After 1989 Taylor Swift sought to change her glittery pop image and put out Reputation. In my opinion, this new change seemed a bit artificial and forced. Swift would drift around until her focused, critically acclaimed and incredibly well written album duo of folklore and evermore took Swifties and the music scene by storm in 2020. Since then we have been wondering what would be next…a new Taylor’s Version re-release…and then Midnights was announced. There were no singles and all we knew is that this will be a record with Lana Del Rey, Jack Antonoff and will feature songs Swift wrote around midnight. Now it’s here…let’s see what’s inside.
The record on the whole is a far better follow – up to 1989 than Reputation ever was. In my opinion, the darkness on this record is far more genuine and organic…but I will save that for my album review. I mean, this song should really be titled, “Fuck around and find out.” This is a far darker Swift who you can picture on the floor, neon streaming through the window at 12:30am, drinking vodka straight out of a coffee mug…working on her 4th cigarette in 10 minutes. She explores themes of self-loathing, regret, revenge, gender double standards, sexual agency and power throughout the record. But enough about the record, let’s take a closer look at Vigilante Shit.
Musically, this is the darker side of the 1989 coin. There are killer synth lines and electric percussion, but gone are the glittery electro flourishes that made 1989 such a pop masterpiece. Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely a pop track, and a well constructed one, but this is the pop song that walks just off of high school grounds during lunch to have a smoke…just a bit darker and mysterious. What 1989 had in pop brilliance, it lacked in mystery. The songs were pretty straight forward pop tracks, while slight off notes, sharp / cutting percussion and darker vocal effects gives Vigilante Shit a sense of mystery.
There is an interesting mix of themes working in this track. We start with using sex / power for violence, “Draw the cat eyes sharp enough to kill a man.” However, this is followed by some slight self – loathing / being a badass when she says, “You did some bad things / but I’m the worst of them.” It is this complex web of emotions and perceptions of self that gives this track a maturity beyond its slick bass lines. Where this track borrows from folklore and evermore is how it casts the women in the track as vigilantes holding men accountable for crime, infidelity, toxicity and just being gross men. In that way, it is a great companion to her murder ballad with HAIM, No Body, No Crime.
I love the idea of Taylor Swift being a kind of Bat Woman who prowls the streets taking out toxic masculinity. Like she says, she is dressing for revenge and taking men down. I will do a longer review of this record in the coming week, but it shows how Swift is continuing to evolve. She could have returned to a straight pop record after putting out some singer / songwriter gold, but she took those darker more mature themes and used them to sharpen her pop into a weapon. Like she says, “I don’t start shit / But I can tell you how it ends.” Just badass.
Listen to Vigilante Shit