Somehow, We Are Absolutely Ready For Taylor Swift’s Rapping-About-Being-Horny-Over-Dubstep Single

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 04: Taylor Swift performs at DIRECTV NOW Super Saturday Night Concert at Club Nomadic on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for DIRECTV)

Somehow, We Are Absolutely Ready For Taylor Swift’s Rapping-About-Being-Horny-Over-Dubstep Single

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 04: Taylor Swift performs at DIRECTV NOW Super Saturday Night Concert at Club Nomadic on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for DIRECTV)

On Sunday morning, the world changed. Suddenly, Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” was no longer the last word in country stars using vaguely European dance-music production to talk about wanting to fuck. Suddenly, that video of Taylor Swift rapping Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” found its inevitable conclusion. Suddenly, the rollout of Taylor Swift’s new album Reputation no longer seemed like such a raging, historic catastrophe. “…Ready For It?” is out in the world now, and the world doesn’t feel the same anymore.

Eight AM on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend is, of course, a weird time to drop a song. Almost immediately, people on the internet started theorizing. Nobody liked Swift’s first Reputation single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” which came out barely a week earlier and which seemed to promise some sort of smirking, self-referential blockbuster-pop fiasco. Worse: “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t really have a hook, which is a big fucking problem for an artist who has spent the past decade-and-change conquering the world with her bulletproof, gold-plated hooks. Of course, “Look What You Made Me Do” was still immediately a monster smash, rocketing straight to #1 and deposing the months-long chart ruler “Despacito,” preventing it from breaking historical records in the process. “Look What You Made Me Do” still sold a fuckload of downloads and racked up hundreds of millions of YouTube views in a week. But these things are to be expected. It was, after all, a new Taylor Swift single, unveiled with all the pomp of a Star Wars trailer. But did the song have staying power? We might not ever know. It’s already been replaced.

But if the release of “…Ready For It?” looks like a weird marketing decision, a sudden damage-control move to immediately follow an underwhelming first single with an overwhelming second one, it’s probably best to remember that Taylor Swift album rollouts follow different sets of rules. “…Ready For It?” debuted on Saturday night, in promos for the Alabama/Florida State football game. It’s tied in with the announcement that she’ll do the halftime show of next year’s college football championship game. She and her handlers presumably made these deals months ago, and “…Ready For It?” makes a whole lot more sense in football promos than “Look What You Made Me Do” would’ve. As a cultural force, Swift has to treat her album releases like they were Marvel movies or something. The songs come out when they have to come out. There’s money on the line.

But if the timing of the release makes its own kind of corporate sense, the song itself is a fascinating fucking pileup. Within its first 55 seconds, “…Ready For it?” pinballs from monstrous dubstep stomp to feverish quasi-rapped shit-talk to sweet, lilting dancehall-flavored tropical house. Her delivery on those verses is like over-enunciated Rihanna or under-enunciated Nicki Minaj. She rides a beat better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected, staying in the pocket the way pop stars never do in those invariably ill-advised moments when they try to rap. The song is also almost cartoonishly horny, Swift rapping about a dude (reportedly Joe Alwyn, the British actor she’s been quietly dating lately) like she was one of those tongue-hanging-out Tex Avery wolves. It’s all theater, and the way her voice cracks on the “he act like such a man” line is straight-up Betty Boop. These things — rap, trop-house, sudden and jarring pop-genre juxtapositions, sexual intensity — are all pretty new to Swift. The track works like her version of what Rihanna does, with the crucial distinction that Swift’s effortful honor-student attack is essentially the opposite of Rihanna’s preternatural cool.

And yet! “…Ready For It?” fucking goes. The sheer audacity that goes into a song like this is a thing of beauty. Five years ago, when I first encountered the massive dubstep drop on “I Knew You Were Trouble,” I burst into delighted laughter. The new song is that feeling, multiplied. “…Ready For It?” is doing a lot, but all of it works. The hammering beat and convoluted wordplay — the “Burton to this Taylor” bit really underlines Swift’s inner drama nerd — are so unlikely and so ridiculous that I can’t help but admire them. And then that glorious pre-chorus kicks in, and all the song’s nonsensical silliness snaps into focus. The song’s central hook — “In the middle of the night, in my dreams / You should see the things we do” — is pure diamond popcraft. It’s what “Look What You Made Me Do” didn’t have. It’s the moment that Swift suddenly sounds like herself again.

“…Ready For It?” marks Swift’s reunion with Max Martin and Shellback, the Scandinavian production and songwriting geniuses who were her main collaborators on 1989. It would be absolutely fucking ridiculous to credit those guys with Swift’s success; she was making pop monsters for years before she met them. But she’s clearly a better fit with them than she is with “Look What You Made Me Do” collaborator Jack Antonoff. That Swift/Martin/Shellback trio — along with co-producer and co-writer Ali Payami, another guy from the Swedish pop trenches — made something ungainly and goofy, something that was probably a terrible idea, and they still made it sound like towering, colossal pop music. That right there? That is some motherfucking craft.

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