Taylor Swift dropped her new album recently and music critics everywhere have exploded. 1989 is already being described as ‘Deeply weird, feverishly emotional and wildly enthusiastic,’ (Rolling Stone) ‘Swift’s best work,’ (Billboard) ‘bold gossipy confection that plays to her strengths,’ (The Guardian) and ‘expertly crafted sound,’ (Time). For those of us that have followed Swift since she was thirteen, this album is a far cry from her ‘Picture to Burn’ style country days, but it is still, in many ways, excellent. If anything, this album is her most sophisticated yet.
A lesson in being popular
Taylor Swift’s music might not be to everyone’s taste, but she seems to be one of the most universally liked people on the planet. And she’s continuing her popular streak with this album by being a bit more savvy with her songwriting. Although everyone on the Internet has spent today desperately trying to connect all 16 tracks (Deluxe edition) with an individual in Swift’s personal life, they’ll certainly have a tough time, as the lyrics on this album are remarkably strong and vague at the same time. Swift seems to have matured with this new set of tracks, and has gone back to her songwriting roots, with deep and moving lyrics offset with rich sounds that are very unlike her usual country twang. Not only is pop princess Taylor working well for her, but so is single and down to earth Taylor, who isn’t pointing the finger at people anymore.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) October 26, 2014
Lucky number thirteen
Predictably, there are thirteen tracks on the album, or sixteen if you buy the Deluxe edition. It’s the lucky number that Swift writes on her hand before every concert and it’s her birthday, so it seems fitting that there are the matching number of songs on 1989, her coming of age album. Many of the songs indicate the big changes in Swift’s life over the last few years, including ‘Welcome to New York’ about moving away to a big city and ‘Bad Blood’ which is the bitter tale of a burnt friendship/ relationship. She has allowed herself to be adventurous with her tracks, focusing heavily on modern, mastered sounds. ‘Out of the Woods’ starts with a full eight seconds of white noise, showing a greater interest in the music, rather than a guitar melody supporting a thick body of lyrics. It’s a dance album as much as it is a sing-along album, a hard combination to nail but one that has made Swift so commercially successful.
Having said that, Swift hasn’t sacrificed all her tracks to musical experimentation – ‘Shake It Off’ is as much of a loud, jump-around pop tune as ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ was and will undoubtedly be the most popular single on the album. Although she’s certainly winning the hearts of more contemporary critics with the soulful sounds in ‘Wonderland’ and ‘Wildest Dreams,’ Swift’s magic still lies in her ability to get everyone in the world singing along with her one chorus, and we’ll all be shaking it off for months to come, whether we like it or not.
In terms of variety, the album is a little samey, which is disappointing, as Swift normally puts out a selection of flawless tracks. With several of her tracks sharing the same chilling sound, some of the meaning of her lyrics is in danger of getting lost. But tracks like ‘Style’ (perhaps one of the most obvious ex-boyfriend associations) quickly make up for it with a winning chorus – “You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye, I got that red lip classic thing that you like.” All in all, this is an album that means business, and is going to do well, both with long-term fans of Swift and with people who are just coming round to her style of music. Love her or hate her, this album is set for success and Swift herself is definitely here to stay.