Listen to Taylor Swift’s new pro-LGBTQ jam ‘You Need to Calm Down’

Taylor Swift performs during this month's Wango Tango concert in Carson.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Pop Music Critic

Taylor Swift wasn’t kidding with the fringed rainbow outfit.

Weeks after she used her appearance at this month’s Wango Tango concert to celebrate the beginning of Pride Month, the pop superstar released a new single Thursday night in which she doubles down on her embrace of the LGBTQ community.

“You Need to Calm Down,” as the song is titled, is a minimal electronic jam about addressing one’s haters. It starts with Swift mocking folks who criticize her online — you’re allowed to yawn here — and it ends with Swift mocking folks who pit her against other women in pop (including Katy Perry, who recently suggested the two had brokered a truce).

Between those verses, though, Swift addresses the homophobia of people who turn up at gay pride events holding nasty signs.


“Sunshine on the street at the parade / But you would rather be in the dark ages,” she sings, before offering some advice: “You just need to take several seats and then try to restore the peace / And control your urges to scream about all the people you hate / ’Cause shade never made anybody less gay.”

To make herself clearer still, Swift uses the song’s lyric video to shout out GLAAD, the group that promotes LGBTQ acceptance in the media. “Why are you mad,” she asks the scowling sign-clutchers, “when you could be GLAAD?”

Cute, right?

The second single from Swift’s upcoming “Lover” album (due Aug. 23), “You Need to Calm Down” is an encouraging development for fans who’ve long hoped the singer would start taking sides on cultural and political issues.

It’s also a big creative improvement over “Lover’s” lead single, the saccharine (and rhythmically plodding) “Me!,” in which Swift seemed to have lost touch with the lyrical smarts that define so much of her work.

Written and produced by the singer and Joel Little, who also did “Me!,” the new song has a stealthy synth-bass groove and lyrics that Swift more or less raps, as in the first verse, which partly redeems its snoozy celebrity-victim concept with this tight little couplet: “Say it in the street, that’s a knockout / But you say it in a tweet, that’s a cop-out.”


The song’s explicit pro-gay message is certainly welcome, but it also feels just the slightest bit cynical, as though Swift is using the struggle of her LGBTQ fans as a means of making herself look like the world’s greatest ally.

But of course, that interpretation is tempting the very clapback the song delivers.

Well played, Taylor.

Twitter: @mikaelwood