Why Taylor Swift’s ’22’ Isn’t the Best Summer Song

Big Machine Records

Big Machine Records

It’s featured in an often-aired Diet Coke ad. The promo makes the impression that “22” and all things Taylor Swift transend the boundaries of race, age and lifestyle. While that may be arguable, the ad is definitely trying to sell the fact that the song is a celebration of life at that age and having fun; “stay extraordinary” the commercial displays as it concludes.

Taylor’s single would have you believe that it defines the summer of a young collegiate. But it hasn’t been on any list or poll of summer songs for 2013. The instrumentation is mainly guitar and drums. That hardly makes for a track worthy of getting anyone pumped up for a night out. It’s not that it is boring or lackluster, it’s  just not what a good summer tune is made of. Although the lyrics are catchy, they’re not summertime catchy. “22” and its accompanying album is more in the vein of acoustic pop to align with its foundational country genre.

Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s To Never Growing Up”  won Idolator’s poll; it is in a somewhat similar pop vein as “22.” But it has more overt pop elements which lend to it’s contention in the  poll rather than it’s theme which is similar to the theme of Taylor’s song.

So what would make “22” a summer anthem? Even though it has potential to be the song to rev up the crowd in concert, it doesn’t have that punchy, bouncing backbeat of  popular summer songs from the past few years. It lacks a dance-pop, EDM-style instrumentation. Comparing it to most other releases, Taylor’s tune needs that detail to be a competitor. Even a hand in production by pop mastermind Max Martin, who’s created danceable tunes for Katy Perry that were fit for the summertime, can’t aid Swift’s song. Taylor’s core genre is country so in order for her not to completely alienate the die-hard fan base, she must keep within the key elements of the genre.

Taylor has managed to gain cross-over popularity in the pop music world because she uses production that can easily strip away any elements that are overtly country and western. As a case in point there are two different versions of “Tear Drops on My Guitar” from her debut, self-titled album. One is a country version which features prominent banjo and pedal steel guitar; it’s notably more acoustic. The pop version is more upbeat and adds an echo to Taylor’s vocal. With her latest release, Red, Taylor has abandoned those signature elements with her singles and created an album that’s decidedly pop with elements of country-cross over.

These elements make for a song that isn’t summer material simply because it just isn’t danceable enough. Any lists of the best summer songs have concluded that the ideal sunny day tune includes a upbeat musicality that induces more than just an enthusiastic head bob. Regardless of what Diet Coke wants you to believe, Taylor just doesn’t do it with “22”.

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