When Taylor Swift premiered her new song “Shake It Off” and its accompanying video last Monday, I was in Pierson secure storage, helping two former suitemates move boxes up to their rooms. Fifteen minutes later, when I discovered that I had missed the entire Yahoo! Live Stream during which Tay had also announced her new album, I told my suitemates that only their true friendship could have torn me from my goddess, my kindred spirit. (In reality, I had just knocked my head against one of those sharp protrusions on secure storage’s already-low ceilings and was worried about internal bleeding. Blunt-force trauma and hypochondria were the true culprits.)
I didn’t miss very much. I listened to the track and watched the video multiple times that night, and though the catchy chorus burrowed itself into my brain and burst out of my chest during my lengthy, steamy, noisy, hater-free shower the next day, I was, comparatively, disappointed. “Shake It Off” is, in my opinion, the weakest of Swift’s five lead singles. It lacks the sweet naiveté of “Tim McGraw,” the crossover appeal of “Love Story,” the surprising growth of “Mine” and the cheekiness of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It uniquely is devoid of uniqueness.
But the world works in mysterious ways. In 2009, I had missed the live telecast of the other low point in Tay’s career — when Kanye snatched the mic from her at the VMA’s and ruined literally everything. Mere moments after, texts and tweets came pouring into my phone, and I leapt from my desk of SAT study books and AP-whatever homework, turned on the television, and fast-forwarded the TiVo.
I’d like to think that some benevolent deity — or perhaps just the mystical force that unites all of us Taylor Swift megafans — was my protector during these two parallel nights almost exactly five years apart. He (or She — girl power, amirite Tay?!) must have recognized that watching the tragedies unfold live would have made me doubt my love for her. Instead, on both occasions, I was shaken, but I never lost my faith.
Speaking of “Faith,” on maybe my third time through the song, I noticed something fairly George Michael-esque about its opening. After one more listen, “Shake It Off” reminded me of “Footloose.” Now, I’m no ’80s music expert, but considering that the album was inspired by the ’80s, according to Swift herself, I think I could be on to something here!
“1989” marks Taylor’s “first documented, official pop album,” but it lands disconcertingly far from her comfortable niche of country-pop. Sure she wants to experiment — and play dress up, as always. This is a big leap away from something she was very good, if not the best, at. The youngest-ever recipient of the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year honor seems to have given up the genre and subculture that she fought to win over.
But here’s what I will say: Taylor has never failed to deliver when she promises a good record. Of course, she’s had missteps with individual songs, but the better tracks always outweigh the disappointments. “Shake It Off” may just be the only mediocre song on “1989,” unluckily chosen to lead publicity because of its radio-friendliness.
And so, back to faith.
Taylor Swift has been with me through the good times and the bad. I cried with her in high school while bedridden by a broken heart, and I’ve fogged up countless mirrors belting literally all of her songs in the shower. I’ve written two essays about her previously: one for my Brown University application (waitlisted) and another for an ENGL 120 assignment (B+, I’m over it). I’ve sat and stood and sung through two concerts of hers. “Shake It Off” is the farthest thing from her best song — or even one of her “good” ones — but as of now, I see no reason to believe that her album will be anything but a success.
Obviously, I eagerly await its release.