Single Review: “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift has been moving in more of a pop direction with each album release, and apparently with the upcoming 1989 she has made the full-blown transition. Swift is previewing the new set with lead single “Shake It Off.” The track has the driving ’80s beat needed for immediate impact, and it contains the type of horn blasts that have been prominent in recent hits by Macklemore & Lewis, Jason Derulo, and Ariana Grande. If it all feels a little too rote, too mechanical, there’s a reason; this was built to be a hit.

That rote quality is also reflected in the lyrics. The writing is lazy and pandering on “Shake It Off” (it’s hard to believe “Haters gonna hate” comes from the same person who wrote “People throw rocks at things that shine”), and the spoken word breakdown is about as embarrassing as Madonna’s pass at rap on “American Life.” None of it has the innocence of “Teardrops on My Guitar” or the self-consciousness of “Back To December.” Swift has often straddled the line of innocent and cynical, but at this point there is clearly a recurring victim undercurrent in her music; if someone isn’t breaking up with her, then someone is being mean to her or judging her. As much or more than Swift complains about the perception of her in the media, she fuels that perception. How can she complain about the media being in her love life (as she does on “Shake It Off”) when she drops hints in her own album booklet so people can guess who specific songs are about?
In the end, the irony is that on a song about marching to your own drummer, Swift has made the most faceless song of her career.

Grade:

65/97

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