Welcome to Hook & Reel, a series showcasing music that’s guaranteed to catch your ear.
Taylor Swift’s newest album Reputation has already notched two weeks at No. 1 on Billboard, which is an impressive feat considering the record exists as a kind of compromise between Swift and the public at large. To put it simply, the world crowned her pop music’s Maleficent, and so she threw up her hands and embraced the visage. Thus, in many of the album’s most publicized tracks, she’s threading seething, spitting take downs and snide come backs through inescapable hooks, all hovering over dense, crunchy, teeming production. But scattered throughout the loud and scornful songs Swift made to address the tabloids, there are quiet moments of gentle honesty. We behold the other side of seeing one of top 40’s greatest songsmiths in her rawest musical form, and it results in some of her strongest work yet. One of those choice tracks, “Delicate,” should without a doubt be a frontrunner as a future single.
“Delicate” puts Swift’s pen to an oft-treaded topic in her catalogue, budding romance, but through an entirely new lens. This isn’t a Disney-esque portrait of finding fairytale love in shimmering sunsets and quiet cafes, of sneaking into yacht club parties and dancing in the pouring rain. Instead, it’s a snapshot of a painfully self-aware and wholly insecure millennial attempting to open herself up to someone when half of the world is (quite literally) against her.
She’s not describing the quaintness of the world around herself and her lover, the aural and visual aspects that make their chance encounters so magical. She’s to the point, and more than anything, she’s conversational, as if she’s crooning a string of late night text messages to a lush, sprawling dancehall beat. “My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me” is such a tender and uncomfortable line, eschewing the assurance of her previous Shakespearian songwriting for something far more candid and beautiful. Even in the pre-chorus, she inquires gingerly “is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head?” It puts words to the feeling when you’re suddenly self conscious you’ve said too much, and in a failed effort to play it casual, you further reveal your vulnerability.
To top it all off, Swift keeps her melodies refreshingly supple throughout the course of the song, delivering the ear worm chorus through a low, synthesized, almost whisper-like croon instead of her trademark sky-high, passionate shout. Regardless of Swift’s single choices in the Reputation era, “Delicate” will remain as one of the album’s most understated, yet powerful, moments. Though, if she does choose it as the next song to sweep pop radio, it’d be a safe bet that the accompanying video will be a lush, grandiose, cinematic affair.