I understand why people are so excited, but “Never Ever” is not Swift at her best. It isn’t even Max Martin and Shellback at their best. The song is good, and it makes sense that Swift would want to move away from country. But the pure pop format, at least as it exists at the moment, limits her usual romantic and emotional outpourings, and places her in even tighter formal constraints than country did. Working in pop has some advantages, at least in this song, where she breaks away from the fairy-tale romanticism that threatened to become an even worse trap than any commercial format. Moving from country into teenpop allows her to present a less innocent, more mature persona, but it also prevents her from losing the teen girl fanbase her commercial success depends on. Her older fans can grow up with her, and she can add younger ones at the same time. It’s a canny career move.
New at Sound of the City: Robert Myers’ weekly roundup of new entrants on the Hot 100, which this week welcomes Taylor Swift’s teenpoppy “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” along with tracks from Mumford & Sons, Future, Jake Owen, and Green Day.