Taylor Swift has dropped four songs from her new album, “Red.” Today we get “ I Knew You Were Trouble,” which combines the stutter step of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and the pop/dubstep of Alex Clare’s "Too Close."
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It’s a mess of a track and the first of the four that Swift has previewed from “Red” that falls apart. She told “Good Morning America” that the song is "one of my favorites on the album, because it sounds just as chaotic as the feeling was when I wrote it.” The onomonopia method of songwriting may not be the way to go for her.
“Trouble,” written with Max Martin and Shellback, starts off well enough as a very catchy, guitar-driven poppy track with Swift once again reduced to rubble after picking the wrong guy. (Would someone please send her a copy of “Smart Women, Foolish Choices” already!). All is good, but all too soon, he’s moving on without “me-e-e-e-e-e-e,” she sings.
After her ex has reduced her to “lying on the cold hard ground,” the song drops into a dubstep-lite stomp, during which Swift repeats “Trouble/trouble/trouble.” It doesn’t fail because Swift is experimenting with dubstep: She’s shown over and over that she listens to and appreciates every kind of music, which is wonderful. The problem is it is a complete collision course of a transition that is so jarring that it’s like getting stabbed in the ear with a pencil.
The song then goes back to the sweet poppy tune. It’s a bit like a friend who is calm and then turns psycho and then returns to her sweet self as if nothing has happened, while you’re left going, “What the hell was that?”
Despite the cacophony, Swift still manages to make her point: “And the saddest fear comes creeping in/that you never loved me/or her/ or anyone or anything,” she realizes toward the end of the song.
The song wraps by going back to the harder, rock edge. It works fine at the end and the overall song would have worked much better if she’d built up to it instead of intermittently dropping it in throughout the song. Though this song doesn’t work for me, I give her all the credit for pushing her and her fans’ boundaries.
The four songs, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Red,” Begin Again,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” have started to give us a good idea of what Swift is going for on the 16-track “Red,” which comes out Oct. 22. To her credit, after three albums that stayed pretty much within safe country and pop confines, it looks like she is stretching out and working with other people in an effort to learn more and expand her own song craft. From the sounds of it, we have a front row seat to the experimentation.