Here’s what’s not surprising about Taylor Swift’s latest hit: It’s a catharsis-minded rant about a no-good ex-boyfriend.
Here’s what is: There’s nary a hint of country music influence to be heard here.
Indeed, Taylor Swift—who’s been crowned Entertainer of the Year by the Academy of Country Music Awards two years running, in 2011 and ’12—has in her first single from her Red album utterly ditched the very genre that propelled her to fame. The result of her apparent quest for total pop domination? An anthemic effort that sounds more like something from Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne or P!nk (perhaps because it was penned by those divas’ go-to hitsmith, Max Martin) than something from the young woman who launched her career crooning about Tim McGraw.
When it comes to the song’s lyrical content, however, “We Will Never Ever Get Back Together” is on more familiar ground.
Much more familiar.
Swift’s last album, Speak Now, is full of allusions to her famous celebrity exes, John Mayer and Taylor Lautner chief among them. Two years later, the now 22-year-old singer shows no sign of retreating from that juicy, tell-all lyrical blueprint.
“We Will Never Ever Get Back Together” offers a “he said/she said” snapshot of a romantic meltdown. Mostly, though, it’s what she said. One could easily picture Taylor penning the words in her journal or offloading them onto a trusted girlfriend as she chronicles the list of her ex’s failures and foibles with the exacting precision of an IRS auditor.
“I remember when we broke up the first time/Saying, ‘This is it, I’ve had enough,’ ’cause like/We hadn’t seen each other in a month/When you said you needed space. What?/Then you come around again and say/’Baby, I miss you and I swear I’m gonna change/Trust me/Remember how that lasted for a day?/I say, ‘I hate you, we break up’/You call me, ‘I love you.'”
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much emotionally spent by the time I get to the end of that first verse. And so’s Taylor: “Ooh, we called it off again last night/But ooh, this time I’m telling you, I’m telling you/We are never, ever, ever getting back together.”
I believe her. I think.
Speaking of being convinced, I’m certain by now that Taylor’s had some bad relationships. Her near-constant emphasis on exploded romance, though, is starting to wear thin. When she was 16, lots of folks took her side, seeing her as an innocent ingénue who’d been rudely taken advantage of. Yet here she is six years later, still determined to play the part of someone perpetually wronged. How long is it going to be before her fans notice the trend?
The sentiments Taylor vents here aren’t necessarily problematic in and of themselves. But the song’s similarity to so many others she’s written, combined with her willingness to own these stories as autobiographically representative of her life, does suggest something about her ongoing judgment when it comes to men. Namely, that it’s not very good.
Washington Post contributor David Malitz sarcastically put it this way: “Can you believe that Swift wrote a song about a failed relationship and that she vows to rise above and not let that icky man ruin her life? Oh, you can? Because that’s what every single one of her songs is about? … It’s hard not to roll your eyes at the song’s opening line (‘I remember when we broke up’) since it finds the 22-year-old Swift in the same mindset as when she first emerged as a teenager.”
So whether her style is country or pop, it’s becoming increasingly clear that young fans had best plot their own path through the muddle and mire of romance—independent of Taylor’s.
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.