Home » Albums » Lover » Lover Songs » Cruel Summer

Cruel Summer

Lover (2019)

“Cruel Summer” is track two and a fan favorite from Taylor’s seventh studio album, Lover (2019). It  narrates the fragility and uncertainty at the beginning of her relationship with her partner Joe Alwyn. Both fans and critics alike have stated that it would have been an excellent choice for the album’s lead single.

One of the first times Taylor and Joe Alwyn met was at the MET Gala in May 2016. She was dating DJ Calvin Harris at the time and started seeing Tom Hiddleston shortly after. The fling between Taylor and Joe likely began soon after, lining up with the happenings of summer 2016. In “Cruel Summer”, Taylor seems to suggest that she secretly fell in love with Joe, who she describes as a “bad boy,” during what was supposed to be a strictly physical relationship. Taylor’s deluxe release of Lover comes accompanied with a personal journal, where she describes the summer of 2016 as “the apocalypse,” summarizing how painful that time was for her for many reasons.

BACKGROUND AND PRODUCTION
Taylor wrote the song with Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent, and produced it with Antonoff in 2018 at Electric Lady Studios, New York City. “Cruel Summer” is a breezy synth-pop, industrial pop and electropop song with swirling synths, robotic voice effects and distorted vocals. Lyrically, it describes Taylor’s intense and painful experience while falling for a summer romance. She told iHeartRadio:

“This song is one that I wrote about the feeling of a summer romance, and how often times a summer romance can be layered with all these feelings of, like, pining away and sometimes even secrecy. It deals with the idea of being in a relationship where there’s some element of desperation and pain in it, where you’re yearning for something that you don’t quite have yet, it’s just right there, and you just, like, can’t reach it. So, this has some of my favorite lyrics on it, and it was so fun to write this. Jack and Annie [Clark] did the track and a lot of the instrumentation, and I did the topline in whatever language that is. A topline is all the notes and the lyrics you hear. So whatever you would sing, that is what I wrote on this. It was just so fun to write this one and I really love this one. Jack and I like to do ranting bridges. Like in ‘Out Of The Woods‘ where the bridge is the biggest moment of the song — we revisited that concept.” — Taylor Swift

NME asked co-writer Annie Clark (St. Vincent) about the creation of “Cruel Summer” in a 2021 interview. She recalled: “Gosh, it was really casual. Just some people in a room jammin.”

CRITICAL RECEPTION
“Cruel Summer” received critical acclaim upon release, with praise towards the infectious melody and ethereal production, often being noted as an album highlight and one of Taylor’s best pop songs. In their year-end best music lists, Billboard and Rolling Stone named the song as one of the top-ten best songs of 2019, with the latter naming it the third best song of Taylor’s career: “Like so many songs in the Taylor Swift pantheon, ‘Cruel Summer’ sprints on the knife-edge of a crush, reckless, anticipating the wreck, but compelled and consumed by capital-F ‘feeling.’ There’s an acknowledgement that we’ve been here before (‘Angels roll their eyes’), and even Swift seems exasperated, crying out in the bridge, ‘I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?’ But then the music cuts out, and from the dark comes a sound unlike anything Swift’s ever recorded — a raw, back-of-the-throat howl. It’s vintage Swift, a burst of mischief and desire, messy drama with a wink, yet it hits at fresh power, the thrill of hearing one of pop’s most underestimated chameleons daring you to wonder what she can’t do.”

CHART PERFORMANCE
Upon the release of Lover, “Cruel Summer” debuted and peaked at No. 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of seven top-forty entries from the album. It peaked inside the top-ten in Singapore and Sweden, top-twenty in Malaysia and New Zealand, and the top-thirty in several other official charts worldwide.

INTERPOLATION
American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo interpolated “Cruel Summer” on her hit single “deja vu” which appears on her debut studio album, SOUR (2021). Taylor is Olivia’s biggest role model.

Lyrics

[Intro]
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)

[Verse 1]
Fever dream high in the quiet of the night
You know that I caught it (Oh yeah, you’re right, I want it)
Bad, bad boy, shiny toy with a price
You know that I bought it (Oh yeah, you’re right, I want it)

[Pre-Chorus]
Killing me slow, out the window
I’m always waiting for you to be waiting below
Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes
What doesn’t kill me makes me want you more

[Chorus]
And it’s new, the shape of your body
It’s blue, the feeling I’ve got
And it’s ooh, whoa oh
It’s a cruel summer
It’s cool, that’s what I tell ’em
No rules in breakable heaven
But ooh, whoa oh
It’s a cruel summer
With you

[Verse 2]
Hang your head low in the glow of the vending machine
I’m not dying (Oh yeah, you’re right, I want it)
We say that we’ll just screw it up in these trying times
We’re not trying (Oh yeah, you’re right, I want it)

[Pre-Chorus 2]
So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife
I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone
Devils roll the dice, angels roll their eyes
And if I bleed, you’ll be the last to know

[Chorus]
Oh, it’s new, the shape of your body
It’s blue, the feeling I’ve got
And it’s ooh, whoa oh
It’s a cruel summer
It’s cool, that’s what I tell ’em
No rules in breakable heaven
But ooh, whoa oh
It’s a cruel summer
With you

[Bridge]
I’m drunk in the back of the car
And I cried like a baby coming home from the bar (Oh)
Said, “I’m fine,” but it wasn’t true
I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you
And I snuck in through the garden gate
Every night that summer just to seal my fate (Oh)
And I scream, “For whatever it’s worth
I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?”
He looks up, grinning like a devil

[Chorus]
It’s new, the shape of your body
It’s blue, the feeling I’ve got
And it’s ooh, whoa oh
It’s a cruel summer
It’s cool, that’s what I tell ’em
No rules in breakable heaven
But ooh, whoa oh
It’s a cruel summer
With you

[Outro]
I’m drunk in the back of the car
And I cried like a baby coming home from the bar (Oh)
Said, “I’m fine,” but it wasn’t true
I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you
And I snuck in through the garden gate
Every night that summer just to seal my fate (Oh)
And I scream, “For whatever it’s worth
I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?”
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)

General Information
AlbumLover
ReleasedAugust 23, 2019
StudioElectric Lady (New York City)
GenreSynth Pop
Electro Pop
Length2:58
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
Annie Clark
ProducersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
LOVER CHRONOLOGY
I Forgot That You ExistedCruel SummerLover
Single Certification
Official Audio
Handwritten Lyrics