Tag Archives: Taylor Swift

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe. All my Songs of the Week are featured on my Top of the Poptastic playlist, along with the rest of my faves from 2017.

I’ve only had chance to give Reputation a few listens so far, but one track stood out instantly when I first heard it. Songs such as Look What You Made Me Do and End Game are hard to love, despite their strengths, because Taylor’s efforts to prove her self-awareness are so transparent, and she ends up coming off more self-obsessed than self-deprecating. Although she does make one maudlin reference to her reputation on Delicate (“My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me”), the track overall feels far more sincere and relatable. The chorus has a real sweetness and even humility. The happy hopefulness and focus on little details hark back to the romantic side of Taylor that made her lyrical style so endearing and escapist on past albums. Musically, it’s in keeping with her current, autotune-heavy sound, but it reminds me of how Muna combine electro-pop with heartfelt songwriting on I Know a Place and If U Love Me Now – in fact, this could have been on their album. If you’re boycotting Reputation cos it wasn’t on Spotify or you didn’t like the singles, I recommend you at least give this one a listen (here or below at 19:25).


Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

The fact that Taylor Swift had her first UK no.1 with Look What You Made Me Do is a little sad for me, as a long-time fan. The song represents a disappointing lack of self-awareness (which once was one of her biggest strengths) and a self-indulgent prioritising of musical experimentation and media attention-seeking over quality songwriting. But on the bright side, the video made the song feel a bit more camp and lighthearted, and we now know we’ll be getting another electro-pop album from Taylor, which is an exciting prospect as 1989 was such a treat. I felt a wave of relief on hearing the new song …Ready For It?, which was released without warning this weekend. My Max Martin radar seems to be in good working order, as I loved this track even before I knew it was his work. Maybe I was tipped off by the Britney-esque ellipsis at the beginning of the title. …Ready For It? has a similar sound to Tove Lo, a member of Max’s production protégées Wolf Cousins, so I’d be interested to find out if she has any connection to the song (was she involved in production, a secret co-writer, or were parts of the song originally meant for her?). There’s also unexpected similarities to Taylor’s own secret co-write, This Is What You Came For by Calvin Harris and Rihanna. It turns out what I saw as a favour to her boyfriend of the time was more of an indicator of where Taylor was headed musically than I imagined. But the best thing about this song is that it affirms that Taylor can experiment without sacrificing her songwriting ability – thanks to Max keeping her on track. The “in the middle of the night” section could even be a sample from her country days. I’m not sure it quite matches the best tracks of 1989 but it certainly would have been a worthy inclusion on that album, and that puts it ahead of what most pop artists could ever achieve.


Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Taylor Swift – …Ready For It?
  • Cardi B – Bodak Yellow
  • Farruko ft. Bad Bunny & Rvssian – Krippy Kush
  • Maroon 5 ft. SZA – What Lovers Do
  • Chris Brown – Questions

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my  Spotify playlist, updated weekly (when I remember) with the next big thing.


Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

My weekly playlist features five tracks I predict will be future hit singles in the UK.

Tracklisting:

  • Taylor Swift – Out of the Woods
  • Zara Larsson – Lush Life
  • Shawn Mendes – Stitches
  • Selena Gomez – Hands to Myself
  • X Ambassadors – Renegades

For more Future Hits, subscribe to my new Spotify playlist, updated weekly with the next big thing.


Released: 9th February
Writers: Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Shellback, Ali Payami
Best bits: 1. “Just take me ou-ou-out!”
2. “Ohh, you got that James Dean, day dream, look in your eyes”
3. “We never go out of style”

When I chose Taylor’s Out of the Woods as my Most Poptastic Single of 2014 (a promotional single at the time, and ironically set to become an official single in 2016, with the video premiering tonight!), I had an inkling that Style would be my no.1 in 2015. I spent the year hoping to find a song to top it, and occasionally toying with the idea that one of the other tracks in my top 5 might be more deserving. That amazing riff in King was particularly persuasive. But listening to Style again now, it’s still the clear winner. The Max Martin/Taylor Swift combination is just too hard to beat.

Style was an immediate stand-out track on 1989 for many listeners, but for me, with my preference for noisy, obnoxious pop, it took a little longer. It’s not an instant burst of energy like Shake It Off or a sassy revenge anthem like Bad Blood. Instead, it’s a classy, simple tune that doesn’t need to shout about its brilliance, because it knows it’ll be discovered. Style wasn’t a major commercial hit, but it’s a personal favourite for legions of pop fans and a track that convinced many haters not to hate hate hate Taylor… for a while at least.

In September I wrote about Taylor’s progression from country star to pop superstar, and the new challenges she faced. The 1989 era has been a clear triumph, but I said that I hoped she would take some time out of the spotlight at the end of her current tour to redress the over-exposure she’s had in 2015. According to interviews she’s done since, it sounds like she has that very plan in mind. So I look forward to finding someone else to award my Most Poptastic Single title to in 2016, and to hearing what she comes up with for her next album, whenever that may be. Take your time Taylor, but don’t forget to make it amazing. And obviously, give Max a call!


Released: 17th May
Writers: Taylor Swift, Max Martin, Shellback
Trivia: This track attracted a lot of hate from pop fans when the 1989 album was first released, and when it was announced as a single, but it was certainly Taylor’s biggest hit of 2015. I’m siding with the masses on this one, it’s a brilliant song.
Best bits: 1. “‘Cos baby now we got bad blood, you know it used to be mad love”
2. “And baby now we got bad blood, HEY!”
3. “If you love like that, blood runs coooooold”


Being a Taylor Swift fan has been a strange experience over the past year. While she had completed the crossover into mainstream pop stardom in the Red album era, it’s in the current 1989 era that she has reached superstar status. Several times recently I’ve seen her described as the biggest pop star on the planet, and it seems weird, but it’s probably true.

There are many different types of artists sharing the top tier with Taylor, from the Adeles and Kanye Wests to the One Directions and Coldplays. But there is a special type of fame reserved for female pop superstars, an extra level of scrutiny and expectation, and a responsibility to their fans and their gender that they could never fulfil. When Taylor made the transition from country artist to pop star and achieved a new level of success, she automatically took on that responsibility.

Taylor’s years in the music industry and the media spotlight meant she was better prepared for superstardom than most, in the same way that Beyoncé was prepared by her time in Destiny’s Child, and both have dealt similarly well with the bizarre demands that a woman faces in this role. Taylor handled her new situation so expertly that for a while she seemed almost untouchable, but in recent months the strain has inevitably started to show.

The success of the Red era had put Taylor in a rare position where the world was waiting for her follow-up with high expectations. Even more unusual was the fact that she fulfilled those expectations, and in fact exceeded them, with 1989. It was the best work of her career, released at the perfect moment. In 2014, the stars aligned and the results were magical. From the exuberance of Shake It Off to the emotional power of Out of the Woods, and the perfect pop of Style, 1989 rightfully earned critical acclaim and commercial success. It was the biggest-selling album of the year in the US, and has so far sold over 8 million copies worldwide.

Having waffled on to anyone who would listen about Taylor’s underrated brilliance for the previous five years, I was proud to see pop fans, from the obsessive to the casual, declaring themselves Swifties and scrambling for tickets to her 2015 tour. I not only had a feeling of redemption as the potential I’d spotted in Taylor was revealed, but it was also a great experience to be able to discuss my favourite album of the year in depth with fellow pop geeks. These days I often feel out of tune with the musical zeitgeist, as my ongoing search for the next big thing leaves me listening to artists others don’t care about yet, and in some cases never will. For these reasons, I was happy to share Taylor with the world.

However, Planet Pop turns quickly, and like on Earth, night always follows the day. And, to throw in another analogy, Taylor was flying worryingly close to the sun. The press is famous for building up celebrities only to bring them down, and a few months ago I wrote about my observation that social media has given fans the power to behave in the same way. I remember in a meeting in July, speaking about being a Taylor Swift fan, I expressed my fear that her golden girl status put her next in line for a takedown. As the 1989 campaign was no longer shiny and new, her fall felt inevitable, and the wait was making me nervous.

It was less than a week later that Taylor made her biggest mistake, her misjudged response to Nicki Minaj’s VMA rant on Twitter. She resolved it as well as she could by apologising, but the damage was done – like Gary Barlow’s tax evasion and Jamelia’s fat-shaming, it wasn’t a mistake she could own. Although this was the most high profile and obvious error in the 1989 era, I saw it as a follow-up to the first mistake of the campaign, which took place in one of the earliest promotional interviews. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Taylor gave away details about the inspiration behind the song Bad Blood which made clear it was about Katy Perry.

The reason this was such a big mistake was that the broad PR campaign around 1989 has a theme of female friendship. This is similar to how the Red era had a PR theme of celebrity boyfriends, which functioned to push Taylor firmly into the tabloid world. Typically self-aware, Taylor knew when the celebrity boyfriends theme was getting tired, and the female friendship theme was the perfect antidote as she subliminally assured her (mostly female) fans that she prioritised them over any romantic relationship. Even now she’s dating Calvin Harris, that relationship is portrayed as secondary to her friendship with Karlie, Cara, Selena and the rest. However, as Katy was happy to point out, calling out a rival pop girl was a glaring contradiction and over time has undermined the theme.

The day after Taylor’s fateful tweet to Nicki, even though I had seen it coming, I watched my Twitter timeline in shock. I have never seen the tide of opinion turn so quickly and dramatically. Pop fans gleefully tore into the golden girl, seizing the opportunity to bring her back down to earth and remind her of their power. Personally, I agreed that Nicki’s point about race shouldn’t be swept aside and that Taylor handled the situation poorly, but felt the reaction to Taylor’s ill-advised but well-meaning tweets was overblown. Members of the fan community who were unhappy with Taylor’s rise to superstardom used her mistake as an excuse to try and right this apparent wrong. Taylor, at the height of her career, was too secure to be dethroned, but the keyboard warriors did succeed in proving that no celebrity, not even Taylor Swift, is untouchable.

I didn’t comment on the drama between Taylor and Nicki at the time, because yet again I was feeling out of tune with the zeitgeist. But now, looking back, the whole situation has made me realise that I judge artists differently to most people. I think one of the driving forces behind the backlash towards Taylor is a dislike of her manipulative nature, which became apparent to many of her new fans for the first time in recent months. The increased press attention has highlighted something she doesn’t want us to see, but depends upon to stay at the top. Taylor has certain tricks she brings out time and time again to assert a chosen perception of herself. The first example that became well known was the “surprised face,” an exaggerated response to fan adoration that unsubtly proclaimed her humility. She regularly uses the social media strategy of “surprise and delight” to show she cares about her fans. Now she has the ever-growing “squad” and the self-empowerment speech during the 1989 tour to show she supports other women.

At surface level a manipulative nature seems like a good reason not to like a pop star, but it doesn’t hold up to analysis. If you’re a pop star, being manipulative is smart. Business, PR and marketing are all about manipulation, and the more effectively you do it, the more successful you will be. To criticise a pop star for being manipulative is like criticising an academic for doing research for their paper, or a builder for getting the right materials to complete their job. To tell a pop star not to be manipulative is to ask them to stop trying to be successful. It’s an inherent part of the job, and Taylor’s expert manipulation is what put her ahead of every other talented, pretty young girl who wanted to achieve what she has.

Not only do I believe that manipulative qualities are unfair grounds for criticism, but I would say that they are among the main reasons (aside from my love of her music) I support Taylor over other artists. Although I don’t really believe it, the idea that she might be an evil genius masquerading as the nicest person is pop is quite appealing! I don’t care if pop stars are genuinely nice (as anyone who did Nietzsche for A Level philosophy knows, there are no selfless acts anyway!), but it thrills me to see them convincing the world that they are. I was obsessed with Jennifer Lopez’s reinvention of herself as a sweet, down-to-earth girl on American Idol for the same reason.

The artists I have the most admiration for are the ones who control their public image masterfully, and Taylor does a fantastic job, especially considering the level of attention she receives. She destroys the preconceptions that as a young female pop artist she wouldn’t be business-savvy. Anyone can employ a good PR, but only a highly intelligent artist obsessively in control of her own career could play the media game so well. As a girl working in the music industry, particularly with female artists, I find it very inspiring.

Taylor is at a tricky point right now, as her career needs the refresh that the move into a new album cycle would bring, but she still has more than three months of her world tour left to complete. Although the special guest duets and “please welcome to the stage” celebrity appearances are getting a lot of press attention, and undoubtedly helping to sell tickets and music, it’s making the 1989 era feel like it’s dragging on, only 10 months after the album release. All artists do the same thing on their tour every night, but with such intense scrutiny, Taylor is starting to seem like a parody of herself. Even I feel like I’ve seen enough of her lately not to need to watch the VMAs, where she won four awards, duetted with Nicki Minaj (of course) and was apparently mentioned with reverence throughout.

For the next few months, I hope Taylor will use that old self-awareness to keep her head down and finish the tour without incident. As for what the future holds, I have many ideas about where she could go, which I plan to write about soon. Whatever she does, she’s written herself into the pop history books, and with all her talent in music, business and PR, her place couldn’t be more deserved.

Edited to add: I wrote this piece before hearing about the latest Taylor Swift controversy, the accusations of romanticising colonialism in her new video for Wildest Dreams. It’s certainly a head-in-hands moment considering the racism she has already been accused of this year, but this post is long enough, so I’ll pass you over to The Guardian, who have published a good article about this which interestingly echoes some of the points I made above.


Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

This week’s playlist features five future hit singles by female solo artists.

Tracklisting:

  • Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea – Pretty Girls
  • Taylor Swift – Bad Blood
  • Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money
  • Florence + The Machine – Ship To Wreck
  • Ella Eyre – Together

Taken from this week’s Future Pop mailer. Click here to subscribe.

This week’s future hits playlist features five new songs by solo female artists which should soon be lighting up the charts.

Tracklisting:

  • Taylor Swift – Style
  • Tori Kelly – Nobody Love
  • Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand
  • Florence + The Machine – What Kind Of Man
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You

After several years of choosing increasingly obnoxious and divisive no.1s, there was nothing that could trump Timber, Pound The Alarm and Swagger Jagger in the “is she actually trolling us?” (no, they really were my favourites) stakes this year. I was tempted to go with Shake It Off, as it does feel like the song of the year, considering how well it was received by everyone from casual chart pop consumers to uber-analytical music journalists. However, there was another song that grabbed me and stuck with me in a different way, which I think deserves the spotlight today even more. For the first time in many years, my no.1 is not an upbeat, sassy or celebratory party song, perfectly constructed to make us all dance and smile. It’s clever and powerful in an entirely different way.

Taylor Swift – Out of the Woods

Released: 14th October (USA)
Writers: Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff
Best bits: 1. Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? Twenty stitches in the hospital room
2. Are we in the clear yet? In the clear yet? Good!
3. But the monsters turned out to be just trees, when the sun came up, you were lookin’ at may-ay-ay

It’s debatable whether Out of the Woods is actually a single at all, as it doesn’t have a video and hasn’t “gone to radio,” but according to my rules it is eligible, because it charted somewhere in the world (nine countries, to be precise). I hope it will get its chance to fully shine in 2015. It fulfilled its purpose in creating a huge buzz for 1989 and tipping us off that the album had much more to offer than Shake It Off suggested, but Out of the Woods deserves to be more than bait. It deserves a video, an awards show performance, blanket radio play and a few weeks at no.1… at the very least!

Out of the Woods isn’t one of 1989’s Ryan Tedder co-writes, but you could have been mistaken, thanks to its highly repetitive chorus (typical of a Tedder tune). The chorus is itself misleading – there’s so little to it, that on first listen you might think of Out of the Woods as a simple song. But it’s the verses that make it special, intricately constructed and filled with little details (lyrical and musical) that reveal themselves over time. And as you get caught up in the story of the song, the chorus transforms from repetitive to anthemic. The emotion behind it becomes clear, and even though the song is conveying something much more complex than the average top 40 hit, you feel like you know exactly what Taylor was going through.

So, the countdown of my top 25 is complete! Let me know what you think of my choices in the comments box below, or tweet me @Poptastic. If you’re wondering which singles just missed out, or would like to hear all these songs (and 75 more) in order of excellence, look out for my full top 100 being revealed this afternoon.