Release Date: Oct 27, 2014
Record label: Big Machine Records
A 40-foot Taylor Swift stomps through Manhattan in chelsea boots and a pencil skirt, bodegas and halal carts crumbling under her heels, waving one enormous pinky finger to Jay and Beyoncé as they cower in their Tribeca penthouse. The white steeds of Central Park trail behind her in procession; Woody Allen and Lena Dunham and Jerry Seinfeld lead a racially mixed, apolitical group of New Yorkers from every borough except Staten Island in a Rockettes kick-line. Welcome, they say.
Review Summary: Taylor Swift finally embraces what she was meant to do.Taylor Swift’s balancing act between country and pop has been the subject of much scrutiny over the years. Some people even went as far as to say that she didn’t belong in the country music awards – a notion that became hard to disagree with by the time “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” hit the airwaves. From her self-titled debut up to the present day, a gradual evolution from country to all-out pop has been occurring, and all of the growing pains associated with it came to a head on 2012’s Red.
America’s darling Taylor Swift has been firm in stating 1989‘s intentions, despite its occasionally obfuscating media campaign. RED‘s pleas regardless, this is her “very first documented, official pop album.” Not country. No more country. Taylor’s positioning herself for world domination.
What else can be said about Taylor Swift‘s 1989? From editorial discussions asking if this will finally be the 2014 album that sells over a million copies and somehow “saves” the ever-anaemic music industry, to the accusations of Swift betraying her country-music heritage (“Et tu, Taylor?”), to a mounted counter-defense that this young woman is just figuring out who she really was all along, to various gossip sites trading ideas to which ex inspired which song, to complaints it’s not available to stream and has to, you know, actually be bought; the list just goes on. But the question remains: How good is 1989? Well, no fear, it’s good. In fact, some parts are great, with variety and skilled craftsmanship with little filler.
Recently, Taylor Swift was promoting 1989, her fifth album, which reviewers are hearing just once, after signing a lengthy non-disclosure agreement. In Australia she “lashed out” at critics who didn’t care for her candid, confessional songwriting and its narrow focus on her past relationships. Swift called this criticism sexist because, as she pointed out, no one derides Ed Sheeran or Bruno Mars for the same tactic.
When Taylor Swift decides to do something, the girl really knows how to overdo it. So on her fifth album, when she indulges her crush on Eighties synth-pop, she goes full blast, spending most of the album trying to turn herself into the Pet Shop Boys. 1989 is a drastic departure – only a couple of tracks feature her trademark tear-stained guitar. But she's still Taylor Swift, which means she's dreaming bigger and oversharing louder than anyone else in the game.
At 24 years old, Taylor Swift inhabits something of a unique position within the teen pop firmament. It’s not merely the fact of her immense popularity, although the sheer devotion of her fans can sometimes knock you back a bit: earlier this week, when Swift released a track consisting of eight seconds of static to iTunes – alas, the result of a technical malfunction, rather than a radical new power-electronics direction influenced by Right to Kill-era Whitehouse and Genocide Organ – her fans in Canada bought it in such quantities that it went to No 1. It’s more that Swift’s music attracts the kind of serious critical attention afforded almost none of her peers.
Count back from today to 1989 and you get an even quarter century. Taylor Swift, the songwriter who built an empire on being young, isn’t shy about the fact that she’s getting older. She slapped her birth year right on the cover of her fifth album, daring you to do the math. Now that the country star-turned-poptimist talking point has hit the square middle of her 20s — she’ll turn 25 on December 13th — Swift releases 1989, a full-blooded work of synthpop that speaks sharply to the millennial condition.
Taylor Swift was born on 13 December 1989 is the world’s biggest pop star and has an estimated worth of $64 million. I, Rob Leedham, was also born on 13 December 1989, have 1,209 Twitter followers and am writing this review as water drips from the ceiling of my crap South London flat. Where did it all go wrong for me? Why are our lives so different? Will someone ever write a list about 10 Times I Left The Gym Looking Flawless? Perhaps the Pennsylvania-born idol’s fifth album will provide some answers.
‘1989’ is Taylor Swift’s radical reinvention: one to finally alienate her country audience and plant her flag firmly in pop soil. The lead single, ‘Shake It Off’, was no red herring. Swift produced ‘1989’ with hitmaker Max Martin, the man behind Britney Spears’ ‘…Baby One More Time’, and her aim is fixed squarely on the pop throne recently vacated by the AWOL Rihanna.She was made for it.
As Taylor Swift promised, 1989 severs whatever vestiges of her country roots remained on 2012's Red, replacing acoustic guitars and pedal steel with multi-layered synthscapes, drum machines, and densely packed vocal tracking. Swift, of course, got her start writing astutely observed country ballads, and the best songs on the new album bolster her trademark knack for lyric-crafting with maximalist, blown-out pop production courtesy of main collaborators Max Martin and Shellback. 1989's standout tracks retain the narrative detail and clever metaphor-building that distinguished Swift's early country songs, even amid the diversions wrought by the aggressive studio production on display throughout.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There are many different ways that I could have approached this review, but I think the most professional way to do so is the following: I want to be 100 percent honest. Initially, I did not want to do this review, but a part of me knew that I needed to. Most people reading this have no idea who I am, and that doesn't matter because I am irrelevant; but the few that truly, deeply know me know that I used to like Taylor Swift in the past.
When she announced 1989 a few months prior to its October 2014 release, Taylor Swift called her sixth record her first "documented, official" pop album, explicitly severing herself from her country roots. Truth be told, Swift already made the leap from country to pop with 2012's Red, a nominally country LP distinguished by three songs co-written and produced by Max Martin and Shellback, a team that returns for twice that number on 1989 (Martin has one additional non-Shellback co-write with Swift). Taylor is rarely without co-writers here: only "This Love" belongs to her alone, with the other major collaborators being OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, fun.'s Jack Antonoff, and Imogen Heap.
Taylor Swift chose a strange era to be nostalgic for on her new album. Everything about it, from the title (“1989”) to the sound (synth-pop) pines for the waning days of the ‘80s, circa “Dynasty” and Ronald Reagan. Problem is: Swift was barely 1 month old in the album’s title year, so she could not possibly have been aware of the sounds surrounding her.
opinion byPETER TABAKIS < @ptabakis > When Dolly Parton first reached a mainstream audience back in 1977, she made a point to soothe the nerves of longtime fans and Nashville’s record industry. “I’m not leaving country,” she famously vowed with a scarlet smirk, “I’m just taking it with me.” Taylor Swift opens her fifth album 1989 with a contrary pledge, to leave her successful past in a Tennessee junkyard. “Welcome to New York” is, on the surface, a paean to her recently adopted home.
Much has been made about Taylor Swift’s gradual transition from country songbird to pop star, and make no mistake, 1989 is a straight-up pop record. But even on her earliest and most countrified tracks, like 2006’s “Tim McGraw,” Swift still seemed more like a pop star than a tractor-drivin’, boot-wearin’ backwoods babe. Take away the mandolin twang on “McGraw,” kick up the beat, and switch up the references, and the song could have been a hit across the dial.
Let's get a couple of things out of the way. Taylor Swift is not an alternative artist. Her phenomenal success and multi-millions in sales will always separate her from a coterie of musicians scrabbling to create something worthy or pure, even distancing her from fellow pop artists who cannot conceive of eclipsing her reach. Taylor Swift is not–as yet–pushing sonic boundaries or changing pop music.
For almost a decade, Taylor Swift has been waging, and winning, a war, smiling all the while. Country music has been — was — a natural enemy for her: hidebound, slow moving, lousy with machismo. She could break the rules and make people nervous simply by showing up. And yet country was also a hospitable host body.
20 years from now, if my kids want to know what pop sounded like in the Instagram era, I’ll hand them 1989. Taylor Swift’s latest – her first “documented, official pop album – is the musical equivalent of a ’80s photograph cropped, filtered and reposted with a #tbt caption. The question on people’s lips when Swift announced the concept of her new record was “how does someone born in 1989 make an album that pays homage to what the late ’80s sounded like?”, but they missed a crucial fact: people born later than Swift do this every single day, with the filters on their iPhones.
It’s a fleeting moment, and a telling one. In the video for “Shake It Off,” the lead single from her new album, “1989,” Taylor Swift crawls under the legs of a row of women twerking in denim cutoffs. As their butts bounce and jiggle, Swift peers up with a look of dismay. The punch line is obvious: This is not Taylor Swift’s world — never has been, never will be.