Since it debuted Friday, Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” has bounced around in my head for exactly the reason a pop song should: the way it sounds. I like that the beat’s something a great beast might march to, slowly from one side to another, rumbling with each footfall. I like that the “oh-oh” swell of the chorus takes yummy harmonies, typically the key side dish in pop, and makes them the main course. I like the dry, silly way Swift drawls the strongest punch line of the track: “Like, damn … it’s 7 a.m.”
But I’ve also been fixated on—uncalmed by, and maybe even losing sleep over!—what the lyrics say. Shout along with this brain bender: “Shade never made anybody less gay!”
“You Need to Calm Down” is Swift’s grand LGBTQ-rights statement, released in the middle of Pride Month with all the precision of a bank’s new credit-card rollout. The song’s second verse takes on homophobic demonstrators: “Sunshine on the street at the parade / But you would rather be in the dark ages.” The video, released today, has a legion of queer celebs doing famously queer things such as sipping tea, performing in drag, and getting married in matching baby-blue tuxes. It closes with a plug to sign a petition for the passage of the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity.
For a star whose greatest political controversy used to be that she had no politics, a single that name-checks GLAAD is a real evolution, and it’s already reportedly having the concrete effect of boosting donations for gay rights. Yet fans seem equally fixated on the personal implications. Swift is the great champion of 2010s-era heterosexual romance: Football players and cheerleaders, princes and princesses, and James Deans and good girls have all paired up in her hits. But recent years have given rise to online speculation that she’s secretly canoodling with the model Karlie Kloss, leading to buzz that Swift might “come out” on her forthcoming album, Lover. Thus far, though, her only coming-out has been as an ally: a straight person who marches for her queer friends.