Normally, you might not think of the rooftop of a New York City skyscraper as the most logical place to “Shake It Off.” But Swift-philia trumps acrophobia every time. Taylor Swift found 89 fans without a fear of heights to join her atop a high-rise Monday night in Manhattan, as webcast live over Yahoo and iHeartRadio, to celebrate her newly released 1989.
The incentive: the last — and least secret — of the Secret Sessions, a.k.a. the listening parties Swift has been holding for fans she’s “cyberstalked” and invited to be the first to hear the new album. It was released Monday morning to immediate blockbuster sales, so hardcore fans had already had a few hours to absorb brand new songs like “Style.” But Swift elevated the premiere experience — so to speak — by not just giving most of these songs their live debuts but explaining what triggered the tunes.
A few moments to remember from the most breath-taking half-hour of what Swift called “the most exciting day of my life”:
Taylor [hearts] the Empire State Building, and the Empire [hearts] her back: an affair to remember! Swift’s party started the same way her new album does: with "Welcome to New York" — which may become such a universal anthem for NYC that “Theme from ‘New York, New York’” will no longer be “king of the hill” and ““Empire State of Mind” will be dethroned as “top of the heap.” While the performance took place from a location Swift described only as “a rooftop in my neighborhood in New York” (the Soho/TriBeCa area), the lights of the Empire State Building in the background were triggered to the “sick beat” of the five new songs. Start spreadin’ the news: If you’re Taylor Swift, you can turn all of Manhattan into your personal disco.
Is the provocative new song “Blank Space” meant to be funny, autobiographical, or both? Swift’s introduction held the answer. She explained that when she brought the first demo of “Blank Space” in to producers and co-writers Max Martin and Shellback, “I did not think it was going to get picked, because I kind of wrote it as a joke. You guys know, you’ve seen it the last couple of years. It’s interesting what the media has decided to fictionalize and sensationalize about my persona life. It’s been pretty gnarly! They’ve drawn up this character who’s emotionally unstable and needy and clingy” — who, after her boyfriends leave, “then goes to her evil lair and writes songs.” That image is an “interesting juxtaposition to my actual life, which involves me with my two cats watching Friends marathons. But I thought, which is more interesting to write about? The character which they’ve made up, though it may be fictional, is actually kind of interesting. So I thought of this line: ‘I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane/But I’ve got a blank space, baby, and I’ll write your name.’”
There’s a consensus pick for what her next single should be. And it shares a name, sort of, with one of those ex-lovers. Critics have been divided about what the strongest new song on 1989 is. But on social media Monday, fans had a clear favorite: “Style.” Swift didn’t address the question of who “Style” is about — although it’s not hard to hazard a guess — but she did tell the live-stream viewers where the metaphor came from. “I was thinking about how we have these kind of fashion staples that we never quite throw them out of our closet, right? No one goes, ‘Why are you wearing that little black dress? That was so two years ago!’ For a guy it might be a white T-shirt that fits you so perfect,” discussing those things that are “always there in the back of your closet in case you need to go back to them.” And just like “there are trends that never go out of style, there are feelings that never go out of style. Do you see where I’m going with this?” It sounded like Swift was talking about a relationship one might remember with particular fondness, the resumption of which you never say “never” to.
The “Woods” come to New York City. “Out of the Woods” has been a fan favorite for several weeks, since Swift released it as a teaser track. It seemed a long way from the romantic snowmobile mishap talked about in the last verse to standing in a skirt on a rooftop at sunset at the peak of autumn. “This is a song that I wrote about a relationship that never felt like it was on solid ground, always filled with anxiety,” she explained — “always wondering if we’re gonna make it to tomorrow, or a better way of putting it, are we out of the woods?” The answer might have been no in real life, but at this party, it sure sounded like a celebratory confirmation of all things romantic.
The building’s gonna sway-sway-sway-sway-sway… Well, thankfully, that didn’t happen. It’s a tribute to the infrastructure of NYC skyscrapers that one was able to withstand the dance party that accompanied the climactic “Shake It Off,” arguably the single of 2014. Her parting admonition to go out and “party like it’s 1989” may have referenced Prince, but for the moment, at least, she’s the Queen of Pop.