For a song that immediately skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard charts, setting streaming records and most of the internet on fire in its wake, “Look What You Made Me Do” can only be considered a misstep. Taylor Swift’s first single off the upcoming Reputation found her ditching the tunefulness and endearing specificity of her earlier work in favor of newscycle-stirring riffs on Kanye West and Katy Perry and an ill-advised shift toward the very early-2000s playground-pop for which she had once seemed anathema.
Older songs based around celebrity frenemies were shot through Taylor’s subjective experience; “Look What You Made Me Do” took a meta turn, a song filtered through the prism of its own media reaction and rendering Swift an unlikely (and unlikeable) heel. She followed that up with the better but still dispiriting hard-EDM turn “Ready For It?,” which only reinforced the direst prognostications about Reputation.
Well, despite reports to the contrary, the old Taylor is not dead. Her new single “Gorgeous” is vintage Swift, an extremely basic and extremely good midtempo pop song. The sparkling production recalls the recent high-caliber pop turns of Justin Bieber and Calvin Harris, but Swift does more with it than either of them could, peppering a bunch of flirty disses with musings on a mediocre night out and one solid shout-out to her cats.
This feels weird to note about a Swift song, but unlike either of its predecessors, “Gorgeous” has an actual chorus, as likely to be an earworm for people who can’t stand her as it is catnip for her snake-posting army of fans. The first single was cowritten with indie-rock schlockmeister Jack Antonoff of Fun, whereas “Gorgeous” (and its predecessor) were made alongside pop svengali Max Martin, with whom Swift worked on 1989. “Gorgeous” clears the low bar set by its two predecessors, but it’s better than that, too, standing easily alongside the best work on that album.
On the other hand, maybe she’s just gotten back in touch with her greatest muse:
Reputation is out November 10.