You Need to Calm Down
June 30, 2019
Todd plays "You Need to Calm Down" on the piano.
TAYLOR SWIFT - YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN
A pop song review
Todd: [sighs] Yep. Two Taylor Swift episodes in a month. We're doin' this.
Video for Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie - "Me!"Todd (VO): When I made that last Taylor Swift episode just three weeks ago, I asked one big, provocative question.
Clip from Me!
Todd: Is the Taylor Swift moment over?Todd: And now we have a definitive answer. No, it is not.
Video for Taylor Swift - "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): It is still Taylor Swift's world, and we are still just living in it. Her new single was titled, "You Need to Calm Down". And...
Todd: ...people did not calm down.
Todd (VO): I was out seeing a show when she released it, and when I got back, it seemed like [shots of tweets about...] everyone I follow on social media, including the non-music accounts was talking about it.
Cut to Todd's computer
Alarms goes off and a system alert shows on monitor: "TAYLOR SWIFT DRAMA ALERT"Todd: [offscreen] The hell?! What the...? What...[checks computer] What set off the alarm?! [turns off alarm; beat] Oh. Oh, no.
Clip of live performanceTodd (VO): So whatever you wanna say about her, it's clear that she still has enormous power to attract attention. [clip of "You Need to Calm Down"] It felt like she deliberately dropped this song to spite me personally for asking such a stupid question. It dropped, and in its first week, it has rocketed up the charts all the way to...
Todd: ...well, to #2.
Video for...Todd (VO): It has not budged "Old Town Road", which...now sits on a [image of Lil Nas X's face over Grim Reaper sitting on...] throne of skulls from all the challengers it's vanquished.
Todd: But, something's gotta unseat it eventually. I wouldn't be super shocked if it was Taylor.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): 'Cause this is not just any Taylor Swift song. Believe me, I would not be rushing out another Taylor episode this quickly if I could avoid it, but...
Todd: ...this felt like it demanded an immediate response.
Video for "Me!"Todd (VO): Unlike the vapid and pointless lead single, "Me!", [clip of "You Need to Calm Down"] this feels a lot more...
Todd: ...substantial, I guess. A lot more meat on it.
Video for "Me!"Todd (VO): And unlike the puzzled apathy that greeted that underwhelming first song, [clip of...] the response to "You Need to Calm Down" from the pop-listening world...
Todd: ...has been extremely positive. [pause] And also extremely negative. This one's really polarizing. [Todd scrolls through Twitter...] Taylor's fan base seems to be really appreciating it. [shot of article: "Taylor Swift's Anthem 'You Need to Calm Down' Is Pretty Clueless"] The more jaded and cynical nerds have been firmly unimpressed. Like, I made my feelings about it known pretty quickly. [shot of tweet from Todd with poop and thumbs down emojis; farting noise] And the Swifties showed up in my [more tweets from Taylor Swift fans bashing Todd] mentions in full defense of her, which...definitely did not happen for that other song.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): And since at least a portion of people seemed...fairly protective of it, I'm gonna try and take in everyone's responses as well as my own. 'Cause we're yet again dealing with sensitive topics, and I wanna be careful, and...
Todd: ...yadda-yadda-yadda. Yeah, it's one of those episodes [makes jerkoff motion]. Well, I'll say this much right off the bat.
Brief montage clips of....Todd (VO): Between this, and "7 Rings", and "Old Town Road", 2019 is turning into a...
Todd: ...banner year for thinkpiece bait pop singles. So, let's start [rubs hands together] generating those hot takes.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): OK, so the song is titled, "You Need to Calm Down".
Taylor Swift: You need to calm down, you're being too loudTodd: Who needs to calm down? Is she talking to herself? [shrugs]
Todd (VO): That would make sense, 'cause it looks like the new album will have a much more relaxed vibe than the [clip of Taylor Swift - "Look What You Made Me Do"] exhaustingly extra previous one.
Todd: But, no. She doesn't need to calm down. You need to calm down.
Taylor: You are somebody that I don't know
But you're takin' shots at me like it's Patrón
And I'm just like, damn, it's 7 AMTodd: Yeah, it's...it's another one about the haters.
Taylor: But you say it in a Tweet, that's a cop-out
And I'm just like, "Hey...Todd: I've never tweeted at Taylor Swift, but...
Todd (VO): ...I am one of her critics.
Todd: Arguably, a hater at points. So, I can speak from experience.
Todd (VO): Telling your critics they need to calm down is always a great move, 'cause it's...
Todd: ...absolutely infuriating.
Todd (VO): "I'm not being emotional, I'm making good faith arguments that deserve a...
Todd: ...response!" D-don't tell me to calm down! I am calm! I'M PERFECTLY CALM!
Todd (VO): So if the idea was to make me look like an idiot, it's doing a decent job.
Todd: But, like Taylor, I am also extremely online. So I do get it, and relate.
Clip of Mean Tweets from Jimmy Kimmel Live!Todd (VO): Like all celebrities, Taylor does see a lot of unfair shit. [clip of "You Need to Calm Down"] She remains thin-skinned as she's always been, but I do understand that no matter how rich and famous you are, one shitty comment can absolutely fuck up your day.
Todd: She also gets a lot of fair criticism, but we'll be generous and say she's not talking about that.
Todd (VO): She's talking about the pointlessly negative shit-talkers on Twitter, and Instagram, and...
Todd: ...[pause] YouTube.
Todd (VO): Those people suck. She has every right to be irritated at internet trolls; I'm not saying she doesn't.
Todd: My criticism of her criticism of her critics is more that...I've heard it? [shrugs]
Clip of Taylor Swift - "Mean"Todd (VO): She has had at least one song like this in each of her...what, four last albums?
Todd: It's getting real old.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): Like, I guess the tone that she takes here, which is of condescending annoyance and confusion...I guess that works better [clip of Taylor Swift - "Shake It Off"] than when she tried to act like she didn't care at all when she clearly did. ["You Need to Calm Down"] It's just that...after so many of them, I'm so tired.
Todd: She'll be over the haters when she stops talking about them!
Taylor: Snakes and stones never broke my bonesTodd: You were the snake! Remember?
Video for "Look What You Made Me Do"Todd (VO): It was your thing! Unless you mean the [image of Taylor surrounded by...] snake emojis everyone was sending at you, which...kinda did break your bones as I recall.
Todd: You were so hurt by it, you made a whole album.
Video for Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood"Todd (VO): Taylor's obsession with her enemies was already getting old long before now. [clip of "Me!"] For all the talk of making a clean break from the Reputation era, [clip of "Look What You Made Me Do"] the new album looks like it's...just gonna be Reputation painted in Care Bear colors.
Todd: I am so tired of Taylor Swift's forever war with her haters.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): How much longer is she gonna fight this battle? How many more resources will it take? How many more lives will be lost?
Todd: Bring the troops home!
Todd (VO): She's just done this to death. I'm bored with it, and if this were all that the song were about, no one would be talking about it.
Todd: But of course, it's not. So, let's get to that second verse.
Video for Taylor Swift - "Blank Space"Todd (VO): For the vast majority of her career, Taylor Swift has barely issued any statement ever, artistically or otherwise, about a single topic except herself. [shots of articles: "Who is Taylor Swift voting for? She'll never tell"...] She was one of the most notoriously apolitical celebrities alive. [..."Taylor Swift's Loud Election Silence"...] A position she was being criticized for [...and "It's Time for Taylor Swift to Denounce Her Neo-Nazi Admirers"] even before the intense current zeitgeist, where silence is basically unjustifiable.
Todd: So after so long without a peep...
Clip of ABC News with headline: "Taylor Swift Gets Political"Todd (VO): ...it was genuinely shocking last year when Taylor Swift issued a very thorough and sharply worded endorsement in the midterm elections.
Todd: It was not a wishy-washy statement.
Clip of Taylor's Instagram videoTodd (VO): And that sudden hard stance looks like something she wants to continue in her music. She said the new album will be more political, and in this song, she makes good on that. She is officially standing for something.
Todd: The haters she takes on in that second verse...is homophobes.
Clip of "You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor: Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark ages
Makin' that signTodd (VO): It's a big pro-gay message, and the video has tons of various LGBT celebrities.
Todd: So, what do we do with that?
Todd (VO): It is 2019. Most [brief clip of Lady Gaga speaking at gay rights rally] of her peers were out on the frontlines long before this. [image of LA Rams logo in rainbow letters] And even football teams do pride events now. She has nothing to lose and everything to gain by speaking up now, so if people are suspicious of her motives, I don't blame them. You can't really call this a brave stance.
Todd: But, it is probably a necessary one...
Todd (VO): ...for Taylor's relationship with her fans if nothing else. [image of...] Taylor has a looot of LGBT followers.
Todd: They love her, it'd suck if she didn't love them back. The longer she went without saying something, the more people might wonder why.
Taylor: Control your urges to scream about all the people you hate
'Cause shade never made anybody less gay
So...Todd: So, it's good she finally said something. And it's certainly not useless either. [image of protesters] Prejudice is still really powerful, and the fight continues. So, it absolutely cannot hurt to have the biggest pop star in the world on your side.
Todd (VO): So if people feel like she's standing up for them, and they're happy for that...[sighs]
Todd: You know, I feel like a dick stepping on that.
Taylor: Like can you just not step on his gown?Todd (VO): But, just speaking for myself...
Todd: ...like...the first verse is still part of the song.
Todd (VO): To me, this is not a gay rights song; it's an anti-hater song like Taylor's other hater songs that just happens to have a verse about gay bashers. So...
Todd: ...uh, yeah, it's a real interesting move for Taylor to be all like, [images of...] "I, and also the gays, have too many haters." It's like, uh, "Man, the [...and...] cops are outta control! The Central Park Five...my DUI. Fuck the police!"
Clip of "You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor: You need to calm downTodd (VO): The two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other!
Todd: I mean, yes, it's good to make supportive statements. It's good that she's doin' it. It's good that [image of...] McDonald's does it. It's better than not doing it.
Todd (VO): But that doesn't mean I gotta be moved or impressed that my [image of...] McRib came with a [...topped with...] rainbow on the wrapper.
Todd: Like I said, I can only speak for myself, but juxtaposing her [images of...] mean Twitter replies with active hate groups strikes me as impossibly bad taste!
Todd (VO): It sounds like Taylor once again failing to see or understand anything beyond her own limited viewpoint. [clip from The Office] This is like if Michael Scott wrote a gay rights anthem. Seriously, Michael Scott level making it about herself.
Todd: And I wanna say, yeah, I do realize that my opinion on this maybe doesn't matter all that much.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): Taylor support probably means a lot more to a young, questioning Taylor fan than it does to me, a cynical adult jackass.
Todd: I...I'm not gay.
Todd (VO): I don't...recognize most of these celebrities. I don't even watch Drag Race. When I clock out of doing this, I'm gonna...
Todd: ...go watch sports and play Xbox. Like, I am not a plugged-in guy. [beat] But, Jesus Christ, even I know that's not what shade means!
Taylor: Shade never made anybody less gay
So...Todd (VO): Shade is, like, catty insults, right? It-it's supposed to be funny, is my understanding!
Todd: It's not...hate speech!
Todd (VO): She's got all those gay and trans people in the video. Couldn't...one of them have told her?!
Todd: And for that matter, I don't think of a [image of people protesting gay marriage] bunch of Westboro Baptist dickheads screaming on a street corner!
Todd (VO): Like, they don't care if you become less gay as a result of their...
Todd: ...[air quote] "shade".
Todd (VO): Like, that's not their goal.
Todd: Like, maybe your [image of...] religious grandma wants you to be [air quote] "less gay", and find a...nice [image of wedding cake toppers] opposite sex spouse to bring home. But, like...
Todd (VO): ...gay bashers like that, they don't care that much about your inner life.
Todd: A bully doesn't [image of jock...] shove you in a locker because he wishes you were bigger and cooler.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): Taylor phrases that line like...hate-mongers are just confused and...
Todd: ...uh, that ain't it.
Taylor: Shade never made anybody less gayTodd (VO): They're not gonna listen to that lyric and be like...
Todd: ..."Wow, I never thought about it like that. I guess you're right."
Todd (VO): It's a very trivializing song, I guess.
Todd: Bigotry is just shade.
Todd (VO): Homophobes are just like...Taylor's obnoxious reply guys.
Todd: It doesn't seem like Taylor really knows what she's talking about. Like, most people aren't ever gonna get protested on the street.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): Like, I get that screaming morons like that are...the most striking image of gay hating. But they're also the most easily ignored.
Todd: The major pain in LGBT lives as far as I can tell all come from [images of...] the internet. Or their own families. [...and the White House] Or the highest levels of elected office. Not rednecks with signs.
Clip of live performance of...Todd (VO): You know, Macklemore was also clumsy, but he at least seemed to understand the depth of the problem, you know?
Todd: But, to be fair, I had someone suggest to me that [shot of Tweet in reply to Todd] maybe Taylor trivializing these idiots is exactly why people like it. [pause] I didn't think of that, I...
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): I mean, wouldn't it be nice if that's how it was? Bigots aren't impeding on your very existence. They're just the same as some rude asshole on Twitter...
Todd: ...and you could tell him, "Hey! [shot of pop up screen with "Mute this conversation" circled] Shut up!"
Todd (VO): "Calm the fuck down already! Get that puppy on a leash."
Todd: I mean, I'd like to live in that world, so...
Todd (VO): ...if that's the appeal...well, you know, I don't feel it, but at least I get it.
Todd: Yeah. And, uh...[beat] OK, and uh, there is one other reason...I've seen offered for why some fans really lit up for this song. Which...oh, boy. OK. So, I think [rainbow screen with caption: "LGBT people and Taylor Swift have too many haters"] this is a fair summary of the song's message. But, even boiled down like that, uh, ["LGBT people and Taylor Swift" is circled] there's a lot of ways to interpret it. [chuckles] What does that mean? Hmmm...
Todd (VO): The second this song dropped, social media was buzzing with rampant speculation that this was a thinly-veiled coming out for Taylor. [shots of articles: "Taylor Swift is gay, and I have evidence for days"...] In fact, for a while now, there have been lesbian rumors about her, [...and "Twitter Thinks taylor Swift May Have Subtly Come Out as Bisexual in 'You Need to Calm Down'"] and they went into overdrive when the song dropped. People have been pouring over the video looking for hints like it's the goddamn DaVinci Code.
Todd: Yeah, OK. [buries face in hands] Look, let me be clear on this. If Taylor's sexuality wasn't part of the official "You Need to Calm Down" discourse, I would not be talking about it, because quite honestly, this shit strikes me as really invasive and gross. [image of magazine cover with...] Like, Shawn Mendes, who also has a lot of gay rumors about him, he's talked about how badly that shit fucks with his head. It just feels icky, and I don't want to be a part of this.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): Look, if she ever comes out, she's out. And if she doesn't, she doesn't. And she hasn't. She's said [shot of Taylor's post on Tumblr] firmly that she's just trying to support the LGBT community, not join it.
Todd: Could she be lying? Sure. I don't know what she's got going on.
Todd (VO): Is she deliberately teasing at it for publicity like some people think?
Todd: Uh, I don't see it, but I'm pretty dense about these things. The more important thing is I don't care. Unless something concrete pops up like she said something, or paparazzi snags some [image of Taylor at AMAs] secret hot photos of her and another woman [image of lesbian couple] adopting a child together, I'm not gonna think much about it, and I don't think anyone really should. I understand she'd be a really big name signing in the [still shot from NFL Draft 2019] gay draft, but there's already a [side-by-side images of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and Halsey] bunch of other big pop divas out there representing. One stranger's orientation does not matter so much. Y'all do need to calm down.
Todd (VO): But if people really thought this was a coming out song, I can see why. 'Cause if...
Todd: ...it's not, it's really fuckin' tacky otherwise. Because in the third verse...
Todd (VO): ...we go back to Taylor's internet trolls.
Clip of "You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor: And we see you over there on the internetLike, if she was announcing she was gay or bi or whatever, this song would make a lot more sense.
Todd: As it is, it sounds like she's just saying, [images of...] "Me! And also gay rights! ...But back to me!"
Todd (VO): Funny thing is, I think the third verse is probably the best of them. Even though it's real brief.
Taylor: Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you out
We all know now we all got crownsLike, it's, you know, it's about how various pop star fans and stans try to...
Todd: ...create artificial competition to tear each other down.
Todd (VO): Which is better than the first verse, 'cause it's not so vague and feels like it's actually about something meaningful instead of...
Todd: ...just, you know, "People are jerks!"
Todd (VO): And it also doesn't put her out of her depth like the pride stuff in the middle.
Todd: It's just a weirdly unbalanced song all around. There's, like, a Goldilocks structure to it. [black screen with arrow pointing at "Mean Tweets"...] Like, too trivial... [..."Anti-Gay Bigotry"...] too serious... [...and "Sexist Forced Competition Between Women"] just right. Or close enough at least.
Todd (VO): Although actually, I think the song immediately gets better if they switched the second and third verses. [same chart with "Anti-Gay Bigotry" and "Sexist Forced Competition Between Women" switched around] Because then it would actually build, and get more serious, and then climax with a big, serious message.
Todd: But, I think Taylor wanted to do it this way to build to the biggest cameo of all...
Clip of "You Need to Calm Down"; Taylor locks eyes with...Todd (VO): Wha? Katy Perry?! Don't the two of them hate each other? [clips of "Bad Blood"...] They wrote songs putting each other on blast! [...and Katy Perry ft. Nicki Minaj - "Swish Swish"] Aren't they eternal enemies? Not anymore! They buried the hatchet! They're friends again!
Todd: Heh. [beat] You know the end of [clips from...] Chicago, where Velma and Roxie's careers are in so much trouble that they're forced to team up to get back into the limelight? Heh-heh. Yeah. Shade!
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): I get that she wanted to save the biggest cameo for the end, but...I think Katy would've made more sense showing up during the first verse.
Todd: Because that's where Taylor engages in some mild self-criticism.
Taylor: But I've learned a lesson that stressin' and obsessin' 'bout
Somebody else is no funTodd (VO): I mean, it's not a lot, but it is acknowledging that she too has often been...
Todd: ...[air quote] "a hater".
Todd (VO): And that she's proving that she can take her own advice, and learn to be less negative. She's walking the walk.
Todd: I mean, I'm sure that's what she means with the Katy Perry cameo.
Todd (VO): But she puts it towards the end, right after she does that verse about toxic fans putting women against each other.
Taylor: We figured you outKinda comes across like she's blaming them for her and Katy's stupid feud.
Todd: Like, no! You did that!
Video for "Bad Blood"Todd (VO): The fandom didn't make you film a whole expensive video on the topic!
Todd: But, you know, it is a...
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): ...good gesture of positivity to put Katy in the video. And honestly, if I were Katy, I would be very flattered.
Todd: Because this is basically just a Katy Perry song.
Todd (VO): Same rainbow [brief clips of "California Gurls"...] colors, same awkward attempts [..."Roar"] at positivity, and extremely awkward [...and "This Is How We Do"] use of slang that sounds like she shouldn't be using it.
Todd: I guess that's my objection to the song really. It's-it's awkward. It's awkward in concept, and it's awkward in execution.
Todd (VO): It'd be one thing if it were dynamic and fun, but it just keeps chugging along at the same pace. The beat is really minimal. I guess to put the focus on the lyrics. And that's not a great idea, 'cause the lyrics are just...
Todd can only groan
Lyric video for "You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor: Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?Todd: There's just no excuse for this.
Clip of "You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor: You're takin' shots at me like it's PatrónTodd (VO): If I made a Top 10 list of Taylor's worst lyrics, more than half would come from this song. [clip of...] And that's pretty impressive for someone who already wrote "Shake It Off".
Todd: On top of that, a lot of people are saying that this doesn't feel real.
Todd (VO): It's not...authentic. She's just pandering to her most lucrative demographics. Calculated pose for brownie points.
Todd: Ehhh. Look, I think [air quote] "authenticity" is a stupid, boring topic that doesn't really interest me. But, also I don't agree.
Todd (VO): I see how she comes off like that, 'cause this kinda came out of nowhere, but...I don't see it as very calculated at all. A calculated pose would be a lot less messy.
Todd: This strikes me as very sincere. I think she [shot of Taylor's plea for equality at the end of "You Need to Calm Down"] sincerely cares about gay rights...and that she sincerely thinks it's comparable to mean tweets.
Video for...Todd (VO): Back in 2010, Taylor's video for "Mean" made the same connection between her critics and anti-gay bullies.
Todd: And people have objected to that for the same reasons, but [shrugs] I thought it was fine.
Todd (VO): I thought innocent teenage Taylor could pull off being a stand-in for the universal underdog.
Todd: But, she's way too big for that now.
Video for "You Need to Calm Down"Todd (VO): The same public fascination that's powered this song to success is also why it doesn't work. Even now, the conversation still revolves around Taylor's personal life. If she was trying to expand her brand to be about something important and not just her own personal dramas, it's not working.
Todd: The Taylor Swift phenomenon remains as Taylor-centric as ever.
Todd (VO): And even just ignoring the politics of it, her long history of anti-hater songs weighs this down. For a positivity song, it's extremely negative.
Todd: Like, you know the saying, [image of...] "If you meet an asshole in the morning, that just means you've met an asshole. But if you meet assholes all day, you're actually the asshole." I mean, I used to think that. Thanks to the internet, I now realized the world is in fact just [image of Spaceballs meme with caption: "I Knew It. I'm Surrounded By Assholes] full of assholes. But that doesn't mean anyone wants to hear you complaining about it all the time.
Clip of "You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor: Say it in the street, that's a knock-outTodd (VO): It's tiring for everyone. Like, I don't know your trolls, Taylor!
Todd: The person filling my life with negativity is you! [pause] Maybe I'm being too negative, I don't know. Maybe I need to calm down.
Taylor: Shade never made anybody less gay
So...Todd: I...I mean...that's true. [throws hands up] Shade has never made anyone less gay. What a good, true lyric. [throws hands up again]
Gets up and leaves
Taylor: Calm downClosing Tag Song: "Con Calma (Remix)" - Daddy Yankee ft. Katy Perry & Snow
"You Need to Calm Down" is owned by Republic Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!