“It’s a new soundtrack I could dance to this beat” is a line from ‘Welcome To New York’, the opener to Taylor Swift’s new album 1989. For me this sentence epitomises the record in its entirety. Gone are Taylor Swift’s country days (although she’s clearly been trying to shake these off for a while). Her voice seems deeper and mature, gone is the grating teenage whining. Instead, this is a set of catchy tracks which you could certainly dance to.
Having appeared on the front of a British newspaper with the caption “Do I look like a man eater?” just this weekend, it’s clear Taylor Swift is trying to create a new image for herself. Yet you can’t help but feel like she doesn’t half bring the tabloid headlines on herself, sometimes. It’s incredibly hard to ignore the Katy Perry vibes in ‘Blank Space’, which is interesting considering the supposed feud between the two female artists.
The notion of feuds is in fact explored in the grating ‘Bad Blood’, and it’s this pettiness that Taylor Swift would do well to leave behind in the next record. Just when you think the twenty-four year old has mellowed and matured she demonstrates the cattiness and immaturity that was synonymous for her younger self. Alongside petty ‘Bad Blood’ is lead single ‘Shake It Off’, a middle fingered salute to the haters, which is certainly admirable but actually does the rest of 1989 a disservice because it’s annoying as hell (and that’s not even touching on the controversy the accompanying music video elicited!)
Another weaker track is ‘I Wish You Would’ which lacks a certain level of pizazz; the chorus is relatively lack lustre and perhaps worthy of being labelled ‘sameish’ given its concept is not territory Taylor has not explored. The opening line “it’s 2am” followed by “you always knew how to push my buttons” is evocative of ‘The Way I Loved You’; “I miss screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain / It’s 2am and I’m cursing your name”. It’s not bad but it’s not different and fans certainly don’t gain anything by its place on the tracklisting, the same can be said of ‘This Love’. ‘I Know Places’ is also slow to get going and feels try hard.
Yet by no means is 1989 a bad album. Like any record, it has high points, low points and clear standouts. ‘Style’ has a hazy, woozy, slick chorus that has practically been made for a remix. It’s a club anthem waiting to happen and it’s certainly likeable; I certainly hope I’m not the only one who admires Taylor Swift’s change in musical style. ‘Out Of The Woods’ has a jarring sample in the intro that sounds like a Vampire Weekend demo but goes onto become a full bodied chorus evocative of Louisa Allen (Foxes). It’s relatively simplistic due to the repetition but this is its most brilliant aspect. It sounds like liquid uncertainty and it’s wholly relatable – and is bound to become an anthem for those whose relationship may be going through a rough patch “are we out of the woods / are we in the clear yet?” ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ is a bittersweet melody about giving people your everything and then being disappointed “had me in the palm of your hand”. It’s not dissimilar to Rihanna’s ‘Stay’ or JoJo’s ‘Too Little Too Late’ thematically, but it’s certainly catchy without being annoying – a refreshing change for Taylor Swift.
“You look like my next mistake” Taylor sings in ‘Blank Space’ which has a slow yet unrelenting beat. It’s simplistic, unmanufactured and nowhere near as overdone as lead single ‘Shake It Off’. The poignancy and relatable lyrics that made Taylor Swift so identifiable in her formative years have not disappeared, and 1989 certainly showcases excellent song-writing capacity; exploring jealousy “Oh my god, who is she / I get drunk on jealousy” and people presenting themselves in certain ways “darling, I’m a nightmare, dressed like a daydream”. ‘Wildest Dreams’ is a pretty little number charged with sexual ‘ah’s’; it’s husky, it’s grown up and indulgent. As Swift sings “he’s so tall / he’s handsome as hell / he’s so bad / but he does it so well” it’s very easy to find yourself fantasising about this elusive gentleman – that you know is bad for you, but somehow you don’t care.
‘How You Get The Girl’ pairs a catchy tempo with primary school rhyming scheme, but makes it a hairbrush-bedroom-mirror routine waiting to happen. When you’re dancing round your bedroom with your girlfriends “I want you / for worse or for better / I would wait for ever and ever” are bound to be the lyrics you’re shouting in angst. The closer ‘Clean’ is a slow and thoughtful reflection. Musically stripped down to a skeleton, the lyrics really resonate with the listener. It’s a pleasing selection to close the record with and leaves the listener happy with the new direction Taylor Swift has gone in.
In its entirety, 1989 is decent. There’s certainly room for improvement and the continued theme of relationships and personal barbs is bound to see Taylor Swift come under fire for being a stuck record. There’s no doubt in my mind that the singer will ‘Shake It Off’ though, and bounce back with yet another parcel of relatable, catchy songs in her next record. Until then, I’ll be in front of a mirror working on my hairbrush routine. Who knows, you might even see me accompanying Taylor on her next tour 😉