[2] Taylor Swift, ‘Shake It Off’


I’ve loved Taylor Swift since I was twice her age. I know the narrative – fuelled by her, essentially – was that this was where she finally went ‘pop’, but if ‘Love Story’ wasn’t ‘pop’ then I’m feeling 22. Obviously I got caught up in the whole Taylor-goes-pop frenzy because, well, I have editors, but the only material difference is the heavier emphasis on synths. The rest is familiar, all hooks, love, no love, lost love, anticipation, regret, proper choruses and a singer who understands how to get it all across, emotionally and pragmatically.

‘Shake It Off’ is silly. Not too silly to be dissected lyrically, but that’s just a projected persona, isn’t it? I can’t imagine she’s really worried about haters or what they say. Its strength is in its hectic joy, the wail into the final chorus, the horns on the second, its immediacy – I watched the video that night and never again, but it and the song were glued down from that moment. It’s usually in my head but I still play it again.

Inevitably, it’s huge around here and they’re beaming from the first ‘Hey Mickey’ beats. “I love it,” says Junior 3. “I said I love it straightaway.” She did. Junior loves it too and does the whole “THIS. SICK. BEAT.” thing because, like Taylor, she’s well hip-hop. Junior 2 goes for deeper analysis: “I love the voices. It has a lot of expression.” It’s about time this family had a proper music critic.

[1] Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’

Taylor Swift

Junior’s favourite bit is the line “hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” – as much for the delivery, of course, as the actual lyric. Taylor Swift has grown up, become caustic. When she called a boy “mean” on Speak Now, well, that was never going to cut anyone to the quick. But she has the arsenal now. Where once a chap could make “a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter” now he just bleats away on the phone while Taylor rolls her eyes, exhausted.

When this starts, with its curious forestalled guitar intro where ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Long Train Running’ meet, Junior shouts, “Taylor!” That’s the crossover talking. I’ve mixed feelings – I loved Fearless and Speak Now but can’t begrudge her smart step into the straight-up pop market. She should be heard by everyone and this is a wonderfully joyous, barbed, free, sarky, emboldened record to pull that trick with. It does everything right, with glee.

So all hail Taylor Swift’s leap up from billion-seller to billion-and-one-seller. She’s really made it now.

Next up, Junior and I will tackle 1980 and get all tiresome about Dexys Midnight Runners. Although I think I said that last year.

[7] Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, ‘Gold Digger’

Gold Digger

Is Kanye a dick? Let’s look at the evidence: spoiling poor Taylor Swift’s big moment; giving airtime to the horrific Mr Hudson; the gauche title of Diamonds From Sierra Leone, disguising its content; banging on for 10 whole minutes about his record deal on The College Dropout; an inappropriate – but, yeah, funny – takedown of George W. Bush… well, it’s small beans, isn’t it? In the pro column are great tunes and generous sprinkles of wit. In context, his flow is as good as it needs to be.

On ‘Gold Digger’ he deserves his moment for the trickster’s gambit of getting Jamie Foxx to reprise his Ray Charles, legitimising the sample and giving him a fly mate for the video. And what a video – it’s utterly made by Kanye’s jerky throw-your-torso-back show-off dance, stamping surplus cool on an already deeply funky record. ‘Gold Digger”s lyric is amusing, but to call it uncharitable would be praising it with faint damnation. Still, go on, Kanye, you can have this one.

Junior says: “I like your dance.” I nicked it off Mr West. Somehow I look sillier. She tries it too, and dammit if she doesn’t get her groove on with way smoother coordination than me.

Best bit: “WE WANT PRE-NUP!” Yeah.