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Adam R. Holz

Album Review

In 1987, actress Kelly LeBrock starred in a meme-worthy Patene shampoo commercial, coyly telling viewers, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

I wonder if Taylor Swift has seen it, because she basically flips that suggestion on its head in her new single “Gorgeous.” Specifically, she’s playfully hating on a gorgeous guy for making her want him so much, even though she’s supposedly in a relationship with someone else.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Look What You Made Me Do, Part Deux

If “Look What You Made Me Do,” the debut single from Swift’s new album Reputation, was a bit of an acquired taste, “Gorgeous” immediately sounds like an insanely catchy, synthesizer-fueled, Taylor Swift pop song.

There’s not much more to the narrative than what I summarized. Swift’s out and about drinking and clubbing in Hollywood (“Whiskey on ice, Sunset and Vine”) Then she sees him, a guy whose looks stop her dead: “You’re so gorgeous/I can’t say anything to your face.”

Of course, this is Taylor Swift we’re talking about. So there’s a bit of cat-and-mouse flirtation going on, too. At first, she doesn’t seem to be treating him very kindly. “You should take it as a compliment/That I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk.” Later she echoes that confession: “You should take it as a compliment/That I’m talking to everyone here but you.” (We can only hope this guy was smart enough to bring his secret Taylor Swift Decoder Ring with him.)

But Swift doesn’t play hard to get for very long. Soon, she’s pouting (“You’re so cool, it makes me hate you so much/ … There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have”) and playing the part of an indignantly twitterpated victim (“And I’m so furious/At you for making me feel this way”).

Swift also lets slip that her powerful attraction to this guy (“Your magnetic field [is] a little too strong”) is tempting her to cheat on her boyfriend, who apparently is in another club (“And I got a boyfriend, he’s older than us/He’s in the club doing, I don’t know what”). Then, she tosses in casually, “Guess I’ll just stumble on home to my cats/Alone, unless you wanna come along, oh …”

There’s no suggestion that he takes her up on that offer. But it’s a suggestion that hardly casts Ms. Swift as a paragon of virtue and fidelity. Just one gorgeous guy at the club, this song suggests, might be all it takes for her to give her “old man” the ol’ heave-ho.

Watch Your Back, Katy Perry

Ironically, Taylor Swift sounded more emotionally grounded and mature at the age of 16 than she does now at 27. Certainly, there’s a degree of self-aware, meta-mockery here. “Gorgeous” is not a serious song. And on some level, Taylor Swift is poking fun at her own flirty flightiness here.

Still, the flighty persona she’s portraying isn’t making wise decisions. She’s insecure and self-absorbed, and flirting with the idea of infidelity. Oh, and she’s drunk, too.

All in all—even if she’s only acting a part here—it’s not a good look for Taylor Swift. Her lyrics continue to drift toward the kind of airy, hedonistic vapidity that once defined many of her contemporaries, but not Taylor herself. That simpler, more earnest season in Swift’s life seems long gone listening to this edgy, inebriated club jam.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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