We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
December 10th, 2012
Todd plays "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" on his piano
TAYLOR SWIFT - WE ARE NEVER EVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER
A pop song review
Todd: [getting excited] Oh my God! I'm reviewing a Taylor Swift song!
- Video for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
- Taylor: I remember when we broke up the first time
Todd (VO): In September of this year, Taylor Swift finally achieved the one accomplishment that had eluded her throughout her otherwise mega-successful music career—[Billboard article about...] a #1 single.
Todd: In response, Taylor Swift had this to say. [Clip of very visibly shocked Taylor winning CMA Award for Album of the Year] And that image [picture of Taylor making same face] has, for the most part, reflected the public-at-large's perception of Taylor Swift—[clip of "Teardrops on My Guitar"] doe-eyed, innocent, perpetually adolescent, unworldly, just an ordinary, average teenage girl from a nowhere town strummin' her little guitar.
I feel safe in saying that, as of a few months ago, that is no longer the case.
- Clip of "Fearless"
Todd (VO): Taylor, of course, became a major player in the pop world in 2009 with her [album cover of...] top-selling, Grammy-winning album Fearless. Now I personally was not that impressed with what I heard from that record.
- Clip of "You Belong with Me"
- Taylor: If you could see that I'm...
Todd (VO): I had very little use for "You Belong with Me", which was riddled with clichés and had an undercurrent of catty jealousy that made me uncomfortable.
- Clip of "Fifteen"
- Taylor: Cause when you're fifteen
Todd (VO): I did a whole review of "Fifteen", which I thought was half-assed and portended to wisdom that she couldn't back up. [Clip of...] And, of course, there was "Love Story", which was just plain freaking stupid.
Todd: But all the same, I've always admired the way her persona perfectly evokes the idea of the common, ordinary everygirl.
Todd (VO): Listening to her most famous songs, you would never guess that they were written by one of the most famous and best-selling recording artists alive.
Todd: Again, that was before these last couple months.
- Video for "Mine"
- Taylor: The moment I can see it
Todd (VO): After Fearless, Taylor Swift tried to take a turn for the mature with her next album, [cover of...] Speak Now. Where Fearless featured minimal pop collaborators, Speak Now featured none at all. And it...didn't do that great. It did okay, didn't change the world, it wasn't nearly as big as the album before. [Album cover of...] Red, her newest album, goes in the exact opposite direction.
Todd: It features several big name pop songwriters and collaborators, including [picture of...] Max Martin, one of the [clips of Backstreet Boys - "As Long As You Love Me", Kelly Clarkson - "Since U Been Gone", and Katy Perry - "Hot N Cold"] most consistently successful producers of the past fifteen years. And the result was a mega-blockbuster smash single called, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together".
- Taylor: I'm telling you, I'm telling you
- We are never ever ever getting back together
- We are never ever ever getting back together
- You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me
Todd: Well, what if all I wanna do is [clip of Notorious BIG - "Big Poppa"] tell your friends to get with my friends, and we can be friends? We'd still be friends, right?
- Taylor: We are never ever ever...
Todd (VO): I swear to God, if you had told me six months ago that this is what the title of Taylor Swift's new single was gonna be, I would've thought it was a parody. And I certainly wouldn't have known what to do when I actually listened to it, what with its giant stomping pop beat, guitars processed beyond recognition, and a big, dumb, singalong chorus complete with the famous four chords of pop. [Single bar of Nick Long's "Four Chord Song" over opening of Journey - "Don't Stop Believing"] Pop song chords—they own music, they own the world, they own you. Deal with it!
Todd: In other words, this is the big pop sellout move. This is Taylor Swift...
Todd (VO): ...entering the debutante ball of superstardom. I—honestly, this is true—completely forgot, listening to this, that Taylor Swift had ever been considered a country singer. In fact, considering that she's a pretty blonde who's straddled the world of pop and country, I would say Taylor Swift has been our generation's answer to [clip of performance by...] Olivia Newton-John, and with this new single, she has skipped straight to the [clip of...] "Physical" phase of her career. We have skipped over the Xanadu phase thankfully.
This song is an implicit acknowledgement of how Taylor Swift is not the girl next door anymore, she's a world-famous celebrity with a trail of celebrity boyfriends with broken hearts behind her. And if you need proof, just walk into a CVS, because you will see this month's cover girl advertising [shots of Taylor on...] magazines, perfume, makeup...dental floss. Look, she's no longer trying to hide the fact that she's gone completely Hollywood.
Todd: Need I remind you, this is where Taylor Swift started.
- Clip of "Tim McGraw"
- Taylor: He said the way my blue eyes shined
- Put those Georgia stars to shame that night
Todd: And this is where she is now.
- Taylor: I remember when we broke up the first time
- Saying, "This is it, I've had enough," 'cause like
- Promo shot of Taylor over horribly Dubstepped version of "Haunted"
- Taylor: It's getting dark and it's all too quiet
- And I can't trust anything now
Todd: But despite the radical shift in sound...
Todd (VO): ...it's not the sellout that's provided most of the negative critical response to "We Are Never Ever Getting...
Todd: "...Back..." God, it sounds stupider every time I say it. Okay...
Todd (VO): ...it's not the sellout that provided most of the negative critical response, it's the subject matter and the tone. In fact, while Taylor's music has only gotten glossier, her lyrics have gotten more mundane.
Todd: Now, Taylor Swift's music has always stank of crappy, middle school diary poetry. I mean, this is a girl who's compared her romances to fairy tales.
- Clips of "Love Story"...
- Taylor: You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess
Todd: Many times.
- ..."Today Was a Fairytale"...
- Taylor: Today was a fairytale
- I wore a dress
Todd: Many, many times.
- ...and "White Horse"
- Taylor: ...for you and your white horse
Todd: But "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", in most respects, is defiantly small.
Todd (VO): The stakes are minimal, the relationship is insignificant, and the message is delivered in the kind of lofty poetic language usually reserved...
Todd: ...for lunchroom text messages.
- Taylor: Like...ever
Todd: [miming text] omg 4 realsies!!! brb
Todd (VO): Depending on how you wanna look at it, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is the dumbest song she has ever recorded.
Todd: Like, ever.
Todd (VO): The video is actually the perfect encapsulation of its bizarre bipolar nature. She's adult enough to be dating a guy who looks like Adam Levine, and yet forces her band to dance around in animal footie pajamas. Taylor Swift seems like she'd suck to work for, by the way.
Todd: So. This is where we are.
Todd (VO): Taylor Swift has basically magnified the adolescent lack of sophistication that brought her the most criticism, while completely removing the down-to-earth tone that made that fact excusable.
Todd: My...my mind boggles at how she or anyone could've thought that was a good idea. [Deep breath] And yet...
Todd (VO): ...to my eternal bafflement, I have to say, and you're not gonna believe this, I don't dislike this song. I...I don't mind it at all. Yeah, believe it or not, this video is not a condemnation of "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together", it's a defense of it.
Todd: I think this song is, ahem, [words pop up for emphasis] not...that...bad. Yes, I'm giving it my prestigious [picture of star trophy reading: "not that bad"] Not That Bad Award. I'm...I'm sure she's honored. [Clip of Taylor Swift winning American Music Award for Artist of the Year] Yes, yes, we know.
Todd (VO): Now this is, I realize, going to be a controversial opinion, daring to say that I like one of the most popular things in the country, but I think I'm going to stand by it. So let me launch into my editorial, "Why a Song Called 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' Is Actually Kind of Alright and I Don't Hate It."
Todd: Well, let me start with this. If I were to describe "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" in one word, it would be "real."
Todd (VO): Yes, I actually find this shiny, happy pop song far more honest than her country stuff. That's kind of the point of this song, especially that ridiculous phone call in the middle of it.
- Taylor: [spoken] ...so he calls me up and he's like, "I still love you,"
- And I'm like... "I just... I mean this is exhausting, you know, like...
Todd (VO): It affirms its authenticity, its realness.
Todd: Now realness isn't necessarily a positive quality, mind you. I could write a song about the very real fact that I'm out of salsa, but I don't think it would find an audience. Like, there are other reasons, but I think the biggest factor in whether you can stand this song largely depends on whether you think this situation was worth writing about in the first place.
- Taylor: Then you come around again and say
- "Baby, I miss you and I swear I'm gonna change, trust me."
- Remember how that lasted for a day?
Todd (VO): Well, I will acknowledge that this song is kind of stupid. But it's genuinely stupid. It sounds like something someone would actually say. And as a scholar of these things, I can assure you that there is no end of songs out there that are ungenuinely stupid.
- Clips of Justin Bieber - "Beauty and the Beat"...
- Justin: We gonna party like it's 3012 tonight
- ...Karmin - "Brokenhearted"...
- Amy Heidemann: Anything you wanna do, I'll be on it too
- Everything you said is like go with the view
- Business on the front, party in the back
- ...Becky G - "Problem"
- Becky G: And I don't have to try, I just do what I does
Todd: "Do what I does." No one says that. Fight the real enemy, is all I'm saying here.
Todd (VO): Secondly, what I like about the song is how it describes a bad relationship, but not in the same way as most other pop singers, who apparently dated Saturday morning cartoon villains.
- Clips of Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"...
- Kelly: You think you got the best of me
- Think you've had the last laugh
- ...and Katy Perry - "Part of Me"
- Katy: You chewed me up and spit me out
- Like I was poison in your mouth
Todd (VO): I don't know anybody who's dated one of the evil, monstrous soul-destroyers that pop singers sing about.
Todd: I've definitely known people who've dated this jackoff though.
- Taylor: We hadn't seen each other in a month
- When you said you needed space. (What?)
Todd (VO): This guy didn't try to break anyone down or try to leave anyone crying while having the last laugh or anything. All he did was waste her time and be a whiny ass. That happens. And it's a good, positive message—like, if you're constantly on-again, off-again, it's probably not meant to be; do everyone a favor, stop wasting each others time.
Todd: You know, if only other pop stars could understand that. [Picture of Chris Brown singing with Rihanna] Eh-hem.
Another point to mention is that, in addition to the pop makeover, this song also redefines Taylor Swift's persona in other ways. [Clip of "Our Song"] Now before now, Taylor Swift was largely known for her songs about high school romance and lovestruck crushes. Less well known before this single was Taylor Swift, the verbal assassin.
- Clip of "Picture to Burn"
- Taylor: I hate that stupid old pickup truck
Todd (VO): Yes, Taylor Swift—destroyer of bitchy mean girls and inadequate men on the level of Beyonce or Adele. She can throw down with the best of them.
- Clip of "Mean"
- Taylor: All you are is mean
- And a liar, and pathetic
Todd (VO): This is the same songwriter who apparently once made [Rolling Stone article about...] John Mayer cry with her hurtful, hurtful words, [clip of Taylor performing at 2010 MTV VMAs] and also wrote the definitive "Kanye West is a jackass" statement and sung it in front of him. Do not piss off Taylor Swift.
Anyway, what's great about this song is the way it includes very believable details about what a dick this guy is.
- Taylor: I'm really gonna miss you picking fights
- And me falling for it screaming that I'm right
- And you would hide away and find your peace of mind
- With some indie record that's much cooler than mine
Todd (VO): Hah! I mean, can't you just feel the hipster douche stink coming off this guy?
Todd: Starting drama and then listening to some shitty hipster music which is so much cooler than... [stops and thinks] Okay, you know what, Taylor Swift? That's not fair. You're Taylor Swift—all music is cooler than yours. He could be listening to Raffi and it'd still be cooler than yours.
Todd (VO): Okay, but ignoring that, I think more than anything, I appreciate the song because I believe that what's happening in...
Todd: [has to say it again] "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"...(Yep, still kinda stupid)
Todd (VO): ...is an accurate retelling of some version of reality. Now compare that to old Taylor.
- Clip of "You Belong with Me"
- Taylor: 'cause she doesn't get your humor like I do.
Todd (VO): I couldn't listen to "You Belong to Me [sic]" without imagining how badly she's misinterpreting her crush's relationship. I mean, I bet that cheerleader is actually really nice and really loves him and is uncomfortable with the way that Taylor Swift is suddenly trying to sabotage their relationship. Hey, wait a minute. Is that... That... holy crap, that's [clip from Hannah Montana: The Movie] Cowpie Clyde! You know, from the... from the Hannah Montana movie. Well, geez, I guess we know who Miss Short Skirt Cheer Captain was. And I thought they were BFFs too.
Todd: But anyway...
Todd (VO): ...the details in "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" are so...
Todd (VO): It just feels true. And I also like how sweetly malevolent she is with this final dumping. Like, not only is she dumping you, she's doing it while on a waterslide, apparently.
- Taylor: We (EEEE!) are never ever...
Todd: [arms in air] WHEEEE!!!
- Clip of GEICO commerical
- Little piggie: WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!
Todd: I'm not making a very good case for this song, am I?
Todd (VO): Okay, so it's not a particularly artful song. It's not a grand, sweeping statement about the human condition or anything.
Todd: But look, here's what we're getting in return.
- Clips of Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"...
Todd (VO): The biggest song of the year is "Call Me Maybe", an empty-calorie nothing that tells me nothing new about the world. [Nicki Minaj - "Starships"] Nicki Minaj is doing everything she can to remove any speck of personality she ever had. [Rihanna - "Diamonds"] The current #1 is from Rihanna, who's spent the last three albums on autopilot and has been rubber-stamping out music at a frenetic pace with absolutely no regard to quality. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" has flavor to it. It deserves to exist. That doesn't make it as good or interesting as Gotye or, or even "Gangnam Style". I'm not saying "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is a great pop song. In fact, I only think it's barely a good song, and I've certainly heard better.
Todd: But at the same time, I've also certainly heard worse, and I can't find much to hate about it. And just look at it this way—at least it's not her next song.
- Clip of Taylor performing "I Knew You Were Trouble" at American Music Awards
- Taylor: Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Todd: Now that's just the worst Taylor Swift song I've ever heard. Like, ever. I'm, like, Todd In The Shadows, and I'm, like, done.
- Taylor: We are never ever ever ever getting back together
Closing tag song: Moving Pictures - "Never"
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is owned by Big Machine
This video is, like, owned by me
Todd: [playing] I'm out of salsa, what do I do
I can't make nachos without salsa
And I got an itchy leg
I got an itchy leg
Oh, what an itch on my leg, leg, leg