On Taylor Swift's blockbuster 2012 album, Red, the country superstar explored several stylistic shades: arena rock, confessional folk, even dubstep. But the foundation of the project was undoubtedly bubble-gum pop. Swift's fourth studio album — the last to sell more than a million in a week, by the way — found her tapping hit producers like Max Martin and Shellback, who helped dress her big pop hooks in country trappings to ensure her new sound would still be palatable to her core audience.
On new single "Shake It Off," the first from Swift's forthcoming fifth album 1989, she reteams with Martin and Shellback, but the trio is done toeing the line. The song suggests the world's biggest country star now belongs to a different genre entirely. The completed transition is jarring, but the impeccable pop stylings make it easy to swallow.
Red hits like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "22" paired their fizzy melodies with slick guitar strums, but "Shake It Off" disregards the instrument altogether, instead coiling its verses around a subtle saxophone line. It's not exactly a "Thrift Shop" nod, but Swift and company clearly have been paying attention to radio trends. On the track, Swift strikes back at the snark lobbed her way with every award win and rumored romance. "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate," she sings, vowing to brush off tabloid takedowns. Defensive? Maybe, but her kicky delivery, especially on the pseudo-rap bridge (she has been hanging with Ed Sheeran a lot, after all), makes it sound like she's simply having more fun than her faceless detractors.
Few musical artists would dare to reinvent their sound so brazenly, especially with expectations so high. But with "Shake It Off," Swift proves why she belongs among pop's queen bees: As you may have guessed, the song sounds like a surefire hit; it also previews an album executive-produced by Swift and Martin. Swift will probably catch some flak for moving away from her bedrock sound, but she has never colored inside the lines. And, as "Shake It Off" shows, Swift can handle the criticism.
Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" is already at No. 1 on the Trending 140. See the full chart here.