Taylor Swift's "Cruel Summer" stands as a testament to the resilience of a great song, proving that even adverse circumstances cannot suppress its eventual success. Originally featured on Swift’s 2019 album, Lover, and slated for single release in 2020, the trajectory of "Cruel Summer" was altered due to the global onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. This unforeseen event coincided with Swift's artistic shift toward a more organic and acoustic folk-leaning direction, as evidenced by her acclaimed albums folklore and evermore.
Since then, Swift began embracing her pop side once again, both with her Taylor’s Version reissues and the 2022 electropop/synthpop heavy, retro 1980s-tinged album, Midnights. These releases collectively paved the way for the resurgence of "Cruel Summer,” which gained further visibility as the sophomore song in her Eras Tour set list, resulting in increased traction on streaming platforms. With fan interest high, the song was finally, and strategically, released as a single in the summer of 2023 (June), subsequently hitting the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in July, where it has remained since with a peak position of #3.
Written by Swift, Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent, “Cruel Summer” embodies the hallmark qualities of a chart-topping pop hit. Its melodies adhere to the K.I.S.S. ME principle (keep it simple, singable and memorable) and effortlessly connect with the listener, while the expert cross-section developments, vocal production techniques, and Swift’s captivating vocal performance create a dynamic, engaging listening experience breathing life into her relatable love/relationship-themed lyrics.
Adding further dimensions to "Cruel Summer’s" impact are its three distinct and infectious vocal hooks. The first, a recurring vocoder-infused "yeah," acts as a musical beacon, serving as a unique calling card at the top of the song before being strategically reinforced in the turnaround and bookending outro. The second is the song title hook, which is strategically placed at the end of each chorus and preceded by a nonsense vocal. In addition to contributing to the chorus’ catchiness, their evocative deliveries accentuate the emotional nuances of the lyrics. Last, but not least, are the shouted vocal hooks in both bridges that create song-defining moments punctuating Swift’s love-proclaiming lyrics. A reflection of the strength of the bridge hooks – and the bridges in general – is Swift mega fan Olivia Rodrigo, who incorporated their essence into her 2021 hit, “déjà vu,” resulting in additional writing credits.
Structurally, "Cruel Summer" seamlessly blends contemporary pop trends with discernible deviations that underscore its uniqueness. Notable among these differentiating qualities is the presence of two bridges, a departure from the conventional single bridge format, and its significantly shorter-than-average verses, which helped put the song in line with mainstream music’s gravitation towards shorter runtimes.
The expertly crafted, retro-tinged, synth-heavy instrumental arrangement creates a highly engaging musical backdrop that keeps the listener engaged from start to finish and complements the narrative. Furthermore, the song imparts a sense of familiarity to the listener through its incorporation of electropop/synthpop elements and a nostalgic touch of the retro 1980s within its sonic palette. These musical nuances align with micro trends that played a role in shaping notable Hot 100 Top 10 hits both in 2019 and 2023.
"Cruel Summer" by Taylor Swift stands as a testament to the timeless power of exceptional music. Its journey from initial creation to eventual prominence encapsulates the fusion of strategic timing, musical prowess, and an unswerving connection with a devoted audience.
Hit Songs Deconstructed subscribers can read the first segment of the "Cruel Summer" Deconstructed report, which provides an in-depth analysis of the song's structure, genre and influences, here.
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The Hit Song Deconstructed reports provide unparalleled analysis of today's hits.
Each deconstruction breaks down a current hit to its foundational building blocks and pulls back the curtain on the patterns and science behind how the song was written, produced and arranged.
Leaving no stone unturned, everything is presented in a clear and concise manner and is complimented with unique Hit Songs Deconstructed visualizations that can be used to assess your own songs for strengths and weaknesses as well.
Among them are the HSD melodic parts tables and graphs, rhyme scheme tables, narrative structure tables, energy graphs, and more.
Each report is published in six segments every two weeks, and analyze:
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A visual roadmap for understanding how today's hits are arranged.
Every Hit Song Deconstruction includes a downloadable DAW project (Logic).
Using empty MIDI regions to visualize the instrumental arrangement, effects, energy, vocal melody and production, structure, select techniques and more, these DAW projects provide you with a visual roadmap for understanding how today’s hits were effectively arranged.
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Every quarter Hit Songs Deconstructed publishes trend reports that deliver an easy-to-digest snapshot of the trends driving each quarter’s most successful songs and gets you in tune with today’s rapidly evolving hit song landscape.
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- TOP PERFORMING HITS DECONSTRUCTED: A deconstruction of #1 hits and songs that chart 10+ weeks detailing what qualities differentiate them from the overall Top 10.
- HIP HOP VS. NON-HIP HOP DECONSTRUCTED: A spotlights on hip hop and non-hip hop songs that details the trends unique to each.
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