We gave it a B+
Remember when Taylor Swift was worried about overexposure? Taylor Swift doesn’t. Because in a year with plenty of headlines and no shortage of blows to her public image, she is putting out her first new song since 2014 in conjunction with one of the biggest, blockbusteriest movie franchises around: the Fifty Shades saga.
Perhaps she’s trying to change the conversation around her, and she certainly succeeds on that front: Welcome to Taylor Swift’s Sexy Side™, courtesy of an electro-R&B duet with Zayn Malik called “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker).” It’s a surprising step from an artist who doesn’t exactly make anyone’s idea of mood music and who generally prefers to keep her image on the squeakier side of clean. Zayn has much more in common with previous Fifty Shades artists like Beyoncé, the Weeknd, and Miguel, and with his impressive falsetto, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” would have been a fitting highlight on this year’s Mind of Mine.
But Swift is hardly out of her element here. For starters, noted Swift pal and 1989 collaborator Jack Antonoff (of Bleachers and fun. fame) co-wrote and produced the track; there are flashes of his previous work with Swift, also a co-writer, and other projects that keep the song from resembling a total radical departure for her. And by the time she delivers her own breathy high notes on the “Baby, baby, I feel crazy” pre-chorus, she proves that “sultry” and “Taylor Swift songs” aren’t such a foreign combination—and that you don’t go from country darling to globe conquering pop superstar without having a versatile skill set. Honestly? Bring on those Drake songs.