Reviewing Taylor Swift’s “1989”

By Alex Theriot

Relationship songstress Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album Oct. 27 to strong fan response and sales — and it’s only getting more popular. Alluding to Swift’s birth year, “1989” incorporates influences of synthetic sounds from ‘80s pop, a blatant exodus from her previous albums.

Photo from Flavorwire
Photo from Flavorwire

Swift followed her success with 2012’s “Red” by continuing to work with music producer Max Martin and collaborating with the likes of One Republic’s Ryan Tedder (“I Know Places”) and British crooner Imogen Heap (“Clean”) to create a 13-track album containing hits such as “Shake It Off” and “Out of the Woods.”

Prior to the release of “1989,” critics from Rolling Stone and The New York Times announced preliminary opinions of Swift’s album, stating that her latest project is a whimsical reinvention of her sound. However, other critics from The Washington Post proclaimed that what “1989” lacks in lyrical genius, Swift attempts to justify with a more “pop” sound in efforts to gain further appeal.

Departing from Swift’s country roots, “1989” bears no trace of acoustic guitar, an instrument heavily prevalent in her albums “Speak Now” and “Fearless.” The album’s first single, “Shake It Off,” is clear evidence that Swift’s sound has progressively evolved through a span of four albums. With electronic beats reminiscent of the 1980s, Swift’s second single, “Welcome to New York,” pays tribute to the Big Apple by describing its allure to the masses. A week before the album was set to drop, “Out of the Woods” was released, causing fans and reviewers to speculate about to which previous lover Swift’s newest material refers.

Taking direction from Lana Del Rey’s playbook, “Wildest Dreams” provides an enchanting contrast to the spiteful, tough-girl vibe of “Blank Space.” Following previous formulas for success, “This Love” is a love-drenched narrative known as Swift’s trademark style. Other tracks on “1989” boast aspects of Swift’s new sound while lyrically incorporating her personal life and interests, hence her reference to classic hunk James Dean and her characteristic red lips in “Style.”

Critics consistently scrutinize Swift’s music for its syrupy-sweet, teenage, boy-crazed content. But have you given “Shake It Off” a chance? The catchy anthem has quickly become a favorite among old and new fans after debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in September.

Swift’s “Love the player, hate the game” mentality has transformed her lyrics from sappy break-up material to an “It’s you, not me” independence found in “All You Had to Do Was Stay” and “Bad Blood,” which clearly defines Swift’s approach to “1989.”

After listening to the album multiple times and resisting the urge to dance in public (think Molly Ringwald in “The Breakfast Club”), “1989” has worked its way into my personal favorites.

Part of Swift’s success is her ability to write songs that explain the feelings we never even know we had. Though her range of song topics comprises a short list, have you ever listened to a Taylor Swift song you couldn’t relate to or at least guiltily enjoyed?  The answer is probably no. At the end of the day, the Swift haters gonna hate, hate, hate, but “1989” is worth the purchase.

Photo from MTV; Design by Jenny Hottle
Photo from MTV; Design by Jenny Hottle

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