REVIEW: Taylor Swift – ‘1989’

taylor swift

Artist: Taylor Swift
Title: 1989
Label: Big Machine Records
Genre: Pop

I have never felt like I was ever part of today’s pop music’s “target audience.”

Any Taylor Swift snob would not put me in that pool, either. Being in that pool would suggest identifying with prepubescent teens and their quest for the best Instagram filter. Looking at her catalog retrospectively, however, I have come to realize that maybe I’m not her marketing team’s target audience, but I am hers.

Taylor Swift’s music has always found its place in my heart and my chronology. Whether it involved falling asleep to “Teardrops On My Guitar” at thirteen, (un)ironically proclaiming my love for “We Are Never Getting Back Together” at eighteen, or feeling like “Welcome to New York” was written for me at twenty, the officially-pop icon stays relentless in her attempts to win me over.

The stars had to align for me to appreciate this one. Having been a bigger fan of her country-pop work, the idea of an entirely pop record did not appeal to me as much as it should have. Before my relationship with Lorde’s stellar release of Pure Heroine and Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience materialized, I was solely in the midst of anything other than a radio station’s top 10. Except when we were talking about Taylor Swift.

1989, the follow-up to her 2012 let’s-ease-everyone-into-pop release of Red, is without a doubt the highlighted move of the season. When lead single “Shake It Off” was released last summer, however, all the doubts I didn’t know existed came running into my front door. I was really bummed. Annoyed, even. The song lacked any type of luster, the chorus wasn’t catchy, and having only that single to base any predictions off of until two weeks before the new record released (when “Out Of The Woods” came out), was kind of scary.

I feel terrible for having doubted someone with this amount of artistic ability.

With the exception of “Shake It Off,” 1989 is everything I’d wanted in an officially-pop record from Taylor Swift. “Welcome To New York” is everything I’d wanted in an introduction and in a song written about my city. (Sorry, Alicia Keys.) Jack Antonoff (fun., Bleachers) and Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) were excellent choices for collaborations. She could not have executed this better.

A pop record possesses the natural tendency to go the obnoxious route. Having access to endless amounts of vocal and instrumental modifiers can result in odd things. Thankfully, Taylor Swift was equipped with good judgment and a good team. The right amount of trance-y musical elements graced this record in tracks like “I Wish You Would” and “Wildest Dreams,” which are probably the farthest she has gone in terms of the evolution of her sound.

In all its “Dear Diary, Boys Suck” glory comes “Bad Blood.” This track is Red sonically and Speak Now lyrically. Traces of “Mean” are all over it, as well as in “I Know Places.” Until we hear from Swift herself, though, we really can’t tell which other songs harbor the same amount of spite. Super catchy, Bleachers-esque “Out Of The Woods” was reportedly also about “the breakable nature of some relationships” and we wouldn’t have been able to tell had she not said so in this video.

I understand the potential that the concept of vocal layers posed, but if I were to go against anything in this record, (aside from “Shake It Off” and the amount of lyrical repetition that comes with the genre that took the place of more substantial writing,) it would be how different her voice sounded in “This Love.” The acoustic introduction set me up to expect something highly resonant of her earlier material, and I was let down twenty seconds in. Thankfully, “How You Get The Girl” shows remains of Fearless, making it one of my personal favorite tracks.

Aside from themes of admiration and the whole “you’re cute, let me take you home” storyline found in tracks like “Blank Space” and “Style,” talk of heartbreak prevailed in 1989. “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” which was co-written with Max Martin and “I Wish You Would,” co-written with Antonoff, both were some of the strongest tracks in the record, and it would be more than safe to say that these are upcoming radio hits, just like “Trouble” was.

As this record comes to a close, I find myself wishing that Taylor Swift finally finds the one. Partially because I want to see what a song about it would be like, also because ending 1989 on a lyrically disheartening note with “Clean” was absolutely heartbreaking. What she had set up to be a cookie-cutter and rainbows record concluded with the lines, “Gone was any trace of you / I think I’m finally clean”; once again presenting us with the reality that even the most glamorous of stories don’t always have a happy ending.

This is a great record and I know everyone who has the ability to appreciate “good pop” can agree. I just really wish she hadn’t put out “Shake It Off” as a preview of what was in store because it paled in comparison to what 1989 actually offers as a whole.

SCORE: 8.5/10
Review written by Dana Reandelar

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
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