Song of the Week: Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams Rebuild a Dynasty with “Castles Crumbling”

Song of the Week delves into the fresh songs we just can’t get out of our heads. Find these tracks and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist, and for our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams turn their attention to “Castles Crumbling.”

In 2017, Taylor Swift dropped reputation, which included the song “Call It What You Want” and the line “My castles crumbled overnight.” According to one of the newly unveiled vault tracks from Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), though, the crumbling had begun long before then.

On “Castles Crumbling,” which enlists Hayley Williams of Paramore for a verse, Swift puts herself back in the turmoil of 2010, when Speak Now was first released. By only her third album cycle, Swift was seeing the way the general public can turn on young artists, particularly young women: “I was held up so high, I used to be great/ They used to cheer when they saw my face/ Now, I fear I have fallen from grace,” sings Swift here in 2023.

While the gentler song might not immediately bring Williams’ octave-spanning vocals to mind, the performance we get feels more akin to the Paramore frontperson’s pandemic-era solo projects, Petals For Armor and FLOWERS for VASES/descansos. Williams proves that she can be a good fit on any song, sliding in easily alongside Swift and offering harmonies in the latter half of the track.

There’s a certain poignancy to hearing two women who have grown up and existed in the public eye for so long put themselves back in the headspace of a decade prior — both Swift and Williams have faced their share of unfair criticisms alongside the general misogyny still present in too many corners of the industry. Ahead of a string of tour dates in Europe together (tickets for which can be secured here), “Castles Crumbling” is a soft — but poignant — reclamation of the narrative.

Mary Siroky
Associate Editor

Honorable Mentions:

Perennial – “Dissolver”

Blistering, uncompromising, unpredictable, and a hell of a lot of fun, Perennial’s reworking of their 2017 track “Dissolver” is everything a summer punk rager should be. From the feedback of the intro through the cool-down, shuffling outro, “Dissolver” holds no punches. The pounding drums, guitar riffs, and wild vocal performances will have you to tasting the sweat of the mosh pit even when you’re listening alone. Simply put, it’s an absolute heater. — Jonah Krueger

Raw Poetic – “Ease Side”

The latest from Raw Poetic, the duo made up of lyricist Jason Moore and guitarist Patrick Fritz, plays it low-key. Instead of gunning for a summer banger, the groovy jazz-rap track dares you to take a second to breathe. “We don’t have to worry at all” Moore repeats over noodling guitar lines, lulling the listener into a state of security. By the end of the “Ease Side,” your guard will be down, your shoulders will feel lighter, and you’ll be counting your blessings. — J.K.

Audrey Nuna – “IdgaF”

In case you were wondering if Audrey Nuna gave a fuck, the rising artist is here to give a loud, clear answer. “IdgaF” finds Nuna strutting over a minimalist beat listing off the things she couldn’t care less about; it’s a boastful rap track on the offensive. Rather than showing off everything she has that others don’t, Nuna tears down her competition, detailing just how little her opponents matter to her — and it is completely, utterly irresistible. At less than two minutes in runtime, it’s a bop-and-a-half you’ll have on repeat. — J.K.

Benét – “Insensitive”

Sometimes you’re just mad crushing on someone, your heart is bursting through your chest, and you need to express that passion through a garage-rock pop-infused tune. “Insensitive” seems to be Richmond artist Benét celebrating their infatuation with another person, yet being met with resistance on the other end. But this is not a sad song; in fact, it makes you want to dance.

The track grooves through these sentiments with a candor as bright guitars ring in the background and a bouncy bass drives the rhythm. Benét’s mellow vocals glide on top of it with a gentle stubbornness as they sing, “I’ve been here before, yet I still want more.” There’s something so confident in the way they gracefully deliver that hook. Are they a masochist, a hopeless romantic? What you know for certain is that they are a certified simp. — André Heizer

Petey – “I’ll Wait”

Frenetic and cathartic, Petey’s “I’ll Wait” is the first taste of his upcoming album, titled USA. The lyrics contain expressions of stress and joy in equal measure as Petey jumps octaves whenever he sees fit, accompanied by a steady drumbeat throughout. For the high degree of energy this song begins at, it’s a wonder there’s anywhere else left to go — but if anyone would have been able to find it, it’s this indie artist worth watching. — M. Siroky

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