Eight years ago Taylor Swift's debut single "Tim McGraw" was released to critical applause and platinum sales; a sweet-sounding modern country ballad, it fondly mourned her first boyfriend in a pointedly open-hearted way, with lyrics addressed directly to a lost love. On Monday night, Swift’s latest single "Out of the Woods" dropped on iTunes. With its computerized beats and '80s synths, it’s a big change from the country music Swift once made, and marks her clearest move yet into straight-ahead pop music for her upcoming fifth album, 1989. Jack Antonoff of the bands fun. and Bleachers co-wrote the track, and it sounds a bit like those groups, a little like Haim, and a lot like Scottish electronic act Chvrches.
What’s fascinating, though, is that even as Swift pulls from a whole new sonic palette, “Out of the Woods” feels like a spiritual successor to “Tim McGraw.” She has performed a rare pop feat—trendily redoing her sound but maintaining her distinct identity.
"Last December, we were built to fall apart/Then fall back together," Swift sings to her latest ex-object of affection on "Out of the Woods." "Your necklace hanging from my neck/The night we couldn't quite forget." The mix of specific details and more generic metaphorical material is classic Swift. So is the subject matter: She has always specialized in songs about romantic tumult, particularly reflecting back on break-ups; whether she's nostalgic ("Holy Ground") or scornful ("Picture to Burn") or regretful ("I Knew You Were Trouble"), there’s never any mystery in the listener’s mind about her emotional point of view.