Liner Notes: Swift’s winning streak continues as ‘Cruel Summer’ hits No. 1
Stars and Stripes November 3, 2023
Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, Oct. 28, 2023: ‘Cruel Summer,’ Taylor Swift
Everything old is new again. Or, maybe it’s just that everything Taylor Swift remains undefeated. Legend has it that Swift had big plans for the initial release of this song back in 2019 when “Lover,” the album from which this initially came, dropped its synthy positivity on the music world, but COVID-19 had something to say about that. As a result, the track is getting a fresh run on pop radio after becoming a fan favorite and, if reports are to be believed, a highlight of Swift’s mega-successful Eras Tour that ruled 2023.
As for the song, it’s still catchy, still about a summer romance, still from an album (by Swift’s standards at least) that didn’t initially perform great, and still bleached (pun intended) by Jack Antonoff’s electro-pop production. The secret sauce here is the influence of Annie Clark, otherwise known as St. Vincent, who was clearly still on a roll from 2017’s “Masseduction” when she lent her expertise to the track. Of course, nobody does the Taylor Swift Thing better than Taylor Swift, but here, Swift took the dark musical textures of “Reputation” and perfectly married them with the optimistic skepticism of an exciting new romance. The result is, was, and forever will be deserving of the highest accolades any of her work will ever receive.
Plus, be honest: “I screamed for whatever it’s worth, ‘I love you;’ ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard” sums up young love more accurately than anything else on the radio – no matter if it says “19” or “23” after the “20.”