Taylor Swift has now convinced me she has some kind of supernatural ability. Her new song, “Mean,” the latest iTunes exclusive released before her new album, “Speak Now” comes out Oct. 25, is the perfect response to the recent spate of teen suicides--even though it had to have been written and recorded way beforehand. It’s also the most country of the five songs we’ve heard from the album. Hear it here.
With a jaunty banjo background (this is as bluegrass as we’ve ever heard Swift), she questions why a bully keeps picking on her, but she has unwavering faith that she will triumph, despite the pain. “You can take me down with just one single blow/what you don’t know/someday I’ll be living in a big old city and all you’re ever gonna be is mean... I walk with my head down trying to block you out cos I’ll never impress you/I just want to feel okay again.”
Swift’s appeal is primarily young girls, but this song will appeal to anyone, no matter his or her age, who was ever bullied and who has realized, long before it became a catch phrase, that, it does, indeed, get better. But it’s also a reminder that words hurt and words sting and unkind words live on long after the bully has moved on to his or her next victim.
At the end, Swift takes the message from the macro to the micro. As she’s said, every song on “Speak Now” is about some incident in her life, so we pity the fool that this one is about as she sings, “Washed up and ranting about the same old bits or things/drunk and going on about how I can’t sing/but all you are is mean...all you are is mean and a liar and pathetic and alone in life and mean.”
Since the start of her major label career four years ago, Swift has proved an exemplary role model and a strong songwriter because she is able to tap into her emotions in an authentic way. She’s reached a new high watermark with “Mean.”
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