‘Shake It Off’: Music Expert Explains How Taylor Swift’s Hit Became Top Song Of 2014

“Shake It Off” marked Taylor Swift’s abandonment of her old country roots and her red carpet entrance into the more glamorous stage of pop.

It was also one of Swift’s most critically acclaimed songs to date, with Billboard describing it as proof of “why she belongs among pop’s queen bees.” More recently, the same music site ranked “Shake It Off” as the 13th hottest song last year, making it one of the top pop hits to grace 2014.

Amusingly, no one in the music industry was actually surprised by the rise in the hit single’s popularity. As of this week, Taylor’s single has garnered almost half a billion views on YouTube, roughly a quarter of the most viewed music video of all time — Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” It probably wasn’t just Taylor’s star power that made the song incredibly popular. It may have also been the song’s masterful arrangement that made it one of the most sought-after singles of the previous year.

Expert musician Chilly Gonzales breaks down Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and analyzes its musical components in a video uploaded by Germany’s 1Live. In the video, which has recently gone viral on Reddit, Chilly shows us the basic attributes of the song that may have contributed to its widespread popularity.

Chilly explains a particular feature of the song — the rhythmic displacement — which has been featured in many hit pop songs of the past. This basically refers to the singing of the same verse with emphasis on particular words displaced. In the instance of “Shake It Off,” Swift sings the chorus end emphasizing on the word “shake” in “shake it off,” before finalizing the chorus of the song by repeating the same line, but this time, the emphasis displaced on the word “off”, This effectively answers an open question and ties a “ribbon” on the song at the end, according to Chilly.

Gonzales compares it to another example, Olivia Newton-John’s classic hit “Let’s Get Physical.”

Gonzales has also tried to explain the features of another top 2014 song in another 1Live video, “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. Chilly pointed out the distinct baseline of the rap song, which also displaces its tune similar to what “Shake It Off” successfully pulled off.

Whether or not these musical features were intentionally used to make “Shake It Off” more popular, it’s an undeniable fact that the 25-year-old singer will still be able to release top chart songs in the upcoming months, with or without the use of pop song formula. Perhaps even Gonzales will agree that Swift’s natural talent for music has been a primary factor that made her the popular pop artist she is now.

[Image from TaylorSwiftVEVO]

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