live stream shortly after 5 p.m. ET. The song quickly tallied 1,139 first-day plays on 229 stations that report to the Billboard Hot 100’s radio airplay panel, according to Nielsen BDS. The plays translated to nearly 9 million in first-day all-format radio audience.
“Shake” introduces 1989, Swift’s fifth studio album and first in nearly two years. The set arrives Oct. 27 on Big Machine Records.
The live stream aired on more than 140 Clear Channel Media and Entertainment-owned radio stations, with participating pop stations in the chain spinning “Shake” hourly the rest of the day. The song’s hourly exposure (which has become a Clear Channel signature for high-profile releases) has continued Tuesday (Aug. 19), including on major-market tastemakers WHTZ (Z100) New York and KIIS Los Angeles. The pop stations played the song 10 and seven times Monday, respectively.
On BDS’ real-time building Pop Songs chart (which runs Monday-Sunday), “Shake” already ranks at No. 8. On the building Adult Pop Songs tally, it snares the No. 9 spot.
The song, which shot to the top of the Billboard + Twitter 140 chart Monday, could challenge for the top rank on the airplay/sales/streaming-based Billboard Hot 100 to be revealed on Aug. 27, following its first full week of sales and streaming. The song was released to retail digitally and its official video premiered Monday.
RADIO’S SWIFT ACCEPTANCE
Given her superstar status and catalog of hits, pop radio programmers have eagerly welcomed Swift’s effervescent and hooky new hit.
“I think it’s excellent,” says Mike Mullaney, assistant program director/music director at CBS Radio’s adult pop WBMX (Mix 104.1) Boston. “Pop music is supposed to be fun and, as far as I’m concerned … mission accomplished.”
“I cannot hear [‘Shake’] enough. I’ve had it on repeat since yesterday afternoon,” says Erik Bradley, PD of CBS Radio’s Pop Songs panelist WBBM (B96) Chicago. “I think it’s a mega-smash.”
“It’s fun, uptempo and infectious,” echoes MoJoe Roberts, PD of Cumulus-owned Pop Songs reporter KHOP in Stockton, Calif. “So far, audience reaction has been solid. The cool thing about Taylor is when her songs play, you know it’s Taylor. Her signature sound has definitely evolved, but she’s still true to who she is.
“What’s not to like about it?”
NO TRIP TO THE COUNTRY
Among buzz for the new song and video is its all-out pop polish, complete with Swift’s spoken-word semi-rap breakdown, cheerleader chants and even (mild, family-friendly) twerking.
Swift has clearly segued to pop music after arriving in 2006 with her country ballad named after one of the genre’s most successful artists ever, “Tim McGraw.” While her last album, Red, yielded the country-exclusive hits “Begin Again” and the title cut, which rose to Nos. 3 and 7 on Country Airplay, respectively, it spun off three singles solely for pop radio, including “I Knew You Were Trouble.” With Swift having written the song with Max Martin and Shellback (Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Britney Spears), it roared to a seven-week reign on Pop Songs. Swift’s three prior Pop Songs entries (in 2011-12) were also pop radio-exclusive: “The Story of Us” (No. 21), “Eyes Open” (No. 20) and “Both of Us” (No. 24), on which she assists rapper B.o.B.
Continuing her evolution, and, unsurprisingly, given her new song’s sound, of the track’s 1,139 first-day plays, a mere 12 belonged to country stations. Still, Cumulus’ country WNSH (Nash FM 94.7) New York sampled the song with a pair of opening-day plays. (Swift has notched 18 Country Airplay top 10s, including seven No. 1s. She led as recently as June 2013, with McGraw, on “Highway Don’t Care.”)
Despite its push to pop formats, “Shake” dents the building Country Airplay chart at No. 49.
“We took to social media to see what listeners think,” explains WNSH PD Brian Thomas. “As you might expect, on Twitter they’re young and want us to play [‘Shake’]. On Facebook, where fans are a little older, they don’t think that this is a country record.”
Thomas also notes that Facebook fans don’t want a song not quite right for country taking potential airplay from more deserving titles, such as “Neon Light,” the lead single from Blake Shelton’s new album; that song should make a high debut on next week’s Country Airplay chart. “The [‘Shake’] video may also move more people to consider it a pure-pop song,” Thomas adds.
Still, Thomas recognizes the unstoppable force that Swift has become and recognizes a hit when he hears one.
“It will sell and, most importantly, her fans love it.” (x)
Her New Single Knocks Down Top 40 Panel in Less Than 24 Hours
Big Machine and Republic Records have pulled off an unprecedented feat, as Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” has closed the entire Top 40 panel in less than 24 hours—a first in Pop radio history. Charlie Walk, Gary Spangler and team, having knocked down Pop in record time, are already preparing a repeat performance at Hot AC next week. (x)
I’m not one to defend Taylor Swift but why are people saying that black girls were only cast in the twerking part of her new video because
I dunno if we’re watching the same video.
But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright (insp.)
raise your hand if you already memorized all the lyrics to shake it off
Taylor’s Full GMA interview