Guilty as Sin?

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"Guilty as Sin?"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album The Tortured Poets Department
ReleasedApril 19, 2024 (2024-04-19)
Studio
Genre
Length4:14
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Taylor Swift
  • Jack Antonoff
Lyric video
"Guilty as Sin?" on YouTube

"Guilty as Sin?" is a song by the American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift from her eleventh studio album, The Tortured Poets Department (2024). She wrote and produced the song with Jack Antonoff. It is a 1990s-tinged pop rock and soft rock track combining rock, country, and folk styles, accentuated by guitars and live drums. The lyrics see Swift's character sexually fantasizing about a man while being in a relationship.

In reviews of The Tortured Poets Department, critics generally praised the lyrics, production, and vocals of "Guilty as Sin?", with some picking it as an album highlight. The track peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Global 200 and charted within the top 10 in Australia, Singapore, and the United States and the top 20 in several other countries.

Background and release[edit]

Swift started working on The Tortured Poets Department immediately after she submitted her tenth studio album, Midnights, to Republic Records for release in 2022. She continued working on it in secrecy throughout the US leg of the Eras Tour in 2023.[1] The album's conception took place when Swift's personal life continued to be a widely covered topic in the press.[2] She described The Tortured Poets Department as her "lifeline" album which she "really needed" to make.[3] Republic Records released it on April 19, 2024; "Guilty as Sin?" is ninth on the track list.[4][5] On May 18, Swift performed the song on guitar on the Stockholm stop of the Eras Tour.[6]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Guilty as Sin?" is a 1990s-tinged soft rock[7][8] and pop rock track[9][10] combining stylings of rock, country, and folk,[11] accentuated by guitar[12] and live drums.[13] In the chorus, Swift sings using melisma.[9] Lyrically, the song is about desire[9] where Swift's character, while still in a relationship, longs for intimacy with another man.[14] The relationship in question has her feeling trapped ("My boredom’s bone deep/ This cage was once just fine/ Am I allowed to cry?/ I dream of crackin' locks").[15] She questions whether she should be guilty about her sexual thoughts ("What if he's written 'mine' on my upper thigh / Only in my mind?")[16] and rationalizes them ("Without ever touching his skin, how can I be guilty as sin?").[11][16]

The track features extensive religious imagery,[17] with Swift singing, "What if I roll the stone away?/ They're gonna crucify me anyway",[13][18] showing that the narrator is aware of how the public perceives her for this fling.[15] The lyrics, "These fatal fantasies/ Giving way to labored breath/ Taking all of me/ We've already done it in my head", were interpreted as an allusion to masturbation by journalists including The Guardian's Laura Snapes[19] and the BBC's Clare Thorp.[20] Mehera Bonner of Cosmopolitan commented that "Guilty as Sin?" is lyrically connected with Swift's 2022 song "Carolina", a track that features the phrase "guilty as sin" to describe "[sleeping] in a liar's bed".[21] Meanwhile, The Tennessean's Bryan West compared the theme of infidelity to "Gorgeous", a track from Swift's 2017 album Reputation.[22]

The song features a reference to the Scottish band the Blue Nile and their 1989 single "The Downtown Lights".[23] Streams of "The Downtown Lights" rose by 1,400% within four days of the release of The Tortured Poets Department.[24] Within ten days of the album's release, the vinyl stock of all four of the Blue Nile's albums were sold out on their website.[25]

Critical reception[edit]

Ken Tucker of NPR appreciated "Guilty as Sin?" for showcasing Swift's vulnerable and weak sides compared to contemporary pop culture's saturation of "kick-butt, tough, perfect, independent women" and found the track to have "a cleverly retrograde image".[26] Reviewing the album for Vanity Fair, Erin Vanderhoff described the song as "charming and beguiling" and considered it the album's "emotional apex".[27] In a staff review of the album for The Spinoff, Alex Casey and Isaiah Tour picked the track as one of their favorites.[28] SLUG Magazine's Palak Jayswal named it one of the album's best songs.[29] Similarly, Ross Horton off MusicOMH attributed its success to the ambivalent lyrical sentiments and saying that the track "would be a highlight on any of her records".[30]

The production and Swift's vocals also received praise. West described the song as a "catchy song with elongated, ethereal harmonies".[22] In the Irish Independent, John Meagher complimented the lyrics and Swift's singing for featuring "one of the loveliest vocals Swift has ever committed to tape".[31] John Wohlmacher from Beats Per Minute said that the track was one of the album's better songs, highlighting the "sensual" guitar alongside "seductive" and "lush" vocals.[12] In The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber opined that "Guilty as Sin?" is one of the album's best moments for its "perfect" combination of live drums, rock/country elements, and Swift's "keening" voice.[13] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard ranked "Guilty as Sin?" ninth out of the 31 tracks on the double album edition of The Tortured Poets Department, writing: "the real fireworks come from Swift’s vocal nuances."[9]

Mary Siroky in Consequence selected "Guilty as Sin?" as one of the album's "essential tracks" for showcasing a "personality",[32] and Anna Leszkiewicz similarly picked it as a "couple of bright pop tracks shine through the fog".[33] Lindsay Zoladz of The New York Times appreciated the track for its 1990s soft rock production and Swift's vocals.[7] Giving the track four stars out of five, Will Hodgkinson of The Times wrote, "The earnest, thoroughly American delivery mars the eroticism somewhat, but it comes straight from the Fleetwood Mac school of pop-rock inspired by disastrous romance."[10] Maria Sherman from the Associated Press gave a negative review, saying that "Guilty as Sin?" is one of the album's "missteps" for its "mawkish" lyrics.[34]

Commercial performance[edit]

When The Tortured Poets Department was released, tracks from the album occupied the top 14 of the US Billboard Hot 100; "Guilty as Sin?" opened at its peak of number 10 on the chart, where Swift became the first artist to monopolize the top 14.[35][36] In Australia, the song reached number 10 on the ARIA Singles Chart and made her the artist with the most entries in a single week with 29.[37][38] Elsewhere, "Guilty as Sin?" peaked at number eight in Singapore[39] and charted within the top 20 on the Billboard Global 200 (11),[40] New Zealand (11),[41] the Philippines (12),[42] Canada (13),[43] Malaysia (17),[44] and Ireland (18).[45]

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart performance for "Guilty as Sin?"
Chart (2024) Peak
position
Argentina (Argentina Hot 100)[46] 96
Australia (ARIA)[37] 10
Brazil (Brasil Hot 100)[47] 75
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[43] 13
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[48] 67
France (SNEP)[49] 103
Global 200 (Billboard)[40] 11
Greece International (IFPI)[50] 24
Ireland (Billboard)[45] 18
Lithuania (AGATA)[51] 66
Malaysia (Billboard)[52] 23
Malaysia International (RIM)[44] 17
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[41] 11
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[53] 73
Philippines (Billboard)[42] 12
Portugal (AFP)[54] 28
Singapore (RIAS)[39] 8
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[55] 84
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[56] 49
Swiss Streaming (Schweizer Hitparade)[57] 32
UAE (IFPI)[58] 20
UK Streaming (OCC)[59] 16
US Billboard Hot 100[35] 10

References[edit]

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