Single Review: Taylor Swift — “Sparks Fly”
“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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