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Shake It Off

Lead Single | 1989 (2014)

“Shake It Off” is the lead single from Taylor’s fifth studio album, 1989 (2014), and officially marked her transition from country to pop. It is an upbeat track that encourages listeners to let go of small problems. The song is one of her biggest hits.

Background

Taylor had been known as a country singer-songwriter until her fourth studio album, RED (2012), which incorporates various pop and rock styles, transcending the country sound of her previous releases. The collaborations with Swedish pop producers Max Martin and Shellback introduced straightforward pop hooks and new genres, including electronic and dubstep, to Taylor’s discography. She and her then-label, Big Machine, promoted it as a country album. But the album’s diverse musical styles sparked a media debate over her status as a country artist, to which she replied in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, “I leave the genre labeling to other people.” Taylor began recording her fifth studio album, 1989, while on her “The RED Tour” in mid-2013. Inspired by 1980s synth-pop, she conceived 1989 as her first “official pop” record that would transform her image from country to pop. Martin and Shellback produced seven out of thirteen tracks for the album’s standard edition, including “Shake It Off”.

Lyrical Theme and Production

“Shake It Off” was written by Taylor, Max Martin & Shellback. It is an uptempo dance-pop song that incorporates a saxophone line. The lyrics of the song were inspired by the media scrutiny that Taylor had experienced during her rise to stardom. During a Rolling Stone interview in 2014, she said:

«I've had every part of my life dissected – my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off.»

Taylor Swift
Discussing the song’s message with NPR in October 2014, Taylor said that “Shake It Off” represented her more mature perspectives from her previous single “Mean” (2010), which was also inspired by her detractors. According to her, if “Mean” was where she assumed victimhood, “Shake It Off” found her in a proactive stance to “take back the narrative, and have a sense of humor about people who kind of get under [her] skin – and not let them get under [her] skin”.

Release

The release of “Shake It Off” was an event: On August 13, 2014, Taylor appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” where she announced she would hold a live stream via Yahoo! on August 18, 2014. During the live stream, she announced the details of the album 1989. She also debuted “Shake It Off” as the album’s lead single and then premiered the song’s music video simultaneously. The song was released digitally worldwide by Big Machine on August 19. The same day, Big Machine, in partnership with Republic Records, released the song to US radio. Before playing the song for the first time, Taylor spoke about the meaning of “Shake It Off”, saying:

«The message in the song is a problem I think we all deal with and an issue we deal with on a daily basis. We don’t live just in a celebrity takedown culture, we live in a takedown culture. People will find anything about you and twist it to where it’s weird or wrong or annoying or strange or bad. You have to not only live your life in spite of people who don’t understand you, you have to have more fun than they do.»

Taylor Swift
The release of “Shake It Off” and its parent album 1989 had been highly anticipated, given Taylor’s announcement that she would abandon her country roots to release an “official pop” album. The magazine Drowned in Sound described the single as “undoubtedly the most significant cultural event” since Radiohead’s 2011 album The King of Limbs. While noting that “Shake It Off” was not Taylor’s first “straight-up pop” song, Billboard‘s Jason Lipshutz considered it a sign of a “bold foray into the unknown”, in which Taylor could experiment beyond her well-known formulaic country pop songs that had been critically and commercially successful.

Music Video

The music video for “Shake It Off”, directed by Mark Romanek, was released on August 18, 2014, the same day as the song’s release. It was shot over three days in June 2014 in Los Angeles. Taylor conceived the video as a humorous depiction of her trying to find her identity: “It takes a long time to figure out who you are and where you fit in in the world.” To this end, the video depicts her as a clumsy person who unsuccessfully attempts dance moves with professional artists, including ballerinas, breakdancers, cheerleaders, and performance artists. She summed up the video: “I’m putting myself in all these awkward situations where the dancers are incredible, and I’m having fun with it, but not fitting in. I’m being embarrassingly bad at it. It shows you to keep doing you, keep being you, keep trying to figure out where you fit in in the world, and eventually you will.”

Live Performances

Taylor premiered “Shake It Off” on television at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on August 24, 2014. As part of promotion of 1989, she performed the song on many national and international television shows. On October 27, 2014, the day of 1989‘s release, she performed the song as part of a mini-concert titled the “1989 Secret Sessions“, live broadcast by Yahoo! and iHeartRadio. At the after party for the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Live, Taylor performed the song in an impromptu performance with host Jimmy Fallon on backing vocals and Paul McCartney on backing vocals and bass guitar.

“Shake It Off” was included on the set list on two of Taylor’s world tours — “The 1989 World Tour” (2015), where the song was the final number, and the “reputation Stadium Tour” (2018), where she performed the song with Camila Cabello and Charli XCX as supporting acts.

Critical Reception

“Shake It Off” received mixed reviews from music critics. While some deemed the production catchy, others found the song repetitive and lacking substance compared to Taylor’s previous album RED, which was perceived to be her artistic peak. The Guardian‘s Molly Fitzpatrick similarly lauded the song’s music, but felt that the lyrics fell short of Taylor’s songwriting abilities. Giving the song a three-out-of-five-stars score, Jeff Terich from American Songwriter regarded her new direction as “a left-turn worth following”. While Terich agreed that the lyrics were dismissive, he felt that critics should not have taken the song seriously because it was “pretty harmless”. In a positive review, Jason Lipshutz from Billboard wrote, “Swift proves why she belongs among pop’s queen bees. The song sounds like a surefire hit.” Taylor herself acknowledged the song as an outlier on 1989, and deliberately released it as the lead single to encourage audiences to explore the entire album and not just the singles.

Retrospectively, Hannah Mylrae from NME considered “Shake It Off” an effective opener for Taylor’s 1989 era, which transformed her image to mainstream pop. While saying that “Shake It Off” was not one of the album’s better songs, Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone applauded it for “serving as a trailer to announce her daring Eighties synth-pop makeover”.

Commercial Performance

After one day of release to US radio, “Shake It Off” gained an audience of nine million. The song debuted at No. 45 on the Billboard Radio Songs chart with 29 million in all-format audience after two days of release. After its first week of release, the single debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart, and number 12 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40, setting the record for the highest debut on both charts. Although not officially released to country radio, the single debuted and peaked at No. 58 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, where it stayed for one week.

“Shake It Off” debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart dated September 6, 2014, the 22nd song to do so. After two consecutive weeks at No. 1, it dropped to No. 2, where it stayed for eight consecutive weeks. “Shake It Off” returned to No. 1 in its tenth charting week, and spent a further week at the top, totaling four non-consecutive weeks atop the Hot 100. “Shake It Off” was one of the best-selling singles of the 2010s decade in the U.S., selling 5.4 million digital copies as of January 2020. As of July 2020, the single remains Taylor’s biggest chart success on the Hot 100, where it spent nearly six months in the top ten and 50 weeks in the top 100. The song was certified “Diamond” by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which denotes 10 million units. With this achievement, Taylor is the first female artist to have both a song and an album (Fearless) certified Diamond in the U.S.

“Shake It Off” also topped the charts in Australia and Canada, where it was certified thirteen times platinum and six times platinum, respectively. In the United Kingdom, it peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. In Japan, “Shake It Off” peaked at No. 4 on the Japan Hot 100. The single also topped record charts in Hungary, New Zealand and Poland. It was a top-five hit in other European countries, peaking at No. 2 in Spain; No. 3 in Ireland, Norway and Sweden; No. 4 in Denmark and Israel; and No. 5 in Germany and the Netherlands.

Accolades

“Shake It Off” has received many awards and nominations. It was honored by the 2015 Nashville Songwriters Association International, where Taylor was the “Songwriter of the Year.” The song received an award at the 2016 BMI Pop Awards, where Taylor also earned the distinction of “Songwriter of the Year.” At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards in 2015, “Shake It Off” was nominated in three categories: “Record of the Year,” “Song of the Year,” and “Best Pop Solo Performance”. The song ranked at No. 4 on The Village Voice‘s annual “Pazz & Jop” critics’ poll in 2014. It was ranked by NME and Consequence as the 19th and 38th best song of the 2010s decade, respectively. USA Today also listed “Shake It Off” as one of the ten songs that defined the 2010s. At the 2015 Billboard Music Awards, “Shake It Off” received three nominations, winning “Top Streaming Song (Video).” “Shake It Off” also won “Song of the Year” at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Awards, “Favorite International Video” at the 2015 Myx Music Awards (Philippines), and “Favorite Song” at the 2015 People’s Choice Awards. The music video for “Shake It Off” is one of the most viewed videos by a female artist on YouTube ever.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That’s what people say (Mmm-mmm)
That’s what people say (Mmm-mmm)
I go on too many dates
But I can’t make them stay
At least that’s what people say (Mmm-mmm)
That’s what people say (Mmm-mmm)

[Pre-Chorus]
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright”

[Chorus]
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off (Hu, hu, hu!)
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off (Hu, hu, hu!)

[Verse 2]
I never miss a beat
I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see (Mmm-mmm)
That’s what they don’t see (Mmm-mmm)
I’m dancing on my own (Dancing on my own)
I make the moves up as I go (Moves up as I go)
And that’s what they don’t know (Mmm-mmm)
That’s what they don’t know (Mmm-mmm)

[Pre-Chorus]
But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop grooving
It’s like I got this music in my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright”

[Chorus]
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off (Hu, hu, hu!)
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off (Hu, hu, hu!)

[Post-Chorus]
Shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off

[Interlude]
Hey, hey, hey!
Just think, while you’ve been gettin’ down
And out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world
You could’ve been gettin’ down to this sick beat

[Bridge]
My ex-man brought his new girlfriend
She’s like, “Oh my God!”
But I’m just gonna shake
And to the fella over there with the hella good hair
Won’t you come on over, baby?
We can shake, shake, shake
Yeah, oh, oh, oh

[Chorus]
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (Haters gonna hate)
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off (Ha!)
Heartbreakers gonna break, break, break, break, break (Mmm)
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake (And fake, and fake, and fake)
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off (I, I, I)

[Post-Chorus]
Shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
Shake it off, I shake it off (Hu, hu, hu!)
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off (Yeah!)
Shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off (You got to)
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off
I, I, I shake it off, I shake it off

General Information
Album1989
ReleasedAugust 14, 2014
RecordedFebruary 15, 2014
StudioConway (Los Angeles)
MXM (Stockholm)
GenreSynth Pop
Dance Pop
Length3:39
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Max Martin
Shellback
ProducersMax Martin
Shellback
1989 CHRONOLOGY
All You Had To Do Was StayShake It OffI Wish You Would
Single Certification
Hidden Message
She danced to forget him
Single Artwork
Polaroid
Instagram Teaser
Music Video
Live Performance
Official Audio