How ‘Cruel Summer’ Became Taylor Swift’s Song of the Moment

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Four years after its debut, Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” is finally being released as a radio single, much to the delight of Swifties everywhere. According to Billboard, the song will be promoted on pop radio starting this week—which Swift herself confirmed at her June 17 concert in Pittsburgh. “Cruel Summer” was passed over as a single when Swift released Lover, her seventh studio album, in 2019. But the punchy pop anthem about a secret romance has been a sleeper hit in the making ever since.

The road to this moment has been long, largely because Swift has been so productive in the years since releasing Lover. Overshadowed by the promotional push received by the featured singles on Lover, the song missed out on additional exposure after Swift’s world tour in 2020 for the album, Lover Fest, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Swift went on to release two more albums, Folklore and Evermore, in 2020; the following year, she began releasing “Taylor’s version” re-recordings of past records; and in 2022, she dropped yet another new album, Midnights.

But Swifties never forgot “Cruel Summer.” The fan-favorite track got a boost in mainstream exposure after being featured prominently in the 2022 Amazon Prime series The Summer I Turned Pretty (the second season of which will premiere in July, coinciding with the Eras tour). It has also been the subject of a grassroots campaign run by fans who want to see the track released as a single, with discussion forums, Reddit threads, and countless social media posts devoted to the topic. Now, with the song’s official release as a single coming up, there’s a good chance that “Cruel Summer” will be not only one of Swift’s biggest hits of the year, but also the song of the summer.

Read More: Why You Can’t Remember That Taylor Swift Concert All Too Well

Why the label is releasing “Cruel Summer” as a single

According to a report by Billboard, Republic Records will officially promote the song on pop radio starting on Tuesday, June 20. Four years after it was released, the song returned to the Billboard Hot 100 on June 3 (it previously spent two weeks on the chart in September 2019, where it reached No. 29). As of June 17, it’s currently ranked no. 47, with 9.6 million official streams, 2.6 million radio airplay audience impressions, and 1,500 downloads sold in the U.S. for the week of June 2-8.

While love for the song has been slowly building over the years, the Eras tour appears to have given it a major boost. Within the first month of Swift’s tour, streams of the song jumped 120%, leading to it land on the Spotify U.S. Top 100 list.

Swift credited her fans with making a longtime dream of hers come true. At the June 17 concert in Pittsburgh, she called the song “her pride and joy” of the Lover album and revealed that it was set to become a single when the pandemic hit and changed everything. Swift spoke about how happy she is that the track is getting a second chance, four years later, because her fans have been streaming it so much. “It’s truly, truly perplexing to me because I just haven’t had something like this happen in my career,” she told the Pittsburgh audience. “So thank you to anyone who’s been listening to that song like 500 times a day, because that was my favorite one.”

It’s got one of her best bridges

Bridges, the transition stage of a song that can provide contrast or highlight changes, have become a cornerstone of Swift’s music—so much so that during performances, she’ll often announce the first bridge of the night. For Swifties, the artist’s bridges are a testament to her skill as a songwriter and an important part of her mythology—fans celebrate her ability to incorporate drama into her musical storytelling. On the Eras tour, it’s now become common practice for concertgoers to scream-sing along with Swift to the bridge of “Cruel Summer.”

It’s got a prominent spot on the Eras setlist

Since Swift began her Eras tour, “Cruel Summer” has consistently been the second song she performs. It might seem that the first song on the setlist, “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince,” is in a more prominent spot. But fans have pointed out that not only does “Cruel Summer” have the distinction of delivering the first bridge, it’s also the first song that Swift sings in full. Swift only performs a portion of “Miss Americana,” making “Cruel Summer” the first complete performance.

There might be a music video

Adding to the momentum that has been building around “Cruel Summer,” there are rumblings that Swift might make a music video for the song. Though it hasn’t been confirmed, since her record label is now promoting the song as a radio single, it’s within the realm of possibility that one could be in the works.

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