Review by Anna Prenzler
Breaking News: Taylor Swift is technically not a 90’s kid.
The teen turned twenty-something, curly turned straight, country turned pop star has released her much-anticipated fifth album. But before you make the case that Taylor Swift has no right to win a CMA this year because her tunes aren’t truly twang-y, know that this album is officially labeled as the pop genre. Yes, that’s right. No more teardrops on my guitar for Taylor. She has finally made her way into the pop star category, and rightfully so.
While having a completely different sound than her previous four albums, 1989 has no problem resonating with Taylor Swift fans. In fact, her fan base seems to be growing from this release. It could be because “Shake It Off” made its way to the frat party scene, but it is most likely because Taylor’s pop sound and edgier style appeals to a larger audience. She is no longer portraying herself as the innocent girl waiting for “you and your white horse,” but is pronouncing herself as “finally clean” from any trace of her most recent ex-boyfriend. Baby steps, Tay.
Lyrically, some of the most iconic songs off the 80’s pop-esque album include “This Love,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “Blank Space.” “This Love” is the ballad of the album that fans from day one will appreciate the most. Its heart-wrenching lyrics such as “When you’re young you just run/But you come back to what you need” showcase Taylor’s well-known writing talent while the 80’s synth-pop undertones help shape her new sound. But not to worry, Taylor also takes lyrical risks in the scandalous “Wildest Dreams”: “I said ‘No one has to know what we do,’/His hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room.” And last but not least, the catchy beats and sassy lyrics in “Blank Space” make it the next hit song to sing in your car with the windows down: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane/But I’ve got a blank space, baby/And I’ll write your name.”
Miss Swift has officially entered the popular realm of music, where she can attract new listeners and continue to develop her image. It’s easy to question Taylor’s motives behind officially leaving the country music scene; some diehard fans are bitter about the switch. By entering the genre that is most commonly referred to today as “mainstream,” it seems like Taylor is sacrificing her authenticity as an artist to amplify her fame. However, Swift’s music has been leaning toward the pop style ever since she released her 4th album, Red. And truthfully, pop music suits Taylor’s voice and personality well. She may have overdone it on the 80’s synth-pop beats and lines about her “list of ex-lovers,” but isn’t that what defines Taylor? She’s not afraid to be her classic self (See “Style”: “And I got that red lip classic thing that you like”) and she’s not afraid to take risks (See “I Know Places”: “They take their shots/but we’re bulletproof”).
Taylor has changed her sound and image (even if most of that image is pretending to be vintage in Polaroid pictures), yet is leading the Billboard’s top 100 with 1989. And while she still sounds lovesick and somewhat desperate for the man of her dreams (or the hookup of her dreams?), this Nashville native knows how to dominate the popular music scene – whether you like it or not. Let’s be honest – as much as any of us want to hate Taylor for her success, we still find ourselves impulsively hitting the repeat button on “Shake It Off.” Like they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game.