Taylor Swift‘s new promo single “State of Grace” has garnered her the best reviews of the Red era — it seems as though the critics unanimously agree that the song is startlingly self-assured and effective. Most cited the clear rock influence on the track, with several referencing U2 in particular (although we maintain that it sounds most like The Cranberries‘ “Dreams”). No critics claimed to have any idea what the album would actually sound like, given the far-ranging and schizophrenic impression these first five tracks have given, but if there was one thing everyone agreed on, it’s that “State of Grace” is one of Swift’s strongest offerings to date.
Read on to see what the critics thought of “State of Grace.”
:: The Los Angeles Times thought the track was Swift’s most arresting song yet, even if it also strays the least from Swift’s established sound: “It has a strong U2 streak to it, with feedback- and echo-drenched guitars and some of her most for-the-rafters vocals yet…It’s the least obviously “re-inventing” single from the album so far. Even though “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was an instantly meme-able pop monolith and “I Knew You Were Trouble” a hard left turn into electronics, this song might be the most effective.
:: MTV Buzzworthy noted the production and vocals, placing the song in the context of Swift’s other singles: While ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ was considerably more aggressive than the pop-tastic ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and countryfied ‘Red,’ Taylor’s ‘State Of Grace’ falls somewhere in the middle. Its sparkling production and powerhouse vocals definitely has the record in the realm of pop, but Taylor’s country twang isn’t too far behind either.”
:: Entertainment Weekly complimented how the song traded heavy-handed lyricism for a more sonically driven experience, wrapping up the post by writing simply, “I’m feeling this one.”: “On ‘State of Grace,’ which Swift released yesterday, she sounds heavily influenced by U2 (or even Switchfoot) — ethereal guitars and moody overtones ring out over a driving midtempo drum beat as she delivers a lyric you could imagine Bono singing: ‘This is a state of grace/This is a worthwhile fight/ Love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right.’ While Swift’s songs are usually quite lyrically driven (and this is a good thing), ‘State of Grace’ is more about the build — that dawning sense of triumphant wonder that accompanies love — and the the extended instrumental breaks provide a more forceful, mature impact than Swift’s standard sass.”
:: Spin smartly noted that “State of Grace” is likely the track that Rolling Stone had highlighted in their early preview of the album: “Her latest, ‘State of Grace,’ is the one Rolling Stone previously described as a ‘howling, U2-style epic with reverb-drenched guitars,’but what had gone unmentioned is how brutally effective it is. More ‘whoa-oh’-ing than literally ‘howling,’ but streaked with unexpected feedback, Swift recognizes that Joshua Tree-era U2 is as traditional now as country, anyway, and adapts its melodramatic uplift to her own first-person romantic observations. This time, as the title suggests, she’s blissed out, not out for revenge.”
:: Billboard thought that Swift’s sonic reconfiguring aligned her more with contemporary arena rock acts: “Pounding drums, throbbing guitar lines and elongated syllables mark the country star’s boldest foray into the all-encompassing arena rock of Muse, The Temper Trap and even U2. ‘Love is a ruthless game, unless you’re playing good and right,’ Swift concludes midway through a song that has sweeping emotion squarely in its crosshairs.”
:: VH1 also felt that the song belonged somewhere between her lead single and the other offerings from Red, but loved the gauzy guitars: “’State of Grace’ splits the difference between her poppy ‘Never Ever’ and the guitar-plucked ‘Begin Again.’ She keeps the uptempo drum from the former, but layers on reverb-drenched guitars to make it gauzy like a melodramatic nineties rock hit. And like the effort might actually slow down time, she carefully draws out her vowels when the chorus hit and she sings: ‘I never saw you coming, and I’ll never be the same.’”
:: The Detroit News raved about the epic production: “’State of Grace’ — the opening track on Red — feels like something of a game-changer for Swift, a big-time, grown-up rock anthem that feels like it’s wrapping its arms around the top row of the cheap seats. It’s like U2′s ‘City of Blinding Lights,’ and utilizes many of Edge’s tech-y guitar tricks; Swift is big enough at this point that she probably should have just gotten Edge to play on the song and call it a day. The song’s best bit comes in the second verse when the bass drops out entirely, a moment of solemnity as Swift sings, ‘we are alone, just you and me/ up in your room and our slates are clean.’ She’s creating moments of intimacy within the booming sonics of the song, and showing a flare for dynamics we didn’t know she had in her.