Taylor Swift – “Should’ve Said No”
Songwriter: Taylor Swift
Someone “should’ve said no” to this one.
Problem number one is that this song is way too loud. It starts out with that nice banjo lick and then — wham! — I’m diving for the volume control.
Problem number two is the distorted background vocal, used only once, when Taylor echoes herself on “give back to me,” which makes it an even odder production choice. Really, it makes me think that whoever dreamed this one up had grander things than country radio in mind.
Problem number three is that Taylor’s vocal performances, even on studio tracks, just seem to be getting worse. In reality, all of these singles are from the same album and were recorded in a sequence unrelated to the single chronology, so Taylor’s not actually getting worse (right?), but I must be getting better at noticing it. The magic of the studio can iron out Taylor’s vocals enough that the obvious pitch problems that characterize her live performances are gone, but this performance is still grating to listen to, because even when Taylor is not pitchy, she’s screechy.
Problem number four is that I don’t anticipate that a large portion of Taylor’s fanbase will be able to identify with this song. This isn’t burning an ex’s picture for some real or imagined transgression, and I don’t think that cheating, the event that precipitated this breakup, is endemic in U.S. suburban high schools (at least not cheating of the country variety). But Matt, you’ve called on Taylor to write and record more mature material. How can you not like a cheating song?
Enter problem number five: Taylor’s vocal interpretations are just not amenable to material like this. This is a cheating song, not an ode to puppy love, yet Taylor’s performance still sounds like a hair-flipping come-on to a high school crush. The result is a song that sounds, despite the subject, like the least mature thing that Taylor Swift has ever put out.
And it’s that last problem that concerns me the most. I’d like to think that Swift can only get better as she matures, but “Should’ve Said No” has me doubting that making music for middle schoolers is something that Taylor will ever outgrow.
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