After the atrocity that was “ME!,” Taylor Swift could only go up from there. Unsurprisingly, “You Need to Calm Down,” the second single in the lead-up to her seventh album, Lover, fares better — but not by much. While it doesn’t knock on the door of the singer’s top twenty, it does add a bit of value to her extensive discography. Sonically reminiscent of the childish but fun 1989 opener “Welcome to New York,” the track features elastic bass, bright synths, and trappy hi-hats that feel perfect for a summer single. Released on the heels of Swift’s plea for the Senate to ratify the LGBTQIA+ Equality Act, “You Need to Calm Down” speaks directly to those that partake in and oppose Pride Month to kitschy but appreciated effect.
Swift begins the song addressing her own detractors, who “tak[e] shots at [her] like it’s Patrón,” before diving into the meatier lyrics. The singer shows vast growth in the pre-chorus, telling the subject “I ain’t tryna mess with your self-expression/but I’ve learned a lesson that stressin’ and obsessin’ ‘bout somebody else is no fun;” it was only two years ago that she created an album campaign revolving around her would-be enemies. Imploring homo- and transphobes to essentially shut the fuck up on the chorus and following verse and bridge, Swift changes the the pronouns on each run through of the last line — from “my” to “his” to “our” — including all gender expressions in potential gown-wearing. By Swiftian standards, “You Need to Calm Down” is pretty subpar, but the track works well enough as the singer’s first real dip into political songwriting that listeners will most likely feel inclined to forgive her.