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New Year's Day

Single (US Country Radio) | reputation (2017)

“New Year’s Day” is the album closer on Taylor’s sixth studio album, reputation (2017). It explores the flip side of the romanticism of a New Year’s Eve kiss, and is about how the one that sticks around the next day is the person that matters more.

Background

Taylor released her fifth studio album, 1989, in October 2014. Its synth-pop production transformed her sound and image from country-oriented to mainstream pop. The album was a massive commercial success, selling over five million copies in the U.S. within one year, and spawning three Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 singles. The BBC asserted that the success of 1989 solidified Taylor’s status as a global pop star.

In 2016, when Taylor was at the peak of overexposure, some of her rivals in the industry (including Scooter Braun, Kanye West and Justin Bieber) succeded in launching a worldwide hate campaign against her. As a result, Taylor disappeared from public view for an entire year and thought about quitting music for good. She became increasingly reticent on social media, having previously maintained an active presence with a large following, and avoided interactions with the press. She conceived her sixth studio album, reputation, as an answer to the media commotion surrounding her celebrity.

Lyrical Theme

The inspiration for the song’s lyrics came from a New Year’s Eve party at Taylor’s residence in London. Contrasting the prior rest of the album where Taylor takes many shots as various others, she creates a different image here — thankful for her past and ready to ‘clean up’ and move on in the future. The song uses a New Year’s party as a metaphor to discuss holding on to people and memories from both good and bad times. Taylor recognizes that when the “parties” in her life are over and the “new year” begins, such memories are all she will have left to hold on to and learn from:

«Two New Year’s Eve’s ago, I found myself in the midst of a very incredible 3 a.m. moment where you feel like you’re invincible and you end up like jumping in a pool in the winter. And you feel super untouchable in that moment. And then the next morning you feel very fragile. And you’re like, 'This is love! This is what love really is.' We all wanna find someone to kiss at midnight, that’s cool or whatever, but who’s gonna want to hang out with you the next day when you’re like ‘ADVIL OR NOTHING.’ So this is a song about real love and finding someone to hang out with on New Year’s Day.»

Taylor Swift
According to Taylor, there are two lines in this song that she had been saving for a long time, for the right moment. The first one is, “Please don’t ever become a stranger whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.” And the other one is, “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you.”

Hits Daily Double wrote that “New Year’s Day” was originally only going to appear on the deluxe edition of reputation, but after that was scrapped, it was added to the standard edition.

Composition

Musically, the song is reminiscent of Taylor’s older tracks, with sparse production and simply guitar and piano as backing. Producer Jack Antonoff has said that “New Year’s Day” was the quicketst song to record on the album — they only recorded it once.

«It was the quickest [song to record]. If you listen to the piano on that record, you can hear me moving around. You hear things clicking. Those are the ‘scratch takes’ — we did that very quickly. It came out in that sort of goofy Hollywood version of how music is written, where it comes out of moments of inspiration. Part of the process is you do that [scratch take], and then you do it for real. But we just sat there: That’s the song. You want a song to sound like itself. You don’t want to get the perfect tune. You don’t want to get the absolute perfect vocal take or the perfect panning or compression. You just want it to sound like itself. You want to feel like you’re home within the song. […] I don’t know what we would be thinking if we tried to fuck with it. I’m so proud of it because, personally, I think it’s some sort of hint at the future.»

Jack Antonoff

Release

Big Machine Records promoted “New Year’s Day” to US country radio on November 15, 2017, as a promotional single. The label then officially released the song to US country radio stations on November 27, 2017, after positive feedback from several country radio stations regarding Taylor’s performance on the “Tonight Show.” Reaction to the song’s country airplay was mixed, given Taylor’s announcement that she had abandoned her country roots to embrace mainstream pop in 2014. Radio stations including Chicago’s WUSN and Houston’s KKBQ, who lobbied to get the song played at their station, were receptive of “New Year’s Day”. Other country stations were more reserved; a representative of Massachusetts’s WBWL commented: “Essentially, I believe that [Swift] has moved on from the country genre…As she has moved on, our core country listeners have moved on from [Swift], so I’ll lay off of it for now…and it’s not fair to add a pop song when great artists are waiting their turn.”

Live Performances

Prior to the album’s release, Taylor premiered a recorded live performance of the song on the ABC series Scandal, broadcast on November 9, 2017. The performance had taken place at her Holiday House in Watch Hill, Rhode Island in October 2017, as part of the fan-exclusive “reputation Secret Sessions.” On November 13, 2017, Taylor performed “New Year’s Day” during an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in tribute to host Jimmy Fallon’s recently passed mother.

“New Year’s Day” was included on the set list of Taylor’s “reputation Stadium Tour” (2018), which she launched in support of reputation. During the concerts, she performed the song as part of a mash-up with “Long Live” — a song from her 2010 album Speak Now — on a piano. On April 23, 2019, she performed the song at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts during the “Time 100 Gala,” where she was honored as one of the “100 most influential people” of the year.

Critical Reception

“New Year’s Day” received widespread acclaim from contemporary critics, who highlighted its acoustic production which contrasts with the generally synth-heavy production of reputation, and commended the intricate lyrics. Pitchfork’s Jamieson Cox praised Taylor’s songwriting for “[conjuring] rich scenes with just a handful of lines”. BBC Music‘s Will Gompertz praised the song’s production for highlighting Taylor’s vocals, unburdened by heavy electronics: “you hear a singer who can communicate feeling and thought with touching depth and sincerity.” Retrospectively, New York‘s Nate Jones considered “New Year’s Day” the best song on reputation. Jane Song from Paste noted Taylor’s lyrical maturity, pointing out similarities between “New Year’s Day” and previous songs “Enchanted” and “Mine” from Taylor’s 2010 album Speak Now. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone similarly commented on her maturity: “It captures the romance of mundane domestic details…This is the kind of song she could keep writing into her forties and fifties.”

Commercial Performance

“New Year’s Day” was the fourth single off the album and was released to country radio on November 27, 2017. It debuted at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart dated December 9, 2017. It was her 41st chart entry, and her first since her collaboration with Tim McGraw on “Highway Don’t Care” in 2013. The same week, it debuted at No. five on the Billboard Country Digital Song Sales chart, her 33rd top-ten entry. “New Year’s Day” later peaked at No. 33 and No. 41 on the Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts, respectively.

Interpolation

American singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo interpolated “New Year’s Day” on her song “1 step forward, 3 steps back” which appears on her debut studio album, SOUR (2021). Taylor is Olivia’s biggest role model.

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
There’s glitter on the floor after the party
Girls carrying their shoes down in the lobby
Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor
You and me from the night before, but

[Chorus]
Don’t read the last page
But I stay when you’re lost, and I’m scared
And you’re turning away
I want your midnights
But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day

[Verse 2]
You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi
I can tell that it’s gonna be a long road
I’ll be there if you’re the toast of the town, babe
Or if you strike out and you’re crawling home

[Chorus]
Don’t read the last page
But I stay when it’s hard, or it’s wrong
Or we’re making mistakes
I want your midnights
But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day

[Post-Chorus]
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
And I will hold on to you

[Bridge]
Please don’t ever become a stranger
Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere
Please don’t ever become a stranger
Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere

[Verse 3]
There’s glitter on the floor after the party
Girls carrying their shoes down in the lobby
Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor
You and me forevermore

[Chorus]
Don’t read the last page
But I stay when it’s hard, or it’s wrong
Or we’re making mistakes
I want your midnights
But I’ll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year’s Day

[Post-Chorus]
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you
And I will hold on to you

[Outro]
Please don’t ever become a stranger (To the memories, they will hold on to you)
Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere (Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you)
Please don’t ever become a stranger (Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you)
Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere (I will hold on to you)

General Information
Albumreputation
ReleasedNovember 9, 2017
Recorded2017
StudioRough Customer (Brooklyn)
GenreSinger-Songwriter
Length3:55
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Jack Antonoff
ProducersJack Antonoff
Taylor Swift
REPUTATION CHRONOLOGY
Call It What You WantNew Year’s Day
Handwritten Lyrics
Single Artwork
Live Performance
Official Audio