After a slow burn, Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” featuring St. Vincent catches fire

Taylor Swift, holding a guitar, sings to an audience

Taylor Swift performs onstage for the opening night of “The Eras Tour” at State Farm Stadium on March 17, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/GI for TAS Rights Management

Some hit singles are instantaneous, and others are more of a slow burn.

A track that’s taken its time getting onto the charts — Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” — is one assisted by some North Texas-bred talent (which we first shared with you in March).

Taken from Swift’s 2019 LP Lover, “Cruel Summer” was co-written by and features the guitar work of one Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, who was raised in Dallas and, prior to her solo output, was a member of the Polyphonic Spree. (Album producer Jack Antonoff co-wrote the tune as well.)

“Gosh, it was really casual,” Clark told NME in 2021 about her experience working with Swift. “Just some people in a room jammin’.”

(This sense of happenstance was confirmed by a 2020 New York Times piece on Antonoff, who said of Clark, “Annie’s one of those people who, anytime there’s a chance, it’s like, ‘Let’s just see if there’s anything to mess around with.’”)

The song was a fan favorite upon Lover’s release, but not a single selected for radio — it spent just two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2019. That is until the Swifties imposed their will upon the music industry: Even as “Karma,” from Swift’s latest record, Midnights, is still in heavy rotation, her label began officially promoting “Cruel Summer” as a new single on June 20.

“The weirdest, most magical thing is happening,” Swift said during a June 17 tour stop in Pittsburgh. “It’s never happened to me in the whole time I’ve ever been doing this. … ‘Cruel Summer’ was on the Lover album. That album came out four years ago. And I just need to let you know something: ‘Cruel Summer,’ that song was my pride and joy on that album. You have conversations before the album comes out. Everybody around weighs in on what they think should be singles. I was finally, finally about to have my favorite song become the single – off of Lover.

“I’m not trying to blame the global pandemic that we had, but that is something that happened that stopped ‘Cruel Summer’ from ever being a single. No one understands how this is happening, but you guys have streamed ‘Cruel Summer’ so much right now in 2023 [that my label] just decided to make it the next single.”

Swift’s The Eras Tour, which took over Arlington’s AT&T Stadium earlier this year, saw the superstar become the first artist ever to perform three straight days at the venue, with an attendance record of 210,607. The Eras Tour is currently scheduled to wrap up its first leg in early August, and recently announced a slew of international dates that will keep Swift on the road deep into 2024.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.