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How would you describe Taylor Swift’s music style?

How would you describe Taylor Swift’s music style?

Society

“You’re yearning for something that you don’t quite have yet, it’s just right there, and you just, like, can’t reach it,” said by Taylor Swift in an interview with iHeart Radio about one of her most popular songs, Cruel Summer (Sam 2023). Just like when riding a roller coaster, this pop song by Taylor Swift, explores the highs and lows of starting a new relationship while keeping it a secret. The song layers various feelings, from the anxieties of and to the excitement of falling in love. This wide range of emotions suggests that falling in love involves an exploration of complexities involved in that experience (Sam 2023). Throughout the song, Swift invites the audience to explore those complexities with her usage of juxtaposition, emotional visualization, and her implementation of musical elements which make this song a smash hit.

To begin with, Swift makes use of numerous juxtapositions in her lyrics to give a higher emphasis on the complex aspects of summer romance. For instance, Swift starts off her song with “Fever dream high in the quiet of the night.” While “fever dream high” depicts a chaotic nightmare that wakes one up from their sleep, contrasted by “quiet of the night” showing the silence that person awakes to. Swift’s usage of contrast encapsulates both the exhilarating and overwhelming aspects of falling in love. Furthermore, Swift exhibits the vulnerability of human beings.

When she says, “Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes,” Swift captures the inherent risk or gambling involved in love, contrasting with one’s ability to suppress those uncontrollable instincts. Just as all people have a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, both confusing wrong from right, this visualization of this internal struggle further highlights the never-ending struggle for people to make choices properly and listen to the right voice in their heads.

To reinforce the theme of the song, Swift not only employs vivid lyrics. But also employs intricate musical elements. First, the key and melody of the song employ a G major, which conveys a sense of joy and brightness, which further highlights some of the contrast created by Taylor Swift because it is at odds with the emotional turmoil present in the lyrics. Second, another layer of depth is added by the fast tempo of the song, which drives a sense of urgency and intensity, as well as the feelings of desperation also present in the lyrics. Third, the chorus of the song presents the listener with an emotional climax in which the production is more full and layered, adding more intensity to the emotions of the song. Additionally, Taylor Swift juxtaposes her lyrics to add another element of contrast to create more depth, “It’s new, the shape of your body; it’s blue, the feeling I’ve got.” Suddenly, the octave lifts up significantly when she begins singing in falsetto which makes the vocal register more unique and gripping to the listener. Both of these aspects, when applied to the song, add more relatability to the listener as well as further emphasize the anxious feelings in the beginning of a new relationship because of the overall irony of the song. Summers are never supposed to be cruel. They are supposed to be a time for relaxation and worry free.

Even more riveting are the instrumentals used for the song. The complexity of the emotions within the song is matched by the wobbling and voice-encoded manipulation that gives Swift’s voice a great variation in pitch between the verses and chorus. On top of this, similar to opera recitative singing, much of the verse is more impactful because the implementation of her voice as an instrument allows it to communicate more than just the lyrics of the song, but also the subliminal effect of the emotions therein. This song also uses a synthesizer, which allows for the tempo to be created at both slow and fast pacing because of the electronic manipulation of the instrument. The drum sounds, particularly the snare drum, are the prime example of the culmination of this effect.

In conclusion, Swift employs various, intricate techniques to convey complexities of falling in love. First, the usage of a synthesizer along with voice-encoded manipulation, gives the subliminal effect of amplifying the emotions within the song, adding depth to the theme of the complexities of love created by the lyrics. Juxtaposition of the lyrics and other musical elements allow for the gripping effect that follows the sounds and the melodies within this song because the audience is caught searching for the same solutions that Taylor Swift is in her emotional plight. All of the contrasting effects within this song are perfectly summarized by the title of the song, because as human beings know summer to be a time of relaxation and indulgence, the song itself embodies the omnipresence of entropy that we encounter and can never bring to order.

Wonjun Hwang