11. Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
The big reason why I like Taylor Swift’s 1989 album so much is that it doesn’t try to do everything all at once, like so many American pop stars do. Producer Max Martin maintains a remarkably consistent sound from start to finish, with no cameo appearances or interrupting rappers to derail the entire thing. It’s simple, sleek pop music exceptionally made, and “Blank Space” is the best of the lot. I could write and write about the track, how Swift is wryly poking fun at herself and her reputation of going through guys like Kleenex (“I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”), but to be honest, the one definitive piece about the song was written here, in which it’s noted that Swift has probably achieved peak popularity with this song, that moment where she can do no wrong, what’s been described as, “a mix of world-conquering swagger and inevitable obsolescence,” where she can get away with singing about herself in narcissistic, “meta” fashion right before the world becomes sick of her act. “Blank Space” is that moment. Musically, though, it’s another piece of brilliance by Martin, making inspired use of the underused “no-bass” tactic that made “When Doves Cry” and “Faith” pop classics. All Swift does is take that eephus pitch and clobber it out of the park with her distinct personality and vocal phrasing, her little “mm”s in the choruses the clincher. This’ll be a pop song, and pop culture moment, that’ll be very tough for Swift to top.