Hit Songs Deconstructed - Powerful Analytical Tools for the Music Industry

Shake It Off

Released as the lead single from her highly anticipated album 1989, Shake It Off finds Taylor Swift completing her transformation into a mainstream Pop superstar, all together forgoing her Country roots. This article explores one of the song’s many key qualities – the nature of the storyline and lyrics.

This article features a small number of highlights and takeaways from our Shake It Off Deconstructed Report. The full report provides you with a comprehensive analysis of what made the song a hit coupled with immediately actionable insights to help take your songwriting and producing skills to the next level. To read the full report, click here.

Released as the lead single from her highly anticipated album 1989, Shake It Off finds Taylor Swift completing her transformation into a mainstream Pop superstar, all together forgoing her Country roots.

Co-written with two of today’s hottest Pop hitmakers/producers Max Martin and Shellback, Shake It Off stands out amongst the majority of its mainstream contemporaries due to its straight-up Pop nature.  It doesn’t feature an infectious fusion of Hip Hop/Rap, R&B/Soul, Trap or Retro elements within the mix, which is indicative of so many of today’s chart-toppers.  And you know what?  It doesn’t need them.

Instead, Shake It Off relies on its meticulously well crafted nature to put it over the top.  This includes the featuring of numerous hooks, multiple “payoffs,” clever/universal lyrics, ultra-infectious melodies, and the perfect blend of repetition and contrast, to name a few of many.

What follows is an excerpt from our Shake It Off Deconstructed report that features one of these core characteristics – the nature of the storyline and associated lyrics.

Shake It Off features an inspiration/empowerment/perseverance lyrical theme that for the most part revolves around Taylor Swift’s own life circumstances.  Utilizing a plethora of detail, emotion and action based lyrics, the storyline is primed to connect and resonate with the listener on a profound, engaging level. What follows are some of the most important points derived from the nature of the storyline:

Universal Nature

Although the lyrics pertain directly to Swift, the overall message is easily adaptable to one’s own life, which enables the song as a whole to connect on a more profound level with the listener.  This is because there is no mention of specific names, dates, places, etc.

Additionally, the  subject matter is primed to connect with her younger demographic core, specifically in the sense that there’s a good chance that they’ve been through this, or are  in the midst of it (i.e. staying out too late, going on too many dates, etc…).

Clever Lyrics

Each section of the song features clever lyrics and/or clever lyrical interplay that helps to take the section, and the song for that matter, to the next level.  A perfect example is the dual meaning of the lyrics “gettin’ down” & “shake” and within the bridge:

“Gettin’ Down” (Bridge Part A)

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

Negative:  “…while you’ve been gettin’ down and out about the liars…”
Positive:  “…you could’ve been gettin’ down to this sick beat”

“Shake” (Bridge Part B)

First Stanza

Line 3:  My ex-man brought his new girlfriend
Line 4:  She’s like oh my God but I’m just gonna shake

Second Stanza

Line 5:  And to the fella over there with the hella good hair
Line 6:  Won’t you come on over baby we can shake, shake, shake

The first stanza relates to a negative situation.  Swift is at a party (we assume), and she sees her ex man with his new girlfriend, who happens to be really hot (cleverly insinuated by the “oh my God” phrase).  The phrase that follows, “but I’m just gonna shake,” communicates that she’s not going to let it get to her.

The second stanza shifts gears in a positive manner.  She “shakes off” her ex and his hot girlfriend by spotting “the fella over there with the hella good hair” (take note of the imagery), and invites him over to “shake.”  The interpretation of what “shake” means, be it dancing or hooking up, is completely subjective and up to the listener.

Clever Narrative Shift

Take note of the clever narrative shift that takes place within part A of the bridge.  Here, instead of talking about herself or others as is the case elsewhere throughout the song, Swift shifts gears by communicating directly to the listener.  Not only does this provide the song with increased depth and engagement value, but it also delivers the inspirational/empowerment themed message on a more personal/direct level, which accentuates its ability to connect with the listener (i.e. OMG – Taylor Swift is speaking directly to ME!!!) particularly with the previously mentioned younger demographic.

Sectional Set-Ups

Specific lyrics within the pre-chorus and bridge part A cleverly act to set up the chorus and bridge part B sections that follow, respectively.  Most clever of all, take note of how the “…this sick beat” line with bridge part A doesn’t set up the LYRICS within part B, but the BACKING MUSIC (i.e. the drums).

Sectional Ties

Another one of the clever lyrical aspects of the song is the manner in which the structure of specific lyrics within one particular section tie in with those in a different, independent section.  Examples of where this is put into effect include verse one / verse two, chorus part A / both verse sections, and bridge part B / first verse.

Uplifting Nature

The lyrics are centered on persevering in the face of adversity.  Anyone who is looking for an emotional pick-me-up, this song is for them!

Contrasting Themes / Emotional Flow

What really enables the lyrics to work on a highly effective level is the manner in which specific sections focus on the negative (e.g. the things that people say about Taylor Swift), while others focus on the positive (e.g. shaking it off).  Together, they provide the overall storyline with increased dimension and impact.   Note the following:

  • Verse 1:  Negative
  • Pre-Chorus:  Positive
  • Chorus (Group 1, first stanza):  Negative
  • Chorus (Group 2, first stanza):  Positive
  • Chorus (Part A, Group 1, second stanza):  Negative
  • Chorus (Part A, Group 2, second stanza):  Positive
  • Chorus (Part B – chorus 2 & 3):  Positive
  • Verse 2:  (First two lines within each stanza):  Positive
  • Verse 2:  (Last two lines within each stanza):  Negative
  • Bridge (Part A):  Negative to positive
  • Bridge (Part B):  Negative to positive

Hit Songs Deconstructed PRO subscribers can access the full report by clicking here.  Not a PRO subscriber?  Click here to find out what a PRO subscription includes.

Back to Top