Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday Review: Taylor Swift's 1989

Alright.  First thing's first: I am not a Swifty.*

I do not own all of Taylor Swift's records.  I have never been to one of her concerts (and I probably never will - I value my hearing...).  I do not personally identify with most of the themes in most of her songs.  Neither Country nor Pop are my go-to genres.  And I only just stumbled upon her music a few weeks ago.

I tell you all this so that any anti-Swiftians (or a-Swiftians or un-Swifties) reading this blog post will know that I am not a wildly enthusiastic fan viewing her work through red-lip-colored glasses.  Also, I'm not some 'impressionable young girl' - I'm 31 years old, for heaven's sake.  And a tomboy, at that.

All that to say that any positive comments you read here are the result of unbiased analysis from someone who was not predisposed to like this CD - someone who should, in fact, not like it at all.

The deluxe album - go big or go home.

Introduction: Taylor Swift is a crazy-famous-celebrity singer/songwriter.  I may not have heard her music until a few weeks ago, but I was familiar with her name.  She. Is. Famous.  She started out in country music, often mixed with some pop; with her new album 1989,** she's gone full-on pop.  Known for writing songs about boys and breakups (hence my inability to relate), this album has its fair share of songs inspired by past relationships, mixed in with several non-relationship songs.

That about covers it.

My Review:  Stylistically, pop music tends to be over-produced and under-written for my taste, but I really like some of the songs on this album, so I thought it might be best to go track by track and explain why.

1) Welcome to New York.  This one is too stylized for me, and a bit too lyrically repetitive to keep my attention, with less (and fewer) meaningful lyrics than your average Taylor Swift song.  It's actually my least favorite song on the album.  That said, it's bright and catchy.

2) Blank Space.  This is the song that pulled me into The Taylor Swift Vortex.  I heard the sample on iTunes and thought, 'This is a terrible, terrible song'.  Then I discovered that it's a parody of her own image in the media, and I realized it's actually one of the most hilarious (and clever) songs I've ever heard.  The bridge isn't great, but the rest is awesome.  I can't watch the music video without laughing.  Brilliant.

3) Style.  Nice to listen to.  It's a tad dark in the verses, and somewhat brighter in the chorus.  Which matches the lyrics, so there you go.^

4) Out of the Woods.  I really like this song.  The chorus is repetitive, but in a way that creates tension, and the verses and bridge are quite substantial and interesting to follow.  Very engaging.

5) All You Had to do Was Stay.  This is a decent song, if a bit stylized for my taste.

6) Shake it Off.  This song has been overplayed, and I don't care for the bridge.  I actually prefer Walk Off the Earth's cover (but since it's what led me to begin my T. S. research in the first place, it worked in her favor), but the original song is a lot of fun if you haven't heard it 2 million times in the last 24 hours.  Nice message (except the bridge).  The music video is pretty good.

7) I Wish You Would.  This one is frenetic.  It's not a favorite lyrically, but the music and chorus are pretty energizing.

8) Bad Blood.  Do not double-cross Taylor Swift.  You will Tick. Her. Off.  Seriously, though, this is one of those songs in which T. S. shows some attitude.  It's very good lyrically, musically intense, and strangely satisfying to listen to.

9) Wildest Dreams.  I really like the dark melody in the verses, and the lyrics are interesting.  Not as crazy about the style of some of the vocals, or the song as an overall entity.  Well-written, though.

10) How You Get the Girl.  This is a cute song.  The tune is nice; the lyrics are charming.  It's like the end of a feel-good romantic comedy.

11) This Love.  This is the quietest song on the album.  It's quite contemplative, both lyrically and musically.  At first, it makes me sit back and really listen, but it just doesn't hold my attention.

12) I Know Places.  This might be my favorite song on the album.  It's very sophisticated.  The opening vocals grate on my nerves, which is genius - I feel tense when I listen to this song, and given the content, that is extremely appropriate.  The verses are quite dark, musically and lyrically, moving into a more optimistic chorus that manages to retain darker undertones.  I love the SFX of buttons being pressed on a cassette player at the beginning and end - it really plays into the voyeurism/paranoia.

13) Clean.  This has a unique musical arrangement, and the lyrics are really interesting.  Another quiet song, I find this one much more engaging than This Love.  She's doing some complicated things with metaphor here, and the music, though comparatively slow and soft, maintains tension and forward movement.

14) Bonus Track - Wonderland.  This is a weird song (set in Wonderland, after all), but I kind of like it.  The verses are reflective of magic; the pre-chorus of chaos.  The chorus kind of inhabits both worlds.  (I hope I'm using my terminology right - I'm not a songwriter.)  At any rate, sometimes T. S. finds great metaphors.

15) Bonus Track - You Are In Love.  This is another quiet song.  It's a nice kaleidoscope of a relationship as seen from the outside.

16) New Romantics.  This one seems to be a commentary - it would be a mistake to take it seriously, even though it's kind of serious, lol.  It's a really interesting song, lyrically.  In a way, it's sort of the antithesis of 22, a song from her previous album, Red.  I don't know.  I haven't thought about this one enough yet.  So it's lyrically complex, which I always like, but I don't care for the music.

And then there are the voice memos for I Know Places, I Wish You Would and Blank Space.  The inclusion of these memos is the result of T. S. constantly being asked about her songwriting methods, and having enough self-confidence to release these very rough cuts.  They are examples of three different ways in which she writes songs, and they're pretty cool to listen to, knowing what the finished product looks like.

So, 1989.  As an album, it's pretty decent.  Certainly from an objective perspective, it's very well put together.  The songs are generally well-written, and it all feels very cohesive, which was one of T. S.'s stated goals.  I really like Blank SpaceOut of the Woods, and I Know Places, and I originally just bought them, but I finally caved and got the whole album because, having done my research,^^ I have quite a bit of respect for Taylor Swift as an artist (and a businesswoman).  Plus she seems like a nice person.  So I bought the actual CD, and I'm glad I did.  It makes for good listening around the apartment.  Good driving music, too.  Probably good for running...  I'll find out.

Release Date: October 27, 2014
Music Tracks: 13 (16 on the deluxe edition)
Run Time: 49 min (deluxe edition is 1 hr, 2 min, not including the voice memos)

My Rating: 4 out of 5 objective stars; 3.5 as a matter of taste

*Swiftie?  See - I don't even know how to spell it.

**That's the year she was born.  Plus, the way the album sounds was inspired by late-80's pop.

^This is actually something I tend to really like about T. S.'s music in general - it very much sounds like the music and lyrics were written to match each other, rather than one being written to fit the other.

^^How to conduct YouTube Research: Go to the official channels (in this case, Swift's channel, her VEVO channel, and official talk show channels like Ellen's, et al).  Do NOT click on entertainment "news" channels like Popsugar and TMZ.  Aside from being video tabloids, they will give you an immediate headache when you click them by accident.


  1. This actually tempts me to listen to Taylor Swift, which I thought I'd never say :)

    1. Lol, I know, right? I've bought a few songs I liked from each of her previous albums.

  2. Great review! I'm going to have to give the whole cd a listen now...