Taylor Swift - "Sparks Fly"
By: Bobby Peacock
I'm not afraid to admit it. I'm clearly not a teenage girl, but I'm a Taylor Swift fan. There's just some intangible quality to her work that makes it generally pleasing. Maybe it's the catchy melodies. Maybe it's the fact that, for better or for worse, she has a distinctive voice. In any event, I certainly have no qualms about reviewing her new material. In this case, I'm talking about "Sparks Fly," the fourth single from an album that still feels to me like it just came out.
Oh wait, I take that back, this isn't really "new" material. It's a partial rewrite of a song she first sang in 2007. Having listened to both, I think that she overall improved on the song, but at the same time, she's done better. The song stumbles out of the gate with a mixed metaphor ("The way you move is like a full-on rainstorm / And I'm a house of cards"), but otherwise, I think the lyrics are fine. In particular, I think she improved the second verse, swapping out awkward lines like "'Cause my heart is beating fast and you are beautiful" and comparisons to a movie star for a slightly more substantial and mature outlook on the temptation of love. I especially think "My mind forgets to remind me you're a bad idea" is a welcome addition. I wouldn't mind if the banjo from the 2007 version were left in, but its omission is hardly make-or-break. Perhaps my biggest problem is that the song's chorus undermines itself in the second half — it starts out emphatic and anthemic as usual, but there's just no "oomph" on the hook. It almost feels as if she's trailing off mid-sentence.
I do get a sense that Taylor is starting to experience a little burnout at radio. Her songs drop like rocks once they peak, and she's currently 0 for 3 on hitting the top of the Billboard charts. While I don't think this song has that je ne sais quoi to get her another "You Belong with Me"-level hit, I still think that even a slightly lesser effort from her is a worthwhile listen.
Listen: Sparks Fly
Read: "Speak Now" review
Read: "Mine" Single Review
Watch: "Mean" Video