Op Ed: Taylor Swift’s “Out of the Woods” alludes to unnatural, inauthentic pop sound

By Rachel A.G. Gilman

Via Business Insider

On Oct. 13, Taylor Swift released the second song off her upcoming fifth album “1989,” “Out of the Woods.”

The song, which the former country sweetheart has said is “the greatest example of the sound of [“1989”],” is not a planned single off the album, but was co-written with Jack Antonoff, guitarist for fun. and front man of Bleachers.

Antonoff and Swift consider this the “highlight” of their work together on “1989,” which is also being co-produced by Antonoff. The synth-pop, eighties-esque track, Swift says, is about “the fragility and kind of breakable nature of some relationships,” leading many to assume that it’s about her tumultuous relationship with boybander Harry Styles of One Direction.

Swift writing songs about her past romances comes as no surprise. What is noteworthy about “Out Of The Woods” is the change in sound that it takes compared to Swift’s previous work. While she did announce that “1989” would be her first entirely pop album, I don’t recall Ms. Swift saying that she would be adopting the sound of other artists in the process.

If “Out Of The Woods” is the best clue to the entire sound of the new album, then it appears that is what we are in for.

Simply put, “Out Of The Woods” feels misplaced in the hands of Swift. Through and through, it sounds like she is covering a fun. song. The opening “oh’s” and tinny, electronic drum sound mimic “Shadow” from Antonoff’s debut album with Bleachers, “Strange Desire.”

“Woods” is composed of similar sounding sections that don’t change much between verse, chorus, and bridge, a detour from Swift’s older work, which has clearer, stronger shifts as it progresses and in general, a better build up. As well, Swift’s vocals feel wrong in the song, somehow not carefree enough, too concerned with clarity and annunciation. She doesn’t have the innate ease that both Antonoff and Nate Ruess of fun. possess.

Lyrically, it also strays from Swift’s story-telling style, pretty typical of country music. Though she does hold onto some of this with each verse acting as memories of events, such as dancing around in the living room and ending up in the hospital after a car accident, even the moments here feel more like penciled in sketches of a dream scene in an 80’s movie, rather than her usual concrete visuals that lend themselves to her music videos.

Her use of repetition has noticeably increased, undoubtedly due to the influence of Antonoff. However, Swift’s repetition is tedious in comparison to Antonoff’s, having an unnatural, forced feeling like her vocals.

Though each artist is welcome to experiment and change his/her sound,  Swift might worry that her loyal fans are not ready for songs that have a lackluster emotional impact and sound like attempts at being other indie pop groups. Swift found fame as a country artist, and thus far, her venture into the pop world does not feel as authentic or successful.

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a staff writer. Email her at music@nyunews.com

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