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You Need to Calm Down

"You Need to Calm Down" is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on June 14, 2019, as the second single from her seventh studio album, Lover (2019). Swift wrote and produced the song with Joel Little, who also co-wrote and co-produced her previous single "Me!". Swift addresses homophobia and her detractors in the song while simultaneously voicing her support for the LGBTQ+ community.[3] A lyric video was released on June 14, 2019, while the music video was released on June 17.[4][5][6]

"You Need to Calm Down"
Taylor Swift - You Need to Calm Down.png
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album Lover
ReleasedJune 14, 2019 (2019-06-14)
Format
Genre
Length2:51
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Joel Little
  • Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Me!"
(2019)
"You Need to Calm Down"
(2019)
"Lover"
(2019)
Music video
"You Need to Calm Down" on YouTube

Music critics were divided with "You Need to Calm Down"; while some critics praised the song for its pro-LGBT message, others criticized its message as confusing and cynical. The song debuted at number one in the charts in Scotland, while reaching the top five in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The video was nominated in nine categories at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, winning two awards, including Video of the Year, which is Swift's second award in the category, following "Bad Blood" (2015). The song received a nomination at the 62nd Grammy Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance.

PromotionEdit

On April 26, 2019, the title of the song was teased in the intro for the music video for "Me!" when Brendon Urie shouted the title in French.[7] Later, it was revealed an "old-timey, 1940s-sounding instrumental version" of the song played in the background in the scene.[8]

On June 13, 2019, Swift announced on a livestream on Instagram that her upcoming album's second single, entitled "You Need to Calm Down", was to be released at midnight EDT on June 14 (04:00 UTC).[5]

A lyric video for the song was released together with the song on YouTube. The video contained several easter eggs, including changing the word "glad" to GLAAD, and highlighting "EA" letters as a reference to the Equality Act.[9] The references followed Swift's donation to GLAAD in support of Pride Month,[10] and Swift's Change.org petition for the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act.[11] The petition has attracted more than 500,000 signatures,[12] including from Democrats such as Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, and Kirsten Gillibrand.[8] Following the release of the song, GLAAD reported an "influx" in donations in the amount of $13, a reference to Swift's favorite number.[13] A vertical video premiered exclusively on Spotify on June 24, 2019.[14][15]

Critical receptionEdit

Music critics were divided with "You Need to Calm Down". Dan Stubbs from NME called the song "withering in its measured response", concluding it was "an infectious, bite-size pop package".[16] Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club wrote that the song "clearly and refreshingly combats homophobia and anti-gay bias".[17] Maeve McDermott and Joshua Bote, writing for USA Today, considered the song "an improvement" over the previous single "Me!", and "a more promising example of what fans can expect" from the album.[18]

Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times also concurred that the song was "a big creative improvement" over "Me!", while commenting the "explicit pro-gay message is certainly welcome, but it also feels just the slightest bit cynical".[19] Michelle Kim of Pitchfork opined that while the song is "well-intentioned" and the allyship deserved some praise, it is also "bewildering and underwhelming at the same time".[20] Jordan Julian of The Daily Beast called the lyrics "confusing, albeit well-meaning", and "more like the ramblings of a cringey relative who's watched one episode of Drag Race."[21]

Justin Kirkland of Esquire wrote the song "misses the point of being an LGBTQ ally" by "equating online haters with the personal and societal struggle of LGBTQ+ people".[22] Similarly, Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic criticised the song's "breathtaking argument... that famous people are persecuted in a way meaningfully comparable to queer people."[23] Will Gottsegen of Spin wrote the song's "easy, inoffensive lyrics... feel engineered to appeal to the broadest possible demographic", and that the song "plays it too safe" and "feels a little like a cop out".[9] Constance Grady of Vox called the song "exhausting", comparing the song unfavorably to "Blank Space" (2014), another second single from Swift.[24]

Commercial performanceEdit

In the United States, "You Need to Calm Down" debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the second top two hit from the album Lover.[25] Like its predecessor "Me!", "Old Town Road" by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus blocked it from number one. With six songs reaching number two on the chart, Swift tied Madonna as the artist with the most number two hits, having previously reaching the spot with the album's lead single "Me!", "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" (2017), "I Knew You Were Trouble" (2013), "Today Was a Fairytale" (2010) and "You Belong with Me" (2009). It debuted atop the Digital Songs charts, becoming Swift's record-extending seventeenth number-one hit on that chart. The song dropped to number thirteen in its second week on the Hot 100, eventually rising back up to number four following the release of the parent album.[26]. With 12 consecutive weeks spent in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, "You Need to Calm Down" is Swift's song with the longest duration spent in the top 20 since "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" with Zayn Malik in 2017. The track started at number 33 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, based on three days of airplay, and has since reached number 9.[27][28] It also debuted at number 35 on the Adult Top 40, peaking at number 7, so far.

In Canada, the song entered the Hot AC chart at number 40 based on three days of radio tracking.[29] It debuted at number four on the Canadian Hot 100, becoming the second top five hit from the album in the country.

In the United Kingdom, the song debuted at number five of the UK Singles Chart, becoming Swift's thirteenth top 10 in the UK.[30] In Scotland, the song debuted at number one on the singles chart, becoming Swift's fifth chart topper in the country, as well as her second consecutive number-one hit in Scotland from Lover.[31] In Ireland, the song debuted at number five, tying Swift's previous single, "Me!", which peaked in the week ending May 3, 2019.[32] In Germany, the song debuted at number 37 on the Official German Charts later peaking at number 36.[33] In the Netherlands, the song debuted at number 28 on the Single Top 100 chart.[34] In Belgium, the song arrived at number 11 on the Belgian Ultratip chart later peaking at number three.[35] In Sweden, the song entered at number 55 on the Sverigetopplistan chart later peaking at number 35.[36]

In Australia, the song debuted at number 3 in the ARIA Charts, becoming the second top three hit from the album in the country.[37] In New Zealand, the song entered the Recorded Music NZ singles chart at number 5, becoming Swift's fifteenth top 10 single in the country.[38] The song also topped New Zealand Hot Singles chart.[39]

Music videoEdit

The music video was directed by Swift and Drew Kirsch, and executive produced by Swift and Todrick Hall.[40] It was released on June 17, 2019, after a premiere on Good Morning America.[41][42] The video featured a large number of celebrity cameos, many of whom are LGBT. In order of appearance, the list includes dancer Dexter Mayfield, YouTuber Hannah Hart, actress Laverne Cox, model Chester Lockhart, entertainer Todrick Hall, singer Hayley Kiyoko, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, lawyer Justin Mikita, singer Ciara, Netflix series Queer Eye's Fab Five (Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness), figure skater Adam Rippon, singer Adam Lambert, television personality Ellen DeGeneres, entertainers Billy Porter and RuPaul, singer Katy Perry, and actor Ryan Reynolds.[43] The appearance of Perry serves as an end to a dispute between her and Swift, although both artists had publicly ended the feud several months prior.[44][45] A number of impersonators, all of whom drag queens and all but one past contestants on RuPaul's Drag Race (Riley Knoxx being the exception) also appear in the video impersonating various female singers such as Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga. The video was shot on a set in Santa Clarita, California.[46] As of November 2019, the music video has amassed more than 161 million views on YouTube.[47]

SynopsisEdit

 
Drag queens impersonating leading contemporary female music artists for a "pop queen pageant" in the music video. From left to right, Tatianna as Ariana Grande, Trinity Taylor as Lady Gaga, Delta Work as Adele, Trinity K. Bonet as Cardi B, Jade Jolie as Swift, Riley Knoxx as Beyoncé, Adore Delano as Katy Perry, and A'keria Davenport as Nicki Minaj.[48]

The video is set in a colorful trailer park. Swift awakens in her trailer, with an embroidery containing the Cher quote "Mom, I am a Rich Man" hanging on a wall.[49] Swift throws her phone onto her bed, which then gives off sparks and starts a fire in the trailer. She nonchalantly walks to a pool, ignoring her burning trailer. The camera then switches to other residents in the trailer park and their activities, including Mayfield dancing, Hart weightlifting a boombox and Cox watering her yard of plastic flamingoes and greeting Lockhart, who promptly faints.

The scene cuts to Swift walking and dancing down a street with Hall, interspersed with scenes of Kiyoko shooting an arrow into a target with the number "5" (a clue to Swift's next promotional single "The Archer", the fifth track on the album), protestors holding placards with anti-gay slogans (a reference to a real-life religious group that picketed Swift's concerts),[8] Ciara officiating a wedding between Ferguson and Mikita, and Rippon serving snow cones to customers from a stall. Swift also holds a tea party with the Fab Five and Hall. In another trailer, Lambert tattoos the words "Cruel Summer" (later revealed to be a song on the album) onto DeGeneres' right arm. In the next scene, Swift and other residents sun tan while ignoring the heckling protestors, followed by Porter walking down the middle of the two crowds wearing a dress.

The scene shifts to a "pop queen pageant" with the contestants dressed as numerous female singers. RuPaul walks down the lineup with a crown decorated with emeralds and fleur-de-lis motifs,[49] but instead of crowning a winner, he throws it in the air. A food fight begins, with Swift appearing in a french fries costume and Perry in a hamburger suit. The two see and walk towards each other. Elsewhere, Reynolds is portraying Norman Rockwell works on a painting of the Stonewall Inn.[49][50] Swift and Perry smile, dance and share a hug. At the end of the video, a message appears urging viewers to sign Swift's Change.org petition for the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act.

ReceptionEdit

The music video received mixed reviews.[51] It received praise for Swift's activism, while criticism was levelled at the execution, particularly the depiction of the anti-LGBT protestors.[52] Many publications including The New York Times,[51] The Washington Post,[53] CNN,[54] and The Irish Times[55] have noted that the song and music video was Swift's most political move yet. Jon Caramanica from The New York Times applauded the inclusion of LGBT celebrities and drag queens as "a worthy celebration", but also wrote it was "plausible cover".[51] Writing in the same review, Wesley Morris questioned the video's release in June to coincide with Pride Month as "tired, tardy or tidily opportunistic", but concluded the video was "a fine thing".[51] Craig Jenkins of Vulture wrote the song and video "has great intentions", but opened up Swift to accusations of queerbaiting and profiting from Pride Month.[56] Dave Holmes from Esquire praised the celebrity cameos, but noted the "ugly and poorly-educated" look of the protestors and the "sexless" portrayal of gay life.[57]

In an opinion piece for NBC News, Michael Arceneaux agreed that Swift "meant well", but criticized the depiction of the anti-gay protestors as "poorer bumpkins", and that the scene between Swift and Katy Perry detracts from the overall pro-gay message.[58] Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic pointed out "in real-life, Pride counterprotests feature yet-uglier slogans", and "writing off bigotry as negativity... isn't helpful".[23] Nathan Ma from The Independent wrote the protestors could have included politicians who voted for anti-LGBT legislation.[59] Emily Jashinsky from The Federalist views the music video as elitist by "mocking people with less money while appropriating a trailer park lifestyle."[60]

Some publications and LGBTQ+ personalities have defended Swift. Emma Grey Ellis from Wired wrote "the song has spawned more opinions than it has words", and continued "people claimed to despise Swift's lack of politics, and now she is overtly political and they still hate it."[61] De Elizabeth from InStyle opined "a lack of outright activism allowed Swift to become a punching bag".[62] Actor Brian Jordan Alvarez praised the video in an interview with IndieWire, stating that he is "completely grateful anytime anyone, especially someone with a huge platform, expresses positivity, love, and support for the LGBTQ community."[50] Actor Billy Eichner praised Swift's activism, saying "[the LGBT community] need all the allies we can get."[63] Fashion designer and television personality Tan France, who appeared in the video, called Swift a "powerful ally" and remarked that while LGBT people are often encouraged to take their time to come out, the same is not extended to allies.[64]

Usage in mediaEdit

"You Need to Calm Down" was featured in a commercial for Amazon Music.[65]

AccoladesEdit

The song was nominated for nine awards at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, including the category Video of the Year, becoming the most nominated video of the night. It is also Swift's second victory for Video of the Year following "Bad Blood" in 2015, joining Beyoncé and Rihanna as the only female acts to win the category twice and the fourth artist overall.[66][67] It also won Video for Good.[68] The song is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, becoming her third nomination in the category, following "Shake It Off" (2015) and "Blank Space" (2016).

Year Organization Award Result Ref.
2019 Teen Choice Awards Choice Summer Song Nominated [69]
MTV Video Music Awards Video of the Year Won [68]
Song of the Year Nominated
Video for Good Won
Best Pop Nominated
Best Direction Nominated
Best Art Direction Nominated
Best Editing Nominated
Best Power Anthem Nominated
Song of Summer Nominated
BreakTudo Awards International Clip of the Year Nominated [70]
American Music Awards Favorite Music Video Won [71]
2020 Grammy Award Best Pop Solo Performance Pending [72]
Girls Choice Awards Most Empowering Song of the Year (Individual Artist) Pending [73]

Live performancesEdit

Swift performed the song live for the first time at the Amazon Prime Day Concert 2019.[74] On August 22, she performed the song at a Good Morning America concert in Central Park.[75] The next day, she performed an acoustic rendition of the song at a SiriusXM Town Hall.[76] She also performed it at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards along with "Lover"[77] and included the song in her setlist for BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge on September 2.[78] On September 9, Swift performed the song at the City of Lover one-off concert in Paris, France.[79] On October 19, she performed the song at the We Can Survive charity concert in Los Angeles.[80] On November 10, she performed the song at the Alibaba Singles' Day Gala in Shanghai, China.[81] On December 8, Swift performed the song at Capital FM's Jingle Bell Ball 2019 in London.[82]

Track listingEdit

Streaming[83]

  1. "You Need to Calm Down" — 2:51

Digital download and streaming — Clean Bandit remix[84]

  1. "You Need to Calm Down" (Clean Bandit remix) — 2:32

Other versionsEdit

A remix of the song featuring and produced by British electronic music band Clean Bandit was released on August 20, 2019.[85]

The British rock band Yonaka covered the track for their Spotify Singles release in August 2019.[86]

Credits and personnelEdit

Credits adapted from Tidal.[87]

  • Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer
  • Joel Little – producer, songwriter, drum programmer, keyboard, recording engineer, studio personnel
  • Serban Ghenea – mixer, studio personnel
  • John Hanes – mix engineer, studio personnel

ChartsEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[135] Platinum 70,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[136] Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[137] Silver 200,000 

*sales figures based on certification alone
 sales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release historyEdit

Region Date Format Version Label Ref.
Various June 14, 2019 Original Taylor Swift Productions [87]
United Kingdom Contemporary hit radio Virgin EMI [138]
United States June 18, 2019 Top 40 radio Republic [139]
Various August 20, 2019
  • Digital download
  • streaming
Clean Bandit remix Taylor Swift Productions [84]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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