Single Review: Taylor Swift — “Sparks Fly”

Blake Boldt | July 18th, 2011

tswiftSongwriter: Taylor Swift

“Sparks Fly,” the fourth single from Taylor Swift’s multi-platinum phenomenon Speak Now, could easily be re-titled “The Fear of Falling.” On its surface, it describes the delirious rush of new love. But at its core, it delves into the conflicting emotions beneath her silly excitement. Courted by a handsome but potentially heart-wrecking new beau, Swift seems torn. Her thoughts on the situation suggest this could be both the best and worst thing that could ever happen to her.

“Sparks Fly” centers around a simple but effective hook—”I see sparks fly whenever you smile”—that further cements Swift’s reputation as one the craftiest songwriters in popular music. More proof can be pulled from elsewhere. On her first two albums, Swift’s perspective often shifted harshly between black and white. “Sparks Fly,” like most of the material on Speak Now is colored in more subtle shades: “Give me something that’ll haunt me when you’re not around,” she encourages her green-eyed suitor. Even as she admits her attraction, Swift lasers her focus on the rough edges of her romancer. This is no fairytale or fantasy.

“Sparks Fly” carries all the lyrical landmarks of a Swift song—rain, sidewalks, fireworks—and also a few of her usual musical tricks, too. The melodramatic flourishes—longing violins, uplifting electric guitars—are grounded in an airy pop-rock arrangement. The stuttering percussion in the bridge and her stilted reading of the title line are reflective of the tenuous position she’s in. Throughout these four minutes, Swift’s pitch might waver but her purpose never does. Her infusion of individual lines with urgency (“Drop everything now,” she insists) and earnestness (“Take away the pain,” she pleads) are a tribute to her talent, not so much as a distinguished vocalist but as an excellent communicator. Each frazzled note is freighted with meaning. Should I stay or should I go now?, she wonders, wiling away the hours before he calls her again.

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Listen: Taylor Swift — “Sparks Fly”

  1. Thomas
    July 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

    …only good reviews, catchy tune, worthwhile topic, enjoy taylor’s music – why isn’t this song doing anything for me?

  2. J.R. Journey
    July 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I think this track’s biggest obstacle (for reviewers anyway) is that it doesn’t stand as tall as “Back to December” or “Mean”. I enjoy the stop and start production tricks, and the Swiftian melody is certainly easy on the ears.

  3. Ben Foster
    July 18, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Great review. I’m really liking this single myself. It’s nice to see Taylor improving in her abilities as a vocal communicator.

  4. Jordan Stacey
    July 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I’m really liking this as a single, mostly for the vocal tricks she does on it. She’s learning how to better use her voice which is a great thing. She may never be a great live performer (I went to her Montreal show last week), but even live you could hear her phrasing and tone change depending on what emotion she was trying to convey. Now she just needs to stay on pitch more and maybe I would’ve stayed for the whole show :P

  5. Joe
    July 19, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Maybe she was not back to her full health in Montreal? It was her first stop back after illness, no? I was in Toronto…she sounded pretty good there. But as some of you said, i really think her best ability is the role of a communicator. The
    way she interacts with/ compliments her audience- its really wonderful. “Sparks Fly” is not among my favorites from her, but it should do well.

  6. Jeremy Dylan
    July 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    They seem to be picking all my favourite tunes off this record as singles.

  7. Noeller
    August 2, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    I don’t enjoy this, melodically, as much as “Mean”, but lyrically, it’s worlds above. They certainly could have picked a worse song to release as a single.

    Great review, Blake!

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