Cruel Summer (Taylor Swift song)

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"Cruel Summer"
Song by Taylor Swift
from the album Lover
StudioElectric Lady (New York City)
  • Jack Antonoff
  • Taylor Swift
Lover track listing
20 tracks
  1. "I Forgot That You Existed"
  2. "Cruel Summer"
  3. "Lover"
  4. "The Man"
  5. "The Archer
  6. "I Think He Knows"
  7. "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince"
  8. "Paper Rings"
  9. "Cornelia Street"
  10. "Death by a Thousand Cuts"
  11. "London Boy"
  12. "Soon You'll Get Better" (featuring Dixie Chicks)
  13. "False God"
  14. "You Need to Calm Down"
  15. "Afterglow"
  16. "Me!" (featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco)
  17. "It's Nice to Have a Friend"
  18. "Daylight"
Target and Japan deluxe edition bonus tracks (voice memos)
  1. "I Forgot That You Existed" (piano/vocal)
  2. "Lover" (piano/vocal)
Audio video
"Cruel Summer" on YouTube

"Cruel Summer" is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, from her seventh studio album Lover (2019). Swift wrote the song with Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent, and produced it with Antonoff. As the second track on the album, it was recorded in 2018 at Electric Lady Studios, New York City. "Cruel Summer" is a breezy synth-pop and industrial pop song with swirling synths, robotic voice effects and distorted vocals. Lyrically, it describes Swift's intense and painful experience while falling for a summer romance.

"Cruel Summer" received critical acclaim upon release, with praise towards the infectious melody and ethereal production, often being noted as an album highlight and one of Swift's best pop songs. Upon the release of Lover, "Cruel Summer" debuted and peaked at number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of seven top-forty entries from the album. It peaked inside the top-ten in Singapore and Sweden, top-twenty in Malaysia and New Zealand, and the top-thirty in several other official charts worldwide. In their year-end best music lists, Billboard and Rolling Stone named the song as one of the top-ten best songs of 2019, with the latter naming it the third best song of Swift's career.


The song was first teased as one of the easter eggs in the music video for "You Need to Calm Down", the second single from Lover. In the star-studded video, Adam Lambert appears to be giving Ellen DeGeneres a tattoo on her arms; the tattoo reads "Cruel Summer". Fans surmised that it could be the title of a track on Lover.[1]

Termed by Swift as a song about a "summer romance", "Cruel Summer" sees Swift describing an uncertain romantic relationship, with elements of pain and desperation in it.[2] It portrays the challenges faced by pop stars in the public spotlight.[3] The vulnerability of the song's lyrics has drawn comparisons to "Delicate", the fifth track on Swift's 2017 album Reputation,[3] while the song's Americana theme has been compared to that of "Getaway Car", the ninth Reputation track.[4] In the audio recordings from Lover Secret Sessions, a series of album-listening parties hosted by Swift, she explained that:

This song is one that I wrote about the feeling of a summer romance, and how often times a summer romance can be layered with all these feelings of pining away and sometimes even secrecy. It deals with the idea of being in a relationship where there's some element of desperation and pain in it, where you're yearning for something that you don't quite have yet, it's just right there, and you just can't reach it.

— Swift, "Taylor Swift Shares Intimate Details of 'Lover' Songs During Secret Session", iHeartRadio[2]

Billboard's Heran Mamo opined that the song's lyrics see Swift "wrestling with strong feelings", where they paint "the picture of an emotional night out".[5] Justin Styles of The Ringer wrote that the song tells a "more humanizing version" of Swift's "ill-fated period three years ago", adding that Swift sings about "falling in love with current boyfriend Joe Alwyn while her public life was in shambles".[6] Anna Gaca, writing for Pitchfork, called the song a "drama-free delight" with "magnetic pink glow".[7] Marcus Jones, writing for Entertainment Weekly, commented that the song's title could be a reference to the compilation album of the same name by GOOD music, a record label owned by American rapper Kanye West.[8] The Spinoff pointed out that Swift's vocals in "Cruel Summer" are "most notable for the modern country cadence".[9]


Alongside Swift and frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff, "Cruel Summer" also features writing credits from American singer-songwriter Annie Clark, professionally known as St. Vincent (pictured). Clark also contributed guitar instrumentals to the song's production.

"Cruel Summer" has been described as a dreamy, melancholy, synth-pop and industrial pop song,[10][11][12] with a "ranting" bridge,[3] driven by a pulsating, throbbing "synth-swirl",[9][13] robotic voice effects,[14] distorted vocals[11] and a hook that consists of a long, high, fluctuating "ooooh".[15] The song has a fast tempo of 170 beats per minute with a common time signature of 4/4. It is played in the key of A Major and follows a chord progression of A-C#m-F#m-D.[16][17] "Cruel Summer" was written by Swift, Jack Antonoff and St. Vincent,[18] with a "burbling" production from Swift and Antonoff;[6] St. Vincent also took part in the production of the song, by playing the guitar.[19]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, "Cruel Summer" was acclaimed by critics, with compliments towards the song's "ethereal" and "infectious" production. In his "critic's pick" review, Jon Caramanica of The New York Times commended the song for its "thick, ethereal" pop production and praised Swift's signature vocal motifs such as the "question-mark syllables" and the "hard-felt smears".[20] Mikael Wood of the Los Angeles Times proclaimed "Cruel Summer" to be the best song off of Lover, stating "Agony and ecstasy as only Swift at her best can render them: 'It’s new, the shape of your body / It’s blue, the feeling I’ve got,' she sings in a razor-sharp, industrial-pop banger about finding love in a hopeless place. The part of the bridge where Swift shrieks about the devil might be the punkest thing you’ll hear all year".[21] Alex Abad-Santos, writing for Vox, listed "Cruel Summer" as one of his top-three best Lover tracks, writing that the song is an "aquatic robot bop" featuring "wobbly" synths.[22] The Spinoff stated that Swift "absolutely pulls it off", comparing it to the Bananarama's 1984 hit of the same name.[9] Writing for The Ringer, Justin Sayles praised the song as a "better rebuke of her personal drama than anything on her last album [Reputation]", and added that Swift "shakes off the bad vibes" with "Cruel Summer"; Sayles named it Swift's "most infectious song since that run of singles from 1989", and opined that song "sets the tone" for the "warmer, more inviting vibes" of Lover.[6] Also calling it "infectious", Nick Levine of NME termed the track as a "brilliant pop song".[23] Natalia Barr, writing for Consequence of Sound, highlighted Swift's vocal delivery in the song's bridge ("He looks up, grinning like a devil"), calling it "simultaneously funny, agonizing, and thrilling, and needs to be created into a viral YouTube loop immediately". Barr further labeled "Cruel Summer" as one of the "most perfect" pop songs of 2019.[24]

In 2019, Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone ranked "Cruel Summer" as Swift's third best song in her discography.[25] Rolling Stone further placed "Cruel Summer" at number four on its list of "the 50 best songs of 2019",[26] while Billboard placed it at number 10 on its list of "the 100 best songs of 2019".[27]

Commercial performance[edit]

Upon the release of Lover, "Cruel Summer" debuted and peaked inside the top-thirty of several official charts worldwide. In the United States, "Cruel Summer" debuted and peaked at number 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, dated September 7, 2019; it is one of the seven tracks from Lover to reach the top 40 of the Hot 100.[28] The song stayed on the Hot 100 for two weeks as an album track.[29] The song debuted at number eight in Singapore[30] and number 10 in Sweden,[31] and reached the top 20 in Ireland,[32] Malaysia[33] and New Zealand.[34] It further peaked inside the top 30 in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Tidal.[35]

  • Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer
  • Jack Antonoff – producer, songwriter, programmer, recording engineer, drums, keyboards, vocoder
  • St. Vincent – songwriter, guitar
  • Michael Riddleberger – drums
  • John Hanes – mix engineer
  • Serban Ghenea – mixer
  • Laura Sisk – recording engineer
  • John Rooney – assistant recording engineer
  • Jon Sher – assistant recording engineer


Chart (2019) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[36] 22
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[37] 28
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[38] 84
Ireland (IRMA)[32] 20
Malaysia (RIM)[33] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[34] 20
Portugal (AFP)[39] 94
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[40] 70
Singapore (RIAS)[30] 8
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[41] 100
Sweden Heatseeker (Sverigetopplistan)[31] 10
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[42] 27
US Billboard Hot 100[43] 29

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Various August 23, 2019 Republic [44]


  1. ^ Bruner, Raisa (July 23, 2019). "Here's Your Guide to the References in Taylor Swift's "You Need to Calm Down" Video". Time. Retrieved June 29, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Mastrogiannis, Nicole (August 24, 2019). "Taylor Swift Shares Intimate Details of 'Lover' Songs During Secret Session". iHeart Radio. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  3. ^ a b c Bruner, Raisa (2019-08-23). "Let's Anazlye the Lyrics to Every Song on Taylor Swift's Lover". Time. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  4. ^ "Taylor Swift's Lover review: A spectrum of emotions that lives up to". Metro. 2019-08-23. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  5. ^ Mamo, Heran (2019-09-06). "Taylor Swift's 'Cruel Summer' Lyrics". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  6. ^ a b c Sayles, Justin (2019-08-23). "Taylor Swift Shakes Off the Bad Vibes With "Cruel Summer"". The Ringer. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  7. ^ Gaca, Anna (August 26, 2019). "Taylor Swift: Lover". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  8. ^ Jones, Marcus (August 23, 2019). "A track-by-track breakdown of Taylor Swift's new album 'Lover'". Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  9. ^ a b c "The Spinoff reviews all 18 songs on Taylor Swift's Lover". The Spinoff. 2019-08-26. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  10. ^ Wood, Mikael (August 25, 2019). "Taylor Swift's 'Lover': All 18 songs, ranked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  11. ^ a b O'Connor, Roisin (August 23, 2019). "Taylor Swift: Her 100 album tracks–ranked". The Independent. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  12. ^ Zaleski, Annie (August 26, 2019). "Taylor Swift is done proving herself on the resonant Lover". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  13. ^ Wood, Mikael (2019-08-24). "Review: Taylor Swift's 'Lover' courts — gasp! — adults with grown-up emotional complexity". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  14. ^ Schilz, Libby (August 26, 2019). "The many sounds of Taylor Swift's new album "Lover"". The Daily Nebraskan. Retrieved 2020-06-01.
  15. ^ McCormick, Neil (2019-08-23). "Taylor Swift, Lover, review: zippy, feminist electropop about young love – and watching rugby down the pub". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  16. ^ "Cruel Summer Sheet Music".
  17. ^ "Key & BPM/Tempo of Cruel Summer by Taylor Swift".
  18. ^ Aubrey, Elizabeth (2019-08-22). "St Vincent has worked with Taylor Swift on a new song, 'Cruel Summer'". NME. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  19. ^ Lipshutz, Jason (2019-08-23). "Taylor Swift's 'Lover' Analysis: On The Free-Spirited Album, She Does What She Wants, When She Wants". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  20. ^ Caramanica, Jon (2019-08-23). "Taylor Swift Emerges From the Darkness Unbroken on 'Lover'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  21. ^ Wood, Mikael (2019-08-25). "Taylor Swift's 'Lover': All 18 songs, ranked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  22. ^ Abad-Santos, Alex (2019-08-23). "The 3 best songs on Taylor Swift's new album, Lover". Vox. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  23. ^ Levine, Nick (2019-08-23). "Taylor Swift – 'Lover' review". NME. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  24. ^ Barr, Natalia (2019-08-26). "Album Review: Taylor Swift Takes the High Road on the More Mature Lover". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  25. ^ Sheffield, Rob (December 12, 2019). "All 153 of Taylor Swift's Songs, Ranked". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  26. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan; Blistein, Jon; Dolan, Jon; Doyle, Patrick; Ehrlich, Brenna; Exposito, Suzy; Freeman, Jon; Grow, Kory; Hermes, Will; Holmes, Charles; Hudak, Joseph; Klinkenberg, Brendan; Leight, Elias; Martoccio, Angie; Sheffield, Rob; Shaffer, Claire; Shteamer, Hank; Spanos, Brittany (December 6, 2019). "The 50 Best Songs of 2019". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  27. ^ "The 100 Best Songs of 2019: Staff List". Billboard. December 11, 2019. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  28. ^ Trust, Gary (2019-09-03). "Every Song From Taylor Swift's 'Lover' Album Charts On The Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  29. ^ "Taylor Swift Billboard Hot 100 History". Billboard. Retrieved 2020-04-30.
  30. ^ a b "RIAS International Top Charts Week 35". Recording Industry Association (Singapore). Archived from the original on September 5, 2019.
  31. ^ a b "Veckolista Heatseeker, vecka 35". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  32. ^ a b "IRMA – Irish Charts". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  33. ^ a b "Top 20 Most Streamed International & Domestic Singles In Malaysia" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Malaysia. Recording Industry Association of Malaysia. Retrieved September 12, 2019.
  34. ^ a b "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. September 2, 2019. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  35. ^ "Lover / Taylor Swift". Tidal. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  36. ^ " – Taylor Swift – Cruel Summer". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  37. ^ "Taylor Swift Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  38. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Czech). Hitparáda – Digital Top 100 Oficiální. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Change the chart to CZ – SINGLES DIGITAL – TOP 100 and insert 201935 into search. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  39. ^ " – Taylor Swift – Cruel Summer". AFP Top 100 Singles. Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  40. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  41. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Slovak). Hitparáda – Singles Digital Top 100 Oficiálna. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Select SINGLES DIGITAL - TOP 100 and insert 201935 into search. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  42. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  43. ^ "Taylor Swift Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved September 7, 2019.
  44. ^ "Cruel Summer". Spotify. August 23, 2019. Retrieved September 1, 2019.

External links[edit]