Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants. Who’ve we got today?
It took her awhile, but this year, I honestly thought Taylor Swift was finally taking her first steps at writing songs for people old enough to vote. After already dabbling in slightly more grown-up themes on her last album Speak Now, her two contributions to The Hunger Games soundtrack both struck me as more mature than dippy, doe-eyed songs like “You Belong With Me”, “Love Song”, and “Fifteen”. Even if she had a leg up from The Civil Wars for one of them. But no, I finally thought that the leading voice of teeny pop country had finally aged out of “Dear diary: Boys *giggle*” level songwriting.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard an artist slam the creative brakes this hard. Yeah, her Speak Now and onward material wasn’t brilliant itself, and had plenty of room for silliness, but even with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, there’s clearly something less distinct, and less fun about it. For example, here’s the debut single from her last album cycle. Is it not a great song? Absolutely. Is it all soft edges and fairly twee? You bet. Does it sound like a Taylor Swift song? Without a doubt.
And that’s one of the flaws with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”: only 2 of those last 3 apply to it. The first time I heard this song, all stomping pop drums and processed sounding guitar, it didn’t register as Taylor Swift until I really listened to it. Before that, I honestly didn’t know who did it because the song has such a bland sound. If you get rid of the background acoustic guitar, this could pass for Katy Perry or Jessie J. Which comes as no surprise since “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was cowritten by Max Martin and Shellback, who also produced (production credits include P!nk, Britney, Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Ke$ha, Usher, your best friend in 2nd grade).
Also, who the hell names a song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”? I get it, she doesn’t want to back to this person (never ever, as it seems), but couldn’t this be expressed any other way? There are infinite ways to describe that feeling: “Never”, “Not Happening”, “Fuck You” “Hell No”, “Glad To See You Go”, “Not In A Million Years”, “Get Out of My Life”, and “I Would Rather Strap Fireworks To My Ankles and Jump in a Camp Fire Than Go to the Movies With You” would get the same message across. It’s not the long title or the bluntness of it that bugs me; it’s that damn “ever”. “We are never getting back together” sounds a little dramatic, but holds up as something you’d possibly say. “We are never ever getting back together”, on the other hand, sounds so juvenile that I can’t say it out loud without wanting to smack myself because it sounds so unbearable. The first time I heard the title was from here on what was (I hope) a gag list. But, it fit right in because who, with a straight face, would tell the record execs, “My first single is called ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together?'”
Of course, it could be more juvenile, like how the phrase is sung in the song: “We (wheee!) are never, ever, ever getting back together” What else do we have in the chorus?
“You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me” Gah, I remember doing this in AIM…wait, are those two lines really the whole chorus?
“I remember when we broke up, the first time/Saying this is it, I’ve had enough, ’cause like/We haven’t seen each other in a month, when you/Said you, needed space, what?” Serious question: Is this verse in iambic pentameter? If it’s not, then this…this is just a wreck of a pattern.
“Trust me, remember how that lasted for a day, I say? I hate you, we break up, you call me, I love you” Why does Taylor Swift have some of the sharper lines about the dumbest subject matter?
“And you, will hide away with some indie record/That’s much cooler than mine” Sounds like she was dating a Vampire Weekend fan.
There’s also a spoken-word bridge that proves Taylor Swift shouldn’t do scripted spoken-word bridges. Everything about it from her put-upon impression of her ex to her mock frustration reminds me that the biggest perk of not being a teenager is hearing people not talk like this. And it only highlights how obnoxious she is in the rest of the song.
But, who am I to even pretend like I was the target audience for this song? This is teen fangirl pandering at its strongest. My theory is that Swift’s singles from her last album, where she did all the writing, didn’t do that well (comparatively), and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is her Pop Producer Collaboration Number One Hit. Considering that the song rocketed to number one, it looks like it paid off. In fact, it’s kind of impressive how quickly this song made it that high despite seemingly no one liking it. Then again, I don’t have a lot of contact with 15 year olds. I can’t imagine the rest of Red being like this, or at least hope it isn’t, because otherwise that review is going to be torture.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” bugs me. Whenever I hear this song, and the context it was made in, I think of fellow “Shut up and make the hits” artist Kelly Clarkson’s song “My Life Would Suck Without You”; both songs are rebound pop songs that got big after the artist tried a more personal album that didn’t do as well. But where “My Life” is manic and catchy on its own, “We Are Never” is catchy in a focus-group kind of way that’s predictable and too safe for its own good. I’m not even sure I want to be back together.