The Atlantic

The Queasy Double Message of Taylor Swift’s ‘You Need to Calm Down’

The singer’s pro-gay single strangely compares her struggles with fame to more dangerous kinds of persecution.
Source: Universal Media Group

Since it debuted Friday, Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” has bounced around in my head for exactly the reason a pop song should: the way it sounds. I like that the beat’s something a great beast might march to, slowly from one side to another, rumbling with each footfall. I like that the “oh-oh” swell of the chorus takes yummy harmonies, typically the key side dish in pop, and makes them the main course. I like the dry, silly way Swift drawls the strongest punch line of the track: “Like, damn … it’s 7 a.m.”

But I’ve also been fixated on—uncalmed by, and maybe even losing sleep over!—what the lyrics say. Shout along with this brain bender: “Shade never made anybody less gay!”

“You Need to

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic2 min readPolitics
The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Stacey’s Nom?
Stacey Abrams hinted this week that she’d be open to being vice president. Plus: Israel reversed course, but Representative Rashida Tlaib won’t go.
The Atlantic9 min readSociety
America Moved On From Its Gay-Rights Moment—And Left a Legal Mess Behind
Half a decade after the Supreme Court’s same-sex-marriage decision, the justices and Congress are still trying to figure out what federal law should say about LGBTQ rights.
The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
This Country Is Setting the Bar for Handling Migrants
The conservative government of President Iván Duque in Bogotá is offering citizenship to Colombian-born babies of Venezuelan mothers.