Has the whole world gone insane? Taylor Swift just announced that she’s releasing a new album, Red, in October, and the lead single dropped today at midnight. It’s called “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and it sounds like… an Avril Lavigne song.
(It’s been taken down, but you can watch the lyric video here.)
I mean… what? Sure, Swift has always lived on the pop side of country, but even in songs like “Mine” and “Love Story,” you can still hear the spurs jangling beneath her princess gown. And in my opinion, her best singles—“Mean,” “Safe and Sound“—are the ones that sound the most Appalachian. They showcase her undeniably sophisticated songwriting more than her undeniably adolescent worldview.
But “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” will be completely out of place on country radio. From the fuzzy, garage-rock production of the music to Swift’s pop-punk vocal phrasing, with its bratty spoken interludes, the track belongs to a completely different artist than the one we’ve known.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of artists have swapped genres with great success, and since Swift is a gifted musician, it’s exciting to consider where she might push herself. (And let’s not pretend she’s not talented. Is her music for everyone? No. But she’s a strong songwriter who has gotten better with each album.)
And really, I guess this curveball isn’t that shocking. Considering her recent collaboration with B.o.B. and the Mumford-esque sound of this excellent song from the Hunger Games soundtrack, it’s been obvious for a while that Swift is expanding her horizons. I prefer both of the former tracks to the new one, which sounds awfully generic after a few listens, but taking all three together, I’m very interested to hear the new album. Even the artwork says “California indie rocker,” not “Nashville’s queen.”
So what’s going to happen? Will Swift’s country fans follow her to the pop side? Will she do what Shania Twain used to do and stack her new album with a mix of country and pop songs, trying to please everyone? (And don’t forget: Shania succeeded.) I’ll be fascinated to find out.
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. He noticed that Sugarland’s last few albums were also much more country than rock. He thinks that if country radio supported female artists more consistently, they might not keep switching to other genres.