Cruel Summer (Taylor Swift song)

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

"Cruel Summer"
The single cover sees Taylor Swift lying on a picnic rug on grass, wearing sunglasses
Single by Taylor Swift
from the album Lover
ReleasedJune 13, 2023 (2023-06-13)
Studio
Genre
Length2:58
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Taylor Swift
  • Jack Antonoff
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Karma"
(2023)
"Cruel Summer"
(2023)
"'Slut!'"
(2023)
Audio video
"Cruel Summer" on YouTube

"Cruel Summer" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift from her seventh studio album, Lover (2019). Swift and Jack Antonoff produced the song, and they wrote it with St. Vincent. "Cruel Summer" is a synth-pop, industrial pop, and electropop song composed of synths, wobbling beats, and vocoder-manipulated vocals. The lyrics are about an intense romance during a painful summer.

When it was first released as an album track on Lover, music critics praised "Cruel Summer" for its melodic composition and catchy sound, specifically highlighting the hook and bridge. Many deemed it a highlight on Lover and one of Swift's best songs. "Cruel Summer" debuted in the top 30 of various singles charts in 2019 and became a fan favorite over time, prompting fans and publications to question why Swift did not release the track as a single. After being included in the set list of Swift's sixth concert tour, the Eras Tour, in 2023, "Cruel Summer" became viral on social media, leading Republic Records to release it as a single on June 13, 2023.

In the United States, the single peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 and helped Swift become the solo artist with the most number-one songs on the Pop Airplay and Adult Pop Airplay radio charts. Elsewhere, it topped the Billboard Global 200 and the singles charts in Australia, Canada, the Philippines, and Singapore. It was the seventh-most-streamed song globally of 2023 and was placed on the 2024 revision of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Background

[edit]
St Vincent wearing red, singing onto a mic
St. Vincent co-wrote and played guitar on "Cruel Summer".

Taylor Swift described her seventh studio album, Lover, as a "love letter to love" itself with all the feelings evoked by it.[1] The album was released on August 23, 2019, via Republic Records.[2] Lover consists of 18 tracks, and "Cruel Summer" is track number two.[3] According to Swift, the track is about an uncertain summer romance with elements of pain and desperation in it.[4] The relationship in question is "where you're yearning for something that you don't quite have yet, it's just right there, and you just can't reach it".[4]

Music and lyrics

[edit]

"Cruel Summer" is predominantly a synth-pop song.[5][6][7] Critics described its production as melancholic[8] or dreamy.[9] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times categorized the song as industrial pop,[10] and Ludovic Hunter-Tilney of the Financial Times dubbed it electropop.[11][12] It has a "ranting" bridge underscored by skittering synths,[13][14][15][16] distorted vocals[5] manipulated by a vocoder,[17] and a hook that consists of a long, high, fluctuating "ooooh".[18] The song has a fast tempo of 170 beats per minute with a time signature of 4
4
. It is played in the key of A major and follows a chord progression of A–Cm–Fm–D.[19][20] Swift vocals range from A2 to E5. "Cruel Summer" was written by Swift, Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent,[21] with a "burbling" production from Swift and Antonoff;[22] St. Vincent also took part in the production of the song, playing the guitar.[23] Lyrically, the song is about "the agony and ecstasy of an anxious summer romance".[24] David Penn of Hit Songs Deconstructed opined, the song's vocals, instrumentation and lyrics work "in tandem to create a unified expression, a combination known as prosody."[25]

It portrays the challenges faced by pop stars in the public spotlight.[13] The vulnerability of the song's lyrics has drawn comparisons to "Delicate", the fifth track on Swift's 2017 album Reputation.[13] Billboard's Heran Mamo opined that the song's lyrics see Swift "wrestling with strong feelings", where they paint "the picture of an emotional night out".[26] Justin Styles of The Ringer wrote that the song tells a "more humanizing version" of Swift's "ill-fated period three years ago", adding that Swift sings about "falling in love with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn while her public life was in shambles".[22] Anna Gaca, writing for Pitchfork, called the song a "drama-free delight" with "magnetic pink glow".[27] The Spinoff pointed out that Swift's vocals in "Cruel Summer" are "most notable for the modern country cadence".[14]

Release and commercial performance

[edit]

Initial release

[edit]

"Cruel Summer" was released as the second track on Lover, on August 23, 2019, via Republic Records.[28] The track originally charted as an album cut within the top 30 in Singapore (8),[29] Malaysia (13),[30] Ireland (20),[31] New Zealand (20),[32] Australia (23),[33] the United Kingdom (27),[34] and Canada (28).[35] In the United States, the song debuted at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated September 7, 2019; it is one of the seven tracks from Lover to reach the top 40[36] and remained on the chart for two weeks.[37] The song became a widespread fan favorite over time[38][39] and critics and fans questioned Swift's decision over not having released "Cruel Summer" as a single.[40][41]

Resurgence

[edit]
Swift singing onstage dressed in a sparkling bodysuite
"Cruel Summer" resurged in popularity after Swift included it in the setlist of the Eras Tour in 2023.

Beginning March 2023, Swift embarked on the Eras Tour, her sixth headlining concert tour, as a tribute to all of her "musical eras".[42] The show begins with the Lover act, during which "Cruel Summer" is the second song performed.[41] Around this time, the song began to resurge in popularity and streaming after it became viral on social media.[40][43] In the U.S., the single re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 49 on the chart dated June 3, 2023.[37] As a result, Republic Records released it as the fifth Lover single to US contemporary hit radio on June 13, 2023.[44] The song also impacted hot adult contemporary radio on June 26.[45] On June 17, at an Eras Tour show in Pittsburgh, Swift said she had intended to release "Cruel Summer" as a single in 2020 during the promotional cycle for Lover, but she abandoned the plan after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and moved forward with detouring her artistic direction and releasing her next album, Folklore.[46][47]

"Cruel Summer" became Swift's record-extending 41st song to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the fourth Lover track to do so.[48] After the release of the Eras Tour's accompanying concert film, a live recording of the song and a remix by LP Giobbi were released as part of a streaming compilation, titled The Cruelest Summer, on October 18, 2023.[49] "Cruel Summer" topped the Billboard Hot 100, marking Lover's first and Swift's 10th number-one single.[50] It was replaced by, and in turn replaced, Swift's "Is It Over Now?" atop the Hot 100 for one week,[51] spending a total of four non-consecutive weeks at number one and making Swift the first female artist to succeed herself at the top spot twice and thrice.[52][53]

On US Billboard airplay charts in 2023, "Cruel Summer" became Swift's eighth number-one single on Radio Songs, where it reigned for 12 non-consecutive weeks surpassing "Blank Space" as her longest running number one.[54] It became her 12th number-one single on Pop Airplay, and her 11th number-one single on Adult Pop Airplay, making her the solo artist with the most chart toppers on the latter two charts.[55][56] The song also spent 10 weeks atop Pop Airplay and 23 weeks atop Adult Pop Airplay, becoming her longest-running number-one song on both[54] and the longest-running number-one song by a solo artist and female artist on the latter.[53][57] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard commented that the single's resurgent success "simply demonstrates Swift's current ubiquity, unprecedented in the modern music era".[58] In January 2024, the song topped the Adult Contemporary chart, marking Swift's ninth number-one single. As such, it made Swift the first artist in history to release six singles that topped the Adult Contemporary, Adult Pop Airplay and Pop Airplay charts individually, surpassing Adele (five).[57] Additionally, the song spent 34 weeks in the top ten of the Hot 100, becoming the first song by a solo female artist to do so.[59] In total, "Cruel Summer" spent 54 weeks on the Hot 100, becoming Swift's longest-charting Hot 100 hit, surpassing "Anti-Hero".[60]

Elsewhere, "Cruel Summer" reached new peaks in Australia (1),[61] Canada (1),[62] Singapore (1),[63] New Zealand (3),[64] Ireland (4),[65] and Malaysia (6) as well.[66] It peaked at number one in the Philippines[67] and entered the top 10 in Indonesia.[68] The song has received certifications from Denmark (gold),[69] Greece (gold),[70] Italy (platinum),[71] New Zealand (triple platinum),[64] Poland (platinum),[72] Portugal (triple platinum),[73] and the UK (triple platinum).[74] It reached number one on the Billboard Global 200,[75] and was the sixth most-streamed song globally on Spotify in 2023.[76] The song was the seventh-biggest song of 2023 according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), with an equivalent of 1.39 billion global subscription streams.[77] Within the first half of 2024, according to Luminate Data, the single was the third-most-streamed song globally with 1.012 billion streams.[78]

St. Vincent described the resurgent success of "Cruel Summer" as "crazy": "I mean, I always thought in the context of that record, like, 'That should be a single, it’s a great song.' And I don't even think it was a single; it just was a fan favorite. And it's like the fans just decided: 'No, this is your hit song.' Which is so wild and so modern, you know."[79]

Critical reception

[edit]

In the reviews of Lover, "Cruel Summer" received rave reviews from music critics, particularly for its production, bridge and hook. Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commended the "thick, ethereal" production and Swift's signature vocal motifs such as the "question-mark syllables" and the "hard-felt smears".[80] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times proclaimed "Cruel Summer" to be the best song of Lover and said the bridge where Swift "shrieks about the devil might be the punkest thing you'll hear all year".[81] Alex Abad-Santos, writing for Vox, listed "Cruel Summer" as one of his top-three best Lover tracks, writing that the song is an "aquatic robot bop" featuring "wobbly" synths.[82] The Spinoff stated that Swift "absolutely pulls it off" and compared it to the Bananarama's 1984 song of the same name.[14] Writing for The Ringer, Justin Sayles praised the song as a "better rebuke of her personal drama than anything on her last album", and added that Swift "shakes off the bad vibes" with "Cruel Summer"; Sayles named it Swift's "most infectious song since that run of singles from 1989", and opined that song "sets the tone" for the "warmer, more inviting vibes" of Lover.[22] Also calling it "infectious", Nick Levine of NME termed the track as a "brilliant pop song".[83] Natalia Barr, writing for Consequence, highlighted Swift's vocal delivery in the song's bridge ("He looks up, grinning like a devil"), calling it "simultaneously funny, agonizing, and thrilling, and needs to be created into a viral YouTube loop immediately". Barr further labeled "Cruel Summer" as one of the "most perfect" pop songs of 2019.[84] "Cruel Summer" featured on year-end lists of the best songs of 2019 by Rolling Stone (4th)[85] and Billboard (10th).[86]

Retrospectively, "Cruel Summer" continued to receive high acclaim, and has been deemed the signature track of Lover. In a 2021 list ranking the best bridges of the 21st-century, Billboard placed "Cruel Summer" at number 11.[87] The song has ranked highly on critics' rankings of Swift's songs in her discography, appearing on such lists by Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone (2021) at number 11 out of 229,[88] and Hannah Mylrea of NME (2020), number 6 out of 161.[89] Clash critics picked the song as one of Swift's 15 best, citing its "highly addictive" song structure.[90] In 2022, Exclaim!'s Alex Hudson and Megan LaPierre ranked it second on another list of the best 20 songs by Swift, praising how St. Vincent's artistic input complements Swift's.[91] Allaire Nuss of Entertainment Weekly described it as a "buzzer-beating, angst-wielding anthem".[92] Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone wrote in 2023, "Swift flaunts a rock-star edge alongside a grand sense of romantic urgency" in "Cruel Summer", making it one of her best songs.[40] Billboard opined in 2023 that "Cruel Summer" is both a fan and a critics' favorite.[93] In 2024, Rolling Stone ranked the song at number 400 in their updated list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[94]

Awards and nominations

[edit]
Year Award Category Result Ref.
2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards Song of the Year Nominated [95]
Pop Song of the Year Nominated
TikTok Bop of the Year Won

Usage in media

[edit]

Personnel

[edit]

Charts

[edit]

Certifications

[edit]
Certifications for "Cruel Summer"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[197] 9× Platinum 630,000
Austria (IFPI Austria)[198] Platinum 30,000
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[199] 2× Platinum 80,000
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[69] Platinum 90,000
France (SNEP)[200] Platinum 200,000
Germany (BVMI)[201] Gold 300,000
Italy (FIMI)[71] Platinum 100,000
New Zealand (RMNZ)[202] 3× Platinum 90,000
Poland (ZPAV)[72] Platinum 50,000
Portugal (AFP)[73] 3× Platinum 30,000
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[203] Platinum 60,000
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[204] Gold 10,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[74] 3× Platinum 1,800,000
Streaming
Greece (IFPI Greece)[70] 2× Platinum 4,000,000
Japan (RIAJ)[205] Gold 50,000,000
Sweden (GLF)[206] Platinum 12,000,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
Streaming-only figures based on certification alone.

Release history

[edit]
Release dates and formats for "Cruel Summer"
Region Date Format(s) Version Label(s) Ref.
United States June 13, 2023 Contemporary hit radio Original Republic [44]
June 26, 2023 Hot adult contemporary radio [45]
Italy September 15, 2023 Radio airplay Island [207]
Various October 18, 2023
Republic [49]

See also

[edit]

References

[edit]
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