Single Review: The old Taylor is in intensive care on "Gorgeous"

Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 4:07pm



On Thursday, Taylor Swift teased the release of her latest single “Gorgeous” with an Instagram video featuring a baby saying “gorgeous” followed by a bubbling bass line that sounded like a Swift version of Drake’s “Passionfruit.” The clip left so many questions: Is this a rap song? Is that Kylie Jenner’s baby? Is the song going to be listenable? 

Being the pop culture junkie I am (and daily listener of Taylor’s “All Too Well”), I tuned in at midnight to hopefully get some answers. But even after multiple listens, “Gorgeous” offers little clarity. It’s as if Taylor and producers Max Martin and Shellback sat down and wrote a song from the perspective of a 16-year-old girl who just recently had her first beer and wants to strongly suggest to her friends that she’s drank, but is still scared that her mom might overhear her.  I can imagine the Google history from this session filled with searches like,  “things teen girls do in LA.” “Gorgeous” is an off-putting patchwork of old and new Taylor, both desperately reaching for their intended (and well-researched) audiences.

Luckily, readers who were concerned about the recent passing of “the old Taylor” need not worry, she’s not dead — she’s just hiding in the bridge of “Gorgeous.” Taylor, after mentioning her older boyfriend, how she drinks whiskey on ice and dates DJs, maintains that she is still super relatable, reminding us about how she still “stumbles on home to her cats” and definitely still playfully giggles.

Admittedly, the song is not all bad. Instrumentally it excels, capitalizing on the summer-influenced trend still persistent in pop music. The simple and repetitive production leaves plenty of room for Taylor’s vocals. The only problem is that Taylor doesn’t deliver. With each chorus, there is so much empty space that listeners have a hard time identifying the true chorus –– the section most vital to A-list pop. Rather than emphasize the chorus, the beat of the bass, which rhythmically mirrors that of 1989's “How You Get the Girl,”  dominates. But, contrary to “Gorgeous,” “How You Get the Girl” is infinitely more interesting due to Taylor’s extensive vocal variation, something not present in “Gorgeous.” Much like with the previous two Reputation singles (“Look What You Made Me Do” and “...Ready For It”), Taylor sing-raps, employing little of the electronic vocal processing that made 1989 so rightfully ‘80s pop.

In “Gorgeous,” Taylor personifies that person who will travel to a city just to Instagram a Boomerang from a trendy bar without buying a drink. Every part of the song, from the corny lyrics to the anonymous baby, seems patched together to construct the perfect “Millennial” song. I’m hoping that Reputation offers an attempt at brand cohesion, because after three singles, I still have no idea whether the old Taylor is dead, alive or just in intensive care.