Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”: A Production Analysis

Taylor Swift’s song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, written by Taylor Swift, Max Martin & Shellback, and produced by Scott Borchetta, Max Martin & Shellback, provides some interesting production ideas that aspiring (and current) producers can learn from.

Taylor Swift - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Single Cover

YouTube Official Music Video

One of the most interesting production ideas in the song is the use of changing dynamics to indicate different parts of the song. Of course songs should be dynamic, and good songs push and pull the dynamics to draw the listener in & create interest in the song.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” does this by changing the instrumentation and what the instrumentation is doing throughout the song.  There are no less than eighteen different parts to this song, broken down by instrumentation and dynamics.

  1. Intro – The tune starts with a single acoustic guitar, digitally warped with a few notes reversed & an interesting stereo knock on the guitar’s body to catch the listener’s attention.
  2. Verse 1 – Adds a kick drum. Still simplistic instrumentation to highlight the vocals that are telling the story.
  3. Verse 1, Part 2 – Halfway through the verse, some additional sound is added to the kick. No new instrumentation, but the kick simply has a different sound. Probably by adding another sound to what was originally triggered, or maybe a change in the EQ of the kick drum.
  4. Pre-Chorus – The part with the “Oooohs”. Add a bass playing straight 1/8th notes and hi-hat rhythm, that swells into
  5. Chorus 1 – Add background vocals, a huge snare, and additional guitar parts. The bass part changes from 1/8th notes to longer notes, with lots of space in between, basically the opposite of what you heard in the verse, which slightly swells to
  6. Chorus, Part 2 – Similar to the previous verse, the chorus gets added to in the second half, with additional melodic instrumentation.  This part of the chorus also includes a two-bar change in the rhythm of the song for “You go talk to your friends..”. Back to the original rhythm when you get to “But we are never…”. Probably my favorite part of the song.
  7. Turn Around – After the chorus, there’s a short turn-around of two measures that serves to take the song back to a lower dynamic level for verse 2.
  8. Verse 2 – Starts at the level the second half of verse one started, so it’s not just a repeat of verse 1, by adding the bass (again playing 1/8th notes). This verse is only half the length of the first, so we continue on the the
  9. Pre-Chorus 2 – The “Ooooh” part again, where there’s a hi-hat again, with some addition of delay on some of the vocal tracks, along with additional background vocals, which rises to
  10. Chorus 2 – Similar to chorus 1, but adds additional lead vocal ad libs, which swells (larger than last time) to the interesting
  11. Chorus 2, Part 2 – Two-bar rhythm change, plus some additional lead vocal ab libs. See Chorus 1, Part 2 above.
  12. Turn Around 2 – Actually the pre-chorus in dynamics and instrumentation, but there’s no downturn in  intensity until it swells to the
  13. Bridge – Takes out everything but the vocals, bass, and kick to start with. The acoustic guitar riff comes in with the high frequencies rolled off & phased/filtered, and gets louder/less equalized, and less phasey, until it gets to the
  14. Fall Off – Not really a “part” of a song, but the entire instrumentation falls off so it’s just the spoken “like, ever”. To put a fine point on the concept, which reverse cymbal rises into the climax
  15. Chorus 3 – All instrumentation, additional BGVs, lead vocal ad libs. The climax of the song
  16. Chorus 3/Outro – Adds more instrumentation, but nothing heavy-handed. Adds an almost club/dance snare track leading in tot his final chorus, along with a rhythmic keyboard part.
  17. Last line in Chorus – Climax is over, intensity decreases to just kick, vocals, BGVs, bass, and guitars, which ends the song with
  18. The Very Last Line – “Getting back together”, with no instrumentation.

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