My Top 1000 Songs #663: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.] 

Look, it's my birthday today, and if I want to indulge myself in an unabashed guilty pleasure, I'm gonna do it, ok?

But, to be frank, I don't feel a lot of guilt over this one. Because a great pop song is a great pop song, and this is the epitome of the great pop song. It was fun, lightweight AM radio pop that first got me into music as a kid, bands like Sweet and the Bay City Rollers and Queen opening the door for nine-year-old me. And while a pivot into indie rock meant, for a period of time, that I had to take a firm moral stance against anything remotely popular, that hipster mentality faded at some point, once again allowing me to indulge in the occasional hit song, even though my permanent residence in the indie world--those same cool indie records Taylor bemoans in this track--set the bar pretty high for pop songs I was willing to check out.

I'm still not all-in with post-Pitchfork poptimism; I still find most popular radio music to be quite terrible, or at best uninteresting. And for every artist like, say, Olivia Rodrigo that rises above mere teen silliness, there are plenty of others that leave me largely unimpressed. (I mean, ok, Lana Del Rey is... fine. But why all the commotion? I don't get it.)

Which brings us to Taylor Swift. Having raised my kids on Pavement and Wilco and Sleater-Kinney--making them the high school outcasts with weird dad-rock tastes--they were never Swifties, so my awareness of her music was based more on headlines than actually hearing her music. That changed with 1989, a decade back, which for whatever reason I decided to check out and was floored by the catchiness of the hooks--one of those records where I could say, ok, this is not meant for me, but I actually like it a lot.

I appreciate a chunk of what she's done since, particularly those albums with the National or whatever, though in limited doses. But if my respect for her came down to one song, it would have to be "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," from 2012's Red. And, yeah, it's firmly in the young-Taylor teen-pop camp, a break-up song no middle-aged guy wants to be heard singing along to with the car windows down. But I can't help myself. And it comes down to a few things:

  • Look, it's a perfectly-constructed pop song. The verse/chorus dynamics, the ideal bridge, the chorus you find yourself singing in your head all the time for no good reason--for the same reason that I ultimately learned to appreciate, say, Elton John & Billy Joel, even if I don't listen to them much, I'm never gonna knock a track that wields the power of pop music in a thoughtful, engaging way, whether it's Taylor Swift or the Clash.
  • That bit about "you go talk to your friends talk to my friends talk to me" is one of the most ridiculously brilliant lyrical conceits ever concocted.
  • Great video. I'm a sucker for a cleverly-constructed single-shot take, and this is one of the best. (Here's a list of other great examples, including R.E.M.'s even-more-insane "Imitation Of Life.")
  • Have you seen her "rock" (-ish) live version of this? I watch the video and I'm like, ok, yes, this woman deserves all the concert dollars. ALL of them!

That live version!