Release Date: Nov 11, 2008
Record label: Big Machine
Taylor Swift abandons any pretense that she's a teen on her second album, Fearless -- which isn't to say that she suddenly tarts herself up, running away from her youth in a manner that's all too familiar to many teen stars. Swift's maturation is deliberate and careful, styled after the crossover country-pop of Shania Twain and Faith Hill before they turned into divas. Despite the success of her self-titled 2006 debut, there's nothing at all diva-like about Swift on 2008's Fearless: she's soft-spoken and considerate, a big sister instead of a big star.
The American music industry might be further mired in recession than any other (it started earlier), but it can still produce big stars. Country-pop singer Swift is one of them. Her self-titled debut, released aged 16, has been in the US charts for two years. Follow-up Fearless spent eight weeks at No 1, outselling Britney.
A button-cute blond teen with a pocket full of hits — sounds like the early aughts all over again, no? But aside from sharing, possibly, a box of Clairol, there is nothing remotely Britney- or Christina-esque about Swift, the Pennsylvania-born country-pop wunderkind who conquered both Nashville and the mainstream with her 2006 debut. In fact, she does something rarely seen from stars in either market: write or co-write all her material. On Fearless, Swift is once again a storyteller; her songs are narratives set to music, albeit mostly ones that concern love.
Those who bemoan US cultural imperialism might take heart from the fact that Britain has been steadfastly resistant to a surprising amount of American rock and pop. There seems to be no place in the UK's affections for booty bass or jam bands, no space on record-buyers' shelves for the brand of ghastly post-grunge rock headed up by Creed and Three Doors Down. Most striking of all may be British audiences' refusal to listen to any country music that isn't suitably aged or blessed with the prefix alt-.