She’s done it again — the way Taylor Swift releases a new song and immediately we all take out our metaphorical magnifying glasses to decode exactly what, or rather who, she’s talking about. This time it’s with “Call It What You Want,” Swift’s latest single off of her upcoming sixth studio album Reputation (Nov. 10).
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) November 3, 2017
“Call It What You Want” dropped on Friday morning (Nov. 3) as the fourth song released ahead of Reputation‘s arrival, following “Look What You Made Me Do” (Aug. 24), “…Ready For It?” (Sept 3) and “Gorgeous” (Oct. 20).
Regardless of genre, Swift has always had her endlessly dissected lyrics. Sometimes scornful, sometimes loving, sometimes every emotion in between, but always vivid and exact in imagery even when the protagonist she’s singing about remains a mystery. (Over the years, Swift has been romantically linked to Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Harry Styles, Calvin Harris and Tom Hiddleston, though she’s never directly said which of her songs are specifically about her past loves.)
In “Call It What You Want,” Swift sings of other things in her life going awry while pointing out that she’s done at least one thing right — finding her lover. In one verse in particular, Swift details, “My baby’s fly like a jet stream.”
Which, of course, made us nostalgic for more innocent Swift lyrics in which she paid the dearest compliments to her crushes and boyfriends.
Below are 13 — T. Swift’s favorite number — other songs with examples of Swift’s most clever ways of complimenting the man, whoever he might be, of the moment in her life.
“Sparks Fly” (2010)
“I’m captivated by you, baby, like a firework show”
This song was released on Swift’s third studio album Speak Now, and the verse is pretty self-explanatory and relatively tame, but a good place to start. “Sparks Fly” peaked at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter / You are the best thing that’s ever been mine”
“Mine” was the first single released from Speak Now? and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 2010. In October 2010, Swift explained to Yahoo! Music the inspiration behind this song: “This is a situation where a guy that I just barely knew put his arm around me by the water, and I saw the entire relationship flash before my eyes, almost like a weird science-fiction movie.
“After I wrote the song, things sort of fell apart, as things so often do. And I hadn’t talked to him in a couple months. And the song came out, and that day, I got an e-mail from him. And I was like, ‘Yes!’ Because that one was sort of half-confession and half-prediction or projection of what I saw.”
“Everything Has Changed” featuring Ed Sheeran (2012)
“And all I’ve seen since 18 hours ago is green eyes and freckles and your smile”
Runner-up: “‘Cause all I know is we said hello / And your eyes look like coming home”
“Everything Has Changed” is from Swift’s 2012’s Red. The song was co-written by good friend Sheeran, who also lends his vocals to the track. Truthfully, the whole song could be on this list — detailing how meeting someone by chance has instantly changed everything in her previously mundane life. It takes someone pretty special to do that, and Swift is among the best at describing situations like these.
Appropriately, the song’s video showcases a young boy and girl at grade school — where most of us first experience feelings as hasty and overpowering as the ones Swift describes in the lyrics.
“Begin Again” (2012)
“And you throw your head back laughing / Like a little kid”
“Begin Again” is a hidden gem — the sixteenth track on Red. The song follows Swift in the aftermath of having been mistreated in a relationship and in turn, second-guessing everything about herself.
The singer told The Hollywood Reporter: “I think the worst part about a breakup sometimes, if one could choose a worst part, would possibly be if you get out of a relationship and you don’t recognize yourself, because you changed a lot about yourself to make that person like you. … I wrote this song about the idea that you could kind of remember who you used to be by meeting someone new who… celebrates the things about you that the other person used to criticize you endlessly for.”
We have also begun to notice that Swift might spend an inordinate amount of time at coffee shops making intense eye contact with strangers, but it benefits the greater good. “Begin Again” peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“I’m wonderstruck / Blushing all the way home / I’ll spend forever / Wondering if you knew / I was enchanted to meet you“
Again, Swift is particularly taken with someone whom she has just crossed paths with by chance and might never see again. She told Yahoo! Music the seed that started “Enchanted” were planted when she met a man in New York.
“I started writing that in the hotel room when I got back, because it was just this positive, wistful feeling of ‘I hope you understand just how much I loved meeting you,’ ” Swift said. “Using the word ‘wonderstruck’ was done on purpose, because that’s a word which that person used one time in an e-mail, so I purposely wrote it in the song, so he would know.”
“You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye“‘
What higher compliment can Swift pay a man than to compare him to one of the world’s most famous movie stars? She broke down the specific meaning behind the song during a show takeover of On Air with Ryan Seacrest in October 2014.
“Pretty sure when we finished this one, I knew the record was done,” she told Seacrest about her fifth, and most overtly pop album, to that point. “This one has always been my secret favorite, like, ‘I hope it ends up being the single, I hope people love it’ because there’s just something about it. I love how the song feels the way that that feeling felt. … I loved comparing these timeless visuals with a feeling that never goes out of style.”
Swift clarified that “Style” is about a “crooked love” where things, no matter how hard two people try, don’t sync up right. Even then, they can’t forget about each other. She added: “My previous albums have always been sort of like, ‘I was right, you were wrong, you did this, it made me feel like this’ — a sense of righteous of right and wrong in a relationship. What happens when you grow up is you realize the rules in a relationship are very blurred and that it gets very complicated very quickly, and there’s not a case of who was right or who was wrong.”
“Style” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
OMG 1989 IS OUT WHAT A DAY. so proud of my sista. my favourite is style (and also blank space) (and also all of them) pic.twitter.com/BUlAQaQjTE
— Lorde (@lorde) October 27, 2014
i first heard style driving down the pacific coast highway and it was EVERYTHING i chair-danced so hard you have no idea #TS1989
— Lorde (@lorde) October 27, 2014
“I Wish You Would” (2014)
“I wish you knew that / I’ll never forget you as long as I live”
Co-written by Jack Antonoff, the lyrics to “Would” are so powerful that Ryan Adams was prompted to put his own voice on it in a cover. Swift wants whoever she’s singing about to come back because he doesn’t know what she never told him.
“Memorizing him was as easy as knowing / All the words to your old favorite song”
The title track to Swift’s 2012 album explains emotions through colors — “loving him was red” or “missing him was dark grey, all alone.” The verse above is taken from a point in the song where Swift is describing the “red” that she once had in the thick of her romance with this particular guy.
“Red” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Wildest Dreams” (2014)
“He’s so tall and handsome as hell / He’s so bad, but he does it so well”
“Dreams” was released as the fifth single off of 1989. The song, which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, narrates a fast and heavy romance that has no chance to last and all Swift asks is for him to remember her in his wildest dreams.
“And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress / Fearless”
Throwback Taylor — “Fearless” was the title track of her sophomore album, which was released almost nine years to the day (Nov. 11, 2008) that Reputation will make its way into the world. In the album booklet, Swift wrote: “To me, ‘fearless’ is not the absence of fear. It’s not being completely unafraid. To me, fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death. … No matter what love throws at you, you have to believe in it. You have to believe in love stories and Prince Charmings and happily ever after. That’s why I write these songs. Because I think love is fearless.”
“Fearless” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Love Story” (2008)
“You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess / It’s a love story baby just say yes”
The lead single from Fearless peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. A young Swift was so infatuated with a particular boy that she was willing to defy her father (and maybe her mother, too, though she was spared a mention in the song).
“Hey Stephen” (2008)
“‘Cause I can’t help it if you look like an angel / Can’t help it if I wanna kiss you in the rain so / Come feel this magic I’ve been feeling since I met you”
Runner-up: “I’ve seen it all, so I thought / But I never seen nobody shine the way you do”
Swift had a crush on a boy who had eyes for seemingly every other girl but her, so she’s just trying to tell him all the things she sees in him and convince him of what he should see in her. Willing to bet good money that this song was blaring in teenager girls’ earbuds wandering high school hallways everywhere when it first came out.
“If you’ve got a girlfriend, I’m jealous of her / But if you’re single that’s honestly worse / ‘Cause you’re so gorgeous it actually hurts”
And with this, Swift’s third released song from Reputation, she reminds us all that — old Taylor or new Taylor — nobody knows how to play to a man’s ego with words quite like she does.