Sparks Fly (song)
|Single by Taylor Swift|
|from the album Speak Now|
|Released||July 18, 2011|
|Taylor Swift singles chronology|
"Sparks Fly" is a song written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift for her third studio album Speak Now (2010). Swift wrote the song when she was 16 years old, prior to the release of her debut single "Tim McGraw" in 2006. Following a 2007 live performance of the song, "Sparks Fly" grew in popularity among Swift's fanbase. While Speak Now was under production, she received requests from fans to include the song on the album. Produced by Swift and Nathan Chapman, the song was serviced to country radio in the United States by Big Machine Records on July 18, 2011, as the fifth single from Speak Now. A CD single was released on Swift's official store for a limited time on August 10, 2011.
"Sparks Fly" received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised it for its upbeat tempo. Others praised Swift's lyrics on the song and have claimed that the song is a crossover between country and pop. Following the release of Speak Now, the song debuted at number 17 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number 28 on the Canadian Hot 100, due to strong digital sales. After the song was released as a single, it re-entered the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 84. It peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of over 1,000,000 copies. "Sparks Fly" was used as the opening song for the Speak Now World Tour (2011–12). A music video for the song was released, featuring clips of various performances during the Speak Now World Tour.
Background and release
Swift began work on her third studio album Speak Now two years prior to its release in 2010. "Sparks Fly" was written by Swift when she was sixteen years old, prior the release of her eponymous album in 2006. She performed the song live during several bar shows "of forty and fifty people". A recorded live performance of the song during one of her concerts made its way onto the internet in 2007. The song became a favorite among Swift's fans, leading Swift to rework the song and include it on Speak Now after having so many requested for it to be included on the album. Of the song, Swift said that: "This is a song I wrote a few years ago and I have been working on it ever since. It's been awesome to see it change over the years. The fans have heard it before in concert, but there have been some really cool changes that I am very proud of and can't wait for them to hear."
The song was sent to country music radio stations on July 18, 2011, as the fifth single from Speak Now. An exclusive package was released to Swift's official store including a "Speak Now" necklace and an individually numbered "Sparks Fly" CD single. Only 2,500 copies of the CD single were made and the package was made available for a limited time. The single was later included in another package that is exclusive to Swift's official store. The package included the Target exclusive deluxe edition of Speak Now, a free pair of headphones, and the choice between either the "Sparks Fly", "The Story of Us", or the "Mean" CD single. The song was featured on a promotional trailer for the CW show, Hart of Dixie. It was also featured on the annual "Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Show" last 2012.
Music and lyrics
"Sparks Fly" is a country pop song with a length of four minutes and 22 seconds. The song, written solely by Swift, is in the key of D minor with Swift's vocals spanning two octaves, from F3 to C5. Johnathan Keefe claimed that "the a capella "Drop everything now" exclamation simply commands attention, with the desperation in Swift’s call-to-action answering the common criticisms that her work is sexless and chaste." Bobby Peacock stated that "I wouldn't mind if the banjo from the 2007 version were left in, but its omission is hardly make-or-break. Perhaps my biggest problem is that the song's chorus undermines itself in the second half – it starts out emphatic and anthemic as usual, but there's just no "oomph" on the hook. It almost feels as if she's trailing off mid-sentence." Blake Boldt of Engine 145 stated ""Sparks Fly" centers around a simple but effective hook—"I see sparks fly whenever you smile"—that further cements Swift’s reputation as one the craftiest songwriters in popular music." Amanda Hensel of Taste of Country commented on the chorus of the song stating, "Though Swift implies that this particular crush is a "bad idea," she still insists that they should try to make it work in the chorus: "Drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain / Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain / ‘Cause I see sparks fly / Whenever you smile," she sings insistently."
According to Swift, the song is about "falling for someone who you maybe shouldn't fall for, but you can't stop yourself because there's such a connection and chemistry."
"Sparks Fly" received positive reviews from music critics. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone praised Swift's vocals on "Sparks Fly", commenting that her voice in such an upbeat song is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer. Rahul Prabhakar of The Oxonian Review considers it "dopamine-infused, hair-whipping stuff". Jonathan Keefe of Slant Magazine calls the song "the purest iteration of Swift’s template and repertoire", also saying that it "could turn things around for Swift, as it’s perhaps the most perfectly constructed single in a career built on tracks that are marvels of pop production and songwriting." He concluded by stating that the song "proves how evocative those turns-of-phrase can be in the right context. To that end, “Sparks Fly” plays as a template as much as it does as a standalone single, and it’s a testament to everything Taylor Swift gets right." Bobby Peacock of Roughstock claims that he gets "a sense that Taylor is starting to experience a little burnout at radio. Her songs drop like rocks once they peak, and she's currently 0 for 3 on hitting the top of the Billboard charts. While I don't think this song has that je ne sais quoi to get her another 'You Belong with Me'-level hit, I still think that even a slightly lesser effort from her is a worthwhile listen."
Blake Boldt of Engine 145 praised Swift, saying "Her infusion of individual lines with urgency (“Drop everything now,” she insists) and earnestness (“Take away the pain,” she pleads) are a tribute to her talent, not so much as a distinguished vocalist but as an excellent communicator. Each frazzled note is freighted with meaning. Should I stay or should I go now?, she wonders, wiling [sic] away the hours before he calls her again." Amanda Hensel of Taste of Country claimed the song is "just another one of those so-Swift tracks that continually toes the line between country and pop to create a genre that is 100% Taylor Swift." Erin Thompson of Seattle Weekly stated he wasn't to "hot on" the song and compared the song to Swift's earlier works, "Fearless", "Hey Stephen", and "Forever and Always", and stated that Swift "puts in a line about standing in the rain in so many of her songs that I'm beginning to think she watches The Notebook every time she gets ready to sit down and write a song." Mikael Wood of Spin considered it a bubbly tune along with Swift's song, "Long Live". In 2019, Insider named "Sparks Fly" one of the fourteen best songs written by teenagers.
Credits and personnel
- Taylor Swift – vocals, songwriter, producer, acoustic guitar
- Nathan Chapman – producer, acoustic guitar, banjo, bass guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, organ, synthesizer
- Bryan Sutton – acoustic guitar
- Amos Heller – bass guitar
- Tim Marks – bass guitar
- Tommy Sims – bass guitar
- John Gardner – drums
- Nick Buda – drums
- Shannon Forrest – drums
- Grant Mickelson – electric guitar
- Mike Meadows – electric guitar
- Paul Sidoti – electric guitar
- Rob Hajacos – fiddle
- Tim Lauer – Hammond B3
- Al Wilson – percussion
- Eric Darken – percussion
- Smith Curry – steel guitar
|2012||Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards||Favourite Song||Nominated|||
|BMI Awards||Top 50 Songs||Won|||
|Publisher of the Year||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Country Song||Won|||
Following the release of Speak Now, on November 4, 2010, "Sparks Fly" debuted at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 due to strong digital sales of 113,000 downloads making it one of the songs to make Swift the first act to have ten songs debut on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week. With the addition of "Mine", Swift had a total of 11 songs charting in one week, making Swift the female act to have the most songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week. The song made a Hot Shot Debut on the Hot Country Songs at number 49. Billboard included the song in their Five Potential Pop Hits for 2011 list. The song jumped from 39 and settled on 31 on the Hot Country Songs on the week ending August 6, 2011. After its single release, the song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 84 on the week ending August 27, 2011. On the week ending October 8, 2011 the song jumped from 13 to 10 on the Hot Country Songs. The song has peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Radio Songs Chart. It peaked at number one on the Hot Country Songs in the week of November 26, 2011. The song became Swift's first single in two years to reach atop the aforesaid chart since "You Belong with Me" in 2009. On November 29, 2011, the song was certified Gold by the RIAA. The song was number 37 on the 2011 year-end chart of Hot Country Songs. As of November 2017, "Sparks Fly" has sold 1.1 million copies in the United States. In Canada, "Sparks Fly" debuted at 28 on the week of November 13, 2010.
The live performance that was uploaded to YouTube was captured at the Gold Country Casino in Oroville, California on May 30, 2007. The song was, at the time, unreleased and was performed using banjos and violins and contained different lyrics than the album version. "Sparks Fly" was the opening song of the Speak Now World Tour. The performance begins with an opening montage about how people should "speak now" about how they feel, and Swift then raises from a cloud of smoke and sings "Drop everything now" before starting the actual song performance. Swift also uses a longer interlude into the final chorus of the song. Fireworks were also used during the performance. The performance uses electric guitars instead of banjos and was released on Swift's first live album, Speak Now World Tour Live. In his review of Speak Now World Tour Live, Matt Bjorke of Roughstock cited Swift's perforation of "Sparks Fly" a standout during the concert. Swift has also performed the song at the CMA Music Festival. Before beginning the performance Swift walked through the crowd to the stage and began singing.
"Sparks Fly" was the first song Taylor Swift performed on her debut in the iHeart Radio Music Festival 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. As introduced by Nina Dobrev, Swift appeared from the audience and opened the performance of the song's imminent hook, "Drop everything now", as she walked through the crowd to the stage.
The song was also performed during Taylor's performance at the Formula 1 Grand Prix to celebrate the first decade of her career. In 2018, Swift performed the song acoustically on her Reputation Stadium Tour as the surprise song for her show in Columbus.
A music video for the song was announced on August 8, 2011 on Swift's official website. It premiered on August 10, 2011 on Swift's official website at 4:30 pm CDT. The video is directed by Christian Lamb. The video features clips of various performances from Swift's Speak Now World Tour, such as "Speak Now", "Back to December", "Better Than Revenge" and "Mean", as well as never before seen footage at the beginning. Much of the footage for the video was captured at four different tour date locations, including one from the show in Newark, New Jersey. The footage with the rain was captured during one of the summer shows at Gillette Stadium. The video was temporarily removed from Swift’s YouTube channel on 3 April 2020, but returned the next day in a previously unseen HD format.
Billy Dukes of Taste of Country praised the video saying, "The magic and theatrics she’s able to capture on stage rival what almost anyone else is able to dream up for a more Hollywood-like “produced” music video." During the week of its release, the music video had over 400,000 views and helped push Swift up Billboard magazine's Social 50, moving her from number nineteen to ten. Jocelyn Vena of MTV News praised the footage of the video, saying that it "perfectly encapsulates the tour's high-octane energy including theatrical set changes, dancers, aerialists, fireworks, pyrotechnics, costume changes and the occasional rainstorm." The video was the number-one streamed video of the week on August 27, 2011 on Yahoo! Music. To date, the video has over 70 million views on YouTube.
- Limited Edition CD single
- "Sparks Fly" – 4:20
|Canada (Canadian Hot 100)||28|
|Canada Country (Billboard)||3|
|US Billboard Hot 100||17|
|US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)||1|
|US Country Songs (Billboard)||37|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,100,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
|United States||July 18, 2011||Country radio||Big Machine Records|
|August 10, 2011||Limited edition CD single|
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