Between music, movies and celebrity drama, Taylor Swift has dipped her toe into almost everything except, interestingly enough, politics for most of her career. That is, until the release of her new single, “You Need To Calm Down,” which is arguably one of the most queer-supportive songs of the 21st century. But to some, it’s only an attempt at support.
Unless you’re counting her part as Audrey in “The Lorax,” Swift has had very little involvement in politics, and by her own will. She’s admitted to being “reluctant” to share her views, most likely to avoid trouble and focus on her music. The singer-songwriter started her career young, performing at fairs, contests and even basketball games. Seeing her talent, the family moved to Tennessee, where 12-year-old Swift co-wrote songs and applied for recording contracts.
In 2006, her single “Tim McGraw” became at top ten hit on country music charts, followed by several hits soon after. She eventually made her way into the pop music scene with songs like “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “22,” but most of her songs — and her overall career — have carried the same famous theme: relationships.
Many of Swift’s hits were written about men she’s dated, including Taylor Lautner, Harry Styles and Calvin Harris. A few were also written about her beef with artists like Kanye and Katy Perry as well. She rarely strays from the pattern, and besides her philanthropic efforts with music education, she tends to stay out of the political spotlight.
However, she claims that the past two years have caused her to “feel very different about that now.”
Swift’s definitely experienced some career changes since her humble country beginnings. In 2017, she performed her lone concert of the year at the Super Bowl and later erased her entire internet presence. A few weeks after, she introduced “Look What You Made Me Do” and posted some slithery animals on her accounts, calling out the “snake” reputation that plagued her.
While the more obvious targets of Swift’s all-out assault were Kim Kardashian, Kanye and Katy Perry, one that was less known was David Mueller, a DJ accused of groping Swift in 2013. Taking it to court, the singer won the lawsuit with a $1 symbolic settlement and began her campaign against sexual assault and gender and racial inequality.
By 2018, Swift had completely rebranded herself from the little girl with a guitar to an unstoppable feminist warrior. She became more vocal about her views, openly supporting equal rights for women, LGBTQ and people of color.
She’s used her Twitter to encourage fans to go out and vote and has even commented on political races in Tennessee. Todrick Hall, an openly gay YouTuber and Swift’s best friend, can also be credited for her activism. On Instagram, Hall explained their conversations about queer life and how brave she is to finally speak up for injustice.
That brings us to 2019 and “You Need to Calm Down,” a song with an exceptional beat and hard-hitting lyrics. The result is a swanky, but clever, combination. It feels like you’re walking down the street in the most extravagant and original outfit you own, brushing off all judgment like it’s dust.
Swift has always been a brilliant songwriter, and her skill has only improved with age. Her verses have enough punch to get you dancing and educated, proclaiming, “Control your urges to scream about all the people you hate / ‘cause shade never made anybody less gay.” The chorus then takes a beautiful “higher ground” by simply saying, “You need to calm down.”
The song’s music video came out mid-June, and it’s already #1 on Trending. Ironically, the shoot was done in a glammed-out trailer park, where several queer celebrities make tasteful and unique cameos, with Ellen DeGeneres getting a tattoo, Ru Paul awarding a crown and Queer Eye’s Fab Five having a tea party.
Surrounding them are protestors, proving that their hate isn’t stopping queer people from being themselves. But out of all the quirky-cool scenes in the video, the oddest, and probably most touching, is Perry and Swift’s embrace. This proves that the singer isn’t trying to shun haters but showing that they can be forgiven and even join the fun.
The video ends with a message from Swift, asking people to sign her petition for Senate support for the Equality Act and to show pride on a national level.
Following the release of “You Need to Calm Down”, Swift received mixed reviews. The queer community mostly embraced the singer’s anthem and many applauded her for her additional support during Pride month.
After a surprise concert for Stonewall’s 50th anniversary, Jesse Tyler Ferguson tweeted, “I’m so happy I don’t have to keep this secret any longer. Look who came to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall at the Stonewall Inn. @taylorswift13, you are a gem. Thank you for everything you do for the LGBTQ community.”
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also showed their overwhelming support when Swift revealed her use of their acronym (GLAAD) in her lyrics.
While there’s been overwhelming positivity surrounding her efforts as an ally, there have been some negative reviews as well. Some have accused the singer of monetizing the LGBTQ cause, an act that many companies artists have been accused of this year. It was, after all, released at the peak of Pride month.
Others believe the message was too forced with its exceedingly specific lyrics and overdone video. This has fed the belief that the video was more of a coming out for Swift, a conspiracy that’s gained a large following on the internet. Needless to say, the singer knew the song would cause uproar and was well prepared for it. At the very least, it was a “coming out” for her new self-confidence and activism.
After “ME!” with Brandon Urie, “You Need to Calm Down” is the second song she’s produced in 2019. The release of the LGBTQ anthem was coupled with the unveiling of the name of her upcoming album, “Lover.”
The album will drop in late August, and fans are hoping it will include more advocacy for marginalized groups in society, or at the very least, reveal more of Swift’s political views. But based on her new tracks, the album will be filled with more empowerment anthems that will encourage people to be their very best selves, and of course, provide a note to all the haters.
That note? You need to calm down.