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You Need to Calm Down

Single | Lover (2019)

“You Need to Calm Down” is the second single from Taylor’s seventh studio album, Lover (2019). It sees her addressing various detractors who post hurtful comments online, following themes of self-love and being true to one’s identity. It was her second collaboration with producer Joel Little.
“You Need to Calm Down” acts as Taylor’s sassy response to internet trolls that drag her and others. It’s poppy, infectious, and makes a case for positivity.

Background and Composition

On April 26, 2019, the title of the song was teased in the intro for the music video for “ME!” when Brendon Urie shouted the title in French. Later, it was revealed an “old-timey, 1940s-sounding instrumental version” of the song played in the background in the scene. On June 13, 2019, Taylor announced on a livestream on Instagram that her upcoming album’s second single, entitled “You Need to Calm Down”, was to be released at midnight on June 14.

A lyric video for the song was released together with the song on YouTube. The video contained several easter eggs, including changing the word “glad” to GLAAD, and highlighting “EA” letters as a reference to the Equality Act. The references followed Taylor’s donation to GLAAD in support of Pride Month, and her Change.org petition for the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act. The petition has attracted more than 500,000 signatures, including from Democrats such as Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Following the release of the song, GLAAD reported an “influx” of donations in the amount of $13, a reference to Taylor’s favorite number. A vertical video premiered exclusively on Spotify on June 24, 2019.

A remix for the song by British electronic music band Clean Bandit was released on August 20, 2019.

Lyrical Theme

“You Need to Calm Down” finds Taylor addressing various detractors who post hurtful comments online, following themes of self-love and being true to one’s identity which previously appeared on “ME!” from April 2019. In the second verse, Taylor shows her support for the LGBTQ+ community, following a June 2019 letter to Senator Lamar Alexander, as well as a petition she created to fight for legal equality among all people, regardless of sexuality or gender. Taylor told Beats 1:

«It’s about how I’ve observed a lot of different people in our society who just put so much energy and effort into negativity, and it just made me feel like, 'You need to just calm down, like you’re stressing yourself out. This seems like it’s more about you than what you’re going off about. Like, just calm down.»

Taylor Swift
For context, Taylor has talked a little about the impact social media has had on her. In her 2019 Entertainment Weekly interview, she candidly mused: “Our priorities can get messed up existing in a society that puts a currency on curating the way people see your life. Social media has given people a way to express their art. I use it to connect with fans. But on the downside you feel like there are 3 trillion new invisible hoops that you have to jump through, and you feel like you’ll never be able to jump through them all correctly. I — along with a lot of my friends and fans — am trying to figure out how to navigate living my life and not just curating what I want people to think living my life is. I’m not always able to maintain a balance, and I think that’s important for everyone to know about. We’re always learning, and that’s something that I also had to learn — that I’ve got to be brave enough to learn. Learning in public is so humiliating sometimes…. Do I feel more balanced in my life than I ever have before? Um, probably yeah. But is that permanent? No. And I think being okay with that has put me in a bit of a better position.”

Music Video

A music video for the song was released on June 17, 2019 after its official premiere on Good Morning America. It features cameos from several LGBTQ+ celebrities, including Hayley Kiyoko, Laverne Cox, the cast of Queer Eye, and Todrick Hall, who co-executive produced the video. At the end of the video, Katy Perry appears in the midst of a food fight, signifying the end of her “feud” with Taylor. Taylor opened up about their reconciliation:

«[Katy] and I have really been on good terms for a while. She sent me a really nice note and an olive branch — like an actual olive branch — to my tour when it started, the 'reputation Stadium Tour', a while ago. From that point on, we’ve been on good terms. We saw each other at a party and walked up to each other and hugged it out and talked about things. Then saw each other again and hung out at another party. It was just like something felt so much lighter about my life when things became really good between us. You know, she and I have been fine for a while and really on good terms but we didn’t know if we were ever gonna really tell people about it. We wanted to make sure that was solid between us before we ever made the public aware.»

Taylor Swift
You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift (2019)
You Need to Calm Down by Taylor Swift (2019)

Critical Reception

Music critics were divided with “You Need to Calm Down”. Dan Stubbs from NME called the song “withering in its measured response”, concluding it was “an infectious, bite-size pop package”. Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club wrote that the song “clearly and refreshingly combats homophobia and anti-gay bias”. Maeve McDermott and Joshua Bote, writing for USA Today, considered the song “an improvement” over the previous single “ME!“, and “a more promising example of what fans can expect” from the album. Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times also concurred that the song was “a big creative improvement” over “ME!”, while commenting the “explicit pro-gay message is certainly welcome, but it also feels just the slightest bit cynical”. In regard to sceptical comments from conservative fans about her LGBTQ+ allyship, Taylor said:

«I pretty much know that anything I do is going to have some people who just hate it. I’m trying to make things that will make my fans happy, that will make my fans feel accepted, supported and loved. If people want to criticize me and be constructive, I’m always open to learning. I don’t think you are ever doing things perfectly, I think you always have room to improve and learn. I want to constantly learn how I can be a better ally. If criticism is constructive then I am all ears.»

Taylor Swift

Commercial Performance

In the United States, “You Need to Calm Down” debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the second top two hit from Lover. Like in the case of lead single “ME!”, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus blocked “You Need to Calm Down” from reaching the top spot on the chart. However, the song garnered several chart records for Taylor: With six songs reaching the number-two spot, she tied Madonna as the artist with the most number two hits on the chart, having previously reaching the spot with “ME!”, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” (2017), “I Knew You Were Trouble.” (2013), “Today Was a Fairytale” (2010) and “You Belong with Me” (2009). The song became Taylor’s twenty-fourth top 10 hit, which is the fifth-most among female artists in the chart’s history, behind Madonna (38), Rihanna (31), Mariah Carey (28) and Janet Jackson (27). The single is also her sixteenth song to debut inside the top 10 of the chart, which is the second most top-ten debuts in the chart’s history, only behind Drake, who has 20 top-ten debuts, making Taylor the first and only female artist with 16 top-ten debuts in the Hot 100 history.

Accolades

“You Need to Calm Down” was nominated for nine awards at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, including the category “Video of the Year,” becoming the most nominated video of the night. It is also Taylor’s second victory for “Video of the Year” following “Bad Blood” in 2015, joining Beyoncé and Rihanna as the only female acts to win the category twice and the fourth artist overall. It also won “Video for Good.” The song was nominated for “Best Pop Solo Performance” at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, becoming her third nod in the category, following “Shake It Off” (2015) and “Blank Space” (2016).

Impact

On June 1, 2019, Taylor initiated a petition on Change.org, titled “Support the Equality Act”, in favour of the United States Senate’s support in passing the pro-LGBT “Equality Act” in the country’s Congress; the act bans discrimination “on the basis of the sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition of an individual, as well as because of sex-based stereotypes”. A message urging the viewers to sign the petition appears at the end of the “You Need to Calm Down” music video; it states: “Let’s show our pride by demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally. Please sign my petition for Senate support of the Equality Act on Change.org”. As of April 12, 2020, the petition had over 704,000 signatures, including those from Democratic senators and presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Ed Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tim Kaine, Cory Brooker and Beto O’Rourke.

The release of “You Need to Calm Down” further led to a spike in individual donations to GLAAD, an American LGBT non-governmental organization, as the lyrics of the song namechecks the organization: “why are you mad when you could be GLAAD?”. In response, GLAAD started a Facebook fundraiser for fans to support the advocacy work for Pride month, with $1300 as a goal since 13 is Swift’s lucky number. Sarah Kate, the CEO and President of GLAAD, stated: “Taylor Swift continues to use her platform to speak out against discrimination and create a world where everyone can live the life they love. GLAAD is so thankful for her donation to support our advocacy efforts and for her ongoing work to speak out for what is fair, just, and LGBTQ inclusive. In today’s divisive political and cultural climate, we need more allies like Taylor, who send positive and uplifting messages to LGBTQ people everywhere”.

«I just want to say that this is a fan-voted award, so I first want to say thank you to the fans because in this video several points were made, so you voting for this video means that you want a world where we're all treated equally under the law, regardless of who we love, regardless of how we identify. At the end of this video, there is a petition for the Equality Act, which basically just says we all deserve equal rights under the law. I want to thank everyone who signed that petition because it now has a half a million signatures, which is five times the amount that it would need to warrant a response from the White House.»

Taylor Swift, in her "Video of the Year" speech at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards.
On August 26, 2019, Taylor won the “Video of the Year” award for the “You Need to Calm Down” music video at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards; in her speech, she urged the audience and the viewers to sign her petition, and pointed out that the White House has not responded to the petition despite having “five times the amount of signatures that it would need to warrant a response”. The televised speech led to a surge in the number of signatures on the petition.The next day, the White House issued a statement. Judd Deere, the White House deputy Press Secretary, stated that “the Trump administration absolutely opposes discrimination of any kind and supports the equal treatment of all; however, the House-passed bill in its current form is filled with poison pills that threaten to undermine parental and conscience rights”. “You Need to Calm Down” went on to become a gay anthem.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
You are somebody that I don’t know
But you’re taking shots at me like it’s Patrón
And I’m just like damn
It’s 7 am

Say it in the street, that’s a knock out
But you say it in a tweet, that’s a cop out
And I’m just like hey
Are you ok?

[Pre-Chorus 1]
And I ain’t trying to mess with your self expression
But I’ve learned the lesson that stressin’ and obsessing
‘Bout somebody else is no fun
And snakes and stones never broke my bones so

[Chorus]
Oh, you need to calm down
You’re being too loud
And I’m just like ohh
You need to just stop
Like can you just not
Step on my gown
You need to calm down

[Verse 2]
You are somebody that we don’t know
But you’re coming at my friends like a missile
Why are you mad?
When you could be Glaad
(When you could be Glaad)

Sunshine on the street at the parade
But you would rather be in the dark ages
Making that sign must’ve taken all night

[Pre-Chorus 2]
You just need to take several seats
And then try to restore the peace
And control your urges to scream
About the people you hate
‘Cause shade never made anybody less gay

[Chorus]
So oh, you need to calm down
You’re being too loud
And I’m just like ohh
You need to just stop
Like can you just not
Step on his gown
You need to calm down

[Bridge]
And we see you over there on the internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you out
We all know now
We all got crowns
You need to calm down

[Chorus]
Oh
You need to calm down (You need to calm down)
You’re being too loud (You’re being too loud)
And I’m just like ohh (Yeah)
You need to just stop (Can you stop?)
Like can you just not
Step on our gowns
You need to calm down

General Information
AlbumLover
ReleasedJune 14, 2019
GenreSynth Pop
Electro Pop
Length2:51
LabelRepublic Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Joel Little
ProducersJoel Little
Taylor Swift
LOVER CHRONOLOGY
False GodYou Need to Calm DownAfterglow
Single Certification
Single Artwork
Music Video
Live Performance
Lyric Video
Live Audio
Making of the Video