Only the Young (Taylor Swift song)

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"Only the Young"
Taylor Swift - Only the Young.png
Promotional single by Taylor Swift
ReleasedJanuary 31, 2020 (2020-01-31)
Genre
Length2:37
LabelRepublic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Joel Little
  • Taylor Swift
Lyric video
"Only the Young" on YouTube

"Only the Young" is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on January 31, 2020, through Republic Records, as a promotional single for Miss Americana, a Netflix documentary that follows Swift's life and career over several years; the song is featured in the film's ending credits. Held back from being included on Swift's seventh studio album, Lover (2019), the song was written and produced by Swift and Joel Little, inspired by 2018 United States midterm elections.

As a protest song, "Only the Young" discusses school shootings, Donald Trump, and vote-tampering concerns in its lyrics. It is built around an electropop production consisting of trap beats and a whistling synthesizer, and features backing vocals from Little's daughters. The song was met with critical acclaim upon release, with praise towards Swift's lyricism on United States politics, addressing matters like gun violence and mass shootings. Music critics have noted it as Swift's most politically-charged song yet.

Entering the charts in several countries worldwide, "Only the Young" debuted at number one on the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart, becoming Swift's record-extending nineteenth number-one song on it. It further reached the top-20 in Scotland and the Netherlands, top-40 in Australia, Hungary and Ireland, and top-50 in Belgium and the US. The song was used in an advertisement for the Biden/Harris Democratic campaign in the 2020 United States presidential election.

Background and composition[edit]

Swift wrote "Only the Young" after the 2018 United States elections. Chris Willman of Variety termed the song as "an anthem for millennials who might've come away disillusioned with the political process".[1] Prior to the elections, Swift broke her political silence by endorsing two Democrats: Congressman Jim Cooper for re-election to the House of Representatives, and former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen for the Senate.[2] Swift also criticized the voting record of Bredesen's opponent, Republican Marsha Blackburn.

It was hard to see so many people feel like they had canvassed and done everything and tried so hard. I saw a lot of young people's hopes dashed. And I found that to be particularly tragic, because young people are the people who feel the worst effects of gun violence, and student loans and trying to figure out how to start their lives and how to pay their bills, and climate change, and are we going to war – all these horrific situations that we find ourselves facing right now.

— Taylor Swift, "How Midterm Elections Inspired Taylor Swift's New Song, 'Only the Young'", Variety[3]

In an interview with Willman, Swift revealed that she held back "Only the Young" from being included on her seventh studio album Lover (2019). She also revealed that the song is co-written and co-produced with Joel Little, who worked with Swift on four songs on the album including "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince", from which the title of the documentary comes, and that it is not intended to be a single.[3] Little added the song was the last he and Swift worked on in a week in New York City, following "The Man" and "Me!", and that his two daughters contributed backing vocals to the song.[3]

"Only the Young" incorporates political lyrics, in contrast to her earlier work which was politically neutral. Swift urges young citizens to get involved in politics if they want things to change. She does this by alluding to President Donald Trump, the 2016 presidential election, the vote tampering allegations after the election, and issues like gun violence and school shootings in the United States.[4][5][6][7]

Critical reception[edit]

"Only the Young" received acclaim from music critics. Entertainment Weekly writer Lauren Huff dubbed it a "political anthem" with lyrics aimed at American youth.[8] Billboard's Gil Kaufman called the song an "urgent, clear-eyed" tune that sees Swift "giving voice to her disillusionment about our stuck society". He described the song's theme as "a sad concession and a defiant warning" to older generations, that "their greed and failure to act has given rise to a youth movement determined to turn the page."[9] Vulture's Zoey Haylock found the song urging the listeners to "get out there and participate in democracy", and added that it exudes Swift's faith in the American youth.[5]

Rolling Stone writer Claire Shaffer wrote that the song documents the singer's "recent political awakening" as seen in Miss Americana.[10] Stereogum's James Rettig opined that the song finds Swift "reckoning with the current political climate and her place in it".[11] Writing for Taste of Country, Jacklyn Krol commented that the song could be Swift's most politically charged song yet.[12] Slate's Chloe Hadavas compared the lyrics of "Only the Young" to that of Swift's other politically-charged songs: "The Man" (2019) and "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince" (2019), adding that it is the latest addition to her "budding canon of protest songs", that focuses "less on feminist and queer issues than on the cause of rallying younger generations".[13]

Paper's Jael Goldfine defined the song as the musical accompaniment to Swift's "newly radicalized political identity"—"the Democrat-voting, Dixie Chicks-defending, nice-girl-no-more that she crafts in Miss Americana".[6] Cosmopolitan's Starr Bowenbank also labelled the song as Swift's most political song to-date.[7] Nylon's Layla Halabian termed the song a hopeful anthem "over a shimmering pop production", encouraging the youth to "challenge the establishment and secure a safer future".[14] Empire critics Ella Kemp and Ben Travis listed "Only the Young" as one of the best soundtrack songs of 2020.[15] Michael Ordoña, writing for The Los Angeles Times, listed "Only the Young" as one of 2021's Oscar-contending songs, with a remark that it underscores Swift's status as a "significant cultural figure", evolving from her former "sugar-pop queen" image. Ordoña described the song as an "unabashedly political-while-still-catchy earworm".[16]

Accolades[edit]

Awards and nominations for "Only the Young"
Year Organization Award Result Ref.
2020 People's Choice Awards Soundtrack Song of 2020 Won [17]
2021 Hollywood Music in Media Awards Best Original Song – Documentary Nominated

Commercial performance[edit]

In the United States, buoyed by 30,000 sales in its first week, "Only the Young" debuted at number one on the Billboard Digital Song Sales chart, becoming Swift's record-extending 19th number-one song on the chart. Despite not being a single, the song also debuted at number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming her ninety-seventh Hot 100 entry.[19] In New Zealand, it peaked at number two on the Official Top 40 Singles "Hot Singles" chart.[20] Elsewhere, "Only the Young" reached numbers 13, 20, 31 and 40 on Scottish Singles, the Netherlands' Single Tip, Australia's ARIA Singles and Irish Singles, respectively.

Usage in media[edit]

As a country musician, I was always told it's better to stay out of politics. The Trump presidency forced me to lean in and educate myself. I found myself talking about government and the presidency and policy with my boyfriend, who supported me in speaking out. I started talking to my family and friends about politics and learning as much as I could about where I stand. I'm proud to have moved past fear and self-doubt, and to endorse and support leadership that moves us beyond this divisive, heartbreaking moment in time.

— Swift on finding her political voice, Vanity Fair[21]

"Only the Young" was soundtracked in an advertisement as a part of Democratic campaigns in 2020 United States presidential elections. Californian representative Eric Swalwell revealed that Swift allowed the usage of the song for the Biden/Harris campaign free-of-cost, marking the first time Swift has lent her music to be used in a political advertisement.[22][23]

The video advertisement was released on October 30, 2020. It opens with a quote from Vice Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, wondering why "so many powerful people are making it so difficult to vote". The rest of the video features a montage of "chaotic and hopeful" scenes from the past four years in the US: Clips of Me Too and Black Lives Matter protesters, President Trump removing his face mask following a hospitalization for COVID-19, Judge Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo being pushed to the ground by police, and a scene of young voters and supporters of Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden organizing and taking part in early voting. The lyrics "And the big bad man and his big bad clan / Their hands are stained with red / Oh, how quickly, they forget" are timed to play over photos of Trump, Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, and Attorney General Bill Barr. The video ends with the motto: "You've marched for four years. Now it's time to run", and many popular hashtags, including #MeToo, #ICantBreathe, #WearAMask, #BidenHarris2020, #SaveUSPS and #Vote. Harris responded with thanks to Swift, and added that the singer is showing the American youth "what's at stake" in the election.[23][22][24]

On November 6, 2020, South Korean channel JTBC used "Only the Young" as its closing song for the day's JTBC Newsroom—the evening newscast on the channel.[25][26]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[27]

  • Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer
  • Joel Little – producer, songwriter, programmer, recording engineer, keyboards, studio personnel
  • Emmie Little – backing vocals
  • Lila Little – backing vocals
  • Serban Ghenea – mixer, studio personnel
  • John Hanes – mix engineer, studio personnel
  • John Rooney – assistant recording engineer, studio personnel

Charts[edit]

Chart (2020) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[28] 31
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[29] 45
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[30] 57
Croatia (HRT)[31] 82
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[32] 86
Hungary (Single Top 40)[33] 31
Ireland (IRMA)[34] 40
Netherlands (Single Tip)[35] 20
New Zealand Hot Singles (RMNZ)[36] 2
Portugal (AFP)[37] 139
Scotland (OCC)[38] 13
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[39] 89
UK Singles (OCC)[40] 57
US Billboard Hot 100[41] 50
US Rolling Stone Top 100[42] 30

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Various January 31, 2020 Republic [27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Willman, Chris (January 21, 2020). "Taylor Swift: No Longer 'Polite at All Costs'". Variety. Archived from the original on January 21, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  2. ^ Haas, Susan (October 8, 2018). "Taylor Swift makes rare political statement, backing Democrat in Tennessee Senate race". USA Today. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Willman, Chris (January 21, 2020). "How Midterm Elections Inspired Taylor Swift's New Song, 'Only the Young'". Variety. Archived from the original on January 21, 2020. Retrieved January 21, 2020.
  4. ^ Brow, Jason; Norwin, Alyssa (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift Calls Out 'Big Bad Man' Donald Trump On Inspiring New Song 'Only The Young'". Hollywood Life. Archived from the original on January 31, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Haylock, Zoey (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift's New Song 'Only the Young' Encourages Fans to Get Political". Vulture. Archived from the original on January 31, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Goldfine, Jael (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift Said 'OK Boomer'". Paper. Archived from the original on February 1, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Bowenbank, Starr (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift Gets Political on Her New Song, "Only the Young," From Her 'Miss Americana' Documentary". Cosmopolitan. Archived from the original on February 1, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  8. ^ Huff, Lauren (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift releases new political anthem 'Only the Young' — listen now". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  9. ^ Kaufman, Gil (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift Holds Back Nothing in Urgent 'Miss Americana' Song 'Only The Young': Listen". Billboard. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  10. ^ Shaffer, Claire (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift Drops Political Song 'Only the Young' from 'Miss Americana'". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on January 31, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  11. ^ Rettig, James (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift – "Only The Young"". Stereogum. Archived from the original on February 3, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  12. ^ Krol, Jacklyn (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift's 'Only the Young' May Be Her Most Politically Charged Song Yet". Taste of Country. Archived from the original on January 23, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  13. ^ Hadavas, Chloe (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift's New Protest Song Compares Our Politics to High-School Drama". Slate. Archived from the original on February 1, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  14. ^ Halabian, Layla (January 31, 2020). "Taylor Swift's New Song "Only The Young" Encourages Political Action". Nylon. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  15. ^ Kemp, Ella; Travis, Ben (December 3, 2020). "The Best Movie Soundtrack Songs of 2020". Empire. Archived from the original on December 3, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  16. ^ Ordoña, Michael (2021-01-25). "Here are 10 Oscar-contending song tracks. Why not make them your playlist?". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2021-01-30. Retrieved January 30, 2021.
  17. ^ Malec, Brett (November 15, 2020). "People's Choice Awards 2020 Winners: The Complete List". E! Online. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  18. ^ Willman, Chris (January 15, 2021). "Hollywood Music in Media Awards Announces 2021 Nominees; Kenny Loggins Set for Lifetime Honor (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on January 15, 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2021.
  19. ^ Trust, Gary (February 10, 2020). "Taylor Swift Scores Record-Extending 19th No. 1 on Digital Song Sales Chart With 'Only the Young'". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  20. ^ "NZ Hot Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. February 10, 2020. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  21. ^ Rosen, Christopher (February 17, 2021). "How Taylor Swift Found Her Voice for "Only the Young"". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  22. ^ a b Swanson, Ian (October 30, 2020). "Taylor Swift allows song to be used in campaign ad". The Hill. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Blistein, Jon (October 30, 2020). "Taylor Swift Lends 'Only the Young' to New Political Ad". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on October 31, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  24. ^ Moreau, Jordan (October 30, 2020). "Taylor Swift Approved Her Song for This Unofficial Biden-Harris Ad". Variety. Archived from the original on October 30, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  25. ^ 력, 입 (November 6, 2020). "클로징 (BGM : Only The Young - Taylor Swift)". JTBC (in Korean). Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  26. ^ "11월 6일 (금) 뉴스룸 엔딩곡 (BGM : Only The Young - Taylor Swift) / JTBC News - YouTube". YouTube (in Korean). JTBC. November 6, 2020. Archived from the original on November 6, 2020. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Only the Young / Taylor Swift". Tidal. Archived from the original on January 31, 2020. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  28. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Singles". Australian Recording Industry Association. February 10, 2020. Archived from the original on January 21, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  29. ^ "Ultratop.be – Taylor Swift – Only the Young" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "Taylor Swift Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  31. ^ "Croatia ARC TOP 100". HRT. Archived from the original on February 24, 2020. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  32. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Czech). Hitparáda – Digital Top 100 Oficiální. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Change the chart to CZ – SINGLES DIGITAL – TOP 100 and insert 202006 into search. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  33. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  34. ^ "Official Irish Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  35. ^ "Dutch Single Tip 08/02/2020". MegaCharts. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  36. ^ "NZ Hot Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. February 10, 2020. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  37. ^ "Portuguesecharts.com – Taylor Swift – Only The Young". AFP Top 100 Singles. Retrieved March 1, 2020.
  38. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  39. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Slovak). Hitparáda – Singles Digital Top 100 Oficiálna. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Select SINGLES DIGITAL - TOP 100 and insert 202006 into search. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  40. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 8, 2020.
  41. ^ "Taylor Swift Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved February 11, 2020.
  42. ^ "Top 100 Songs". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on February 16, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2020.