Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Taylor Swift released her new album, 1989, on Monday, Oct. 27.  Her first “official” pop album, 1989, marks her official break from the country music world she began in.  Though longtime fans of Swift will miss her pop-country songs (a mandolin here, a banjo there), the official move to pop was of no surprise to outsiders looking in.  “You Belong With Me,” “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” had clearly signaled her move to pop all along.

Now the first single of 1989 has been at number one in iTunes for weeks and has proven her successful in the pop world.  “Shake It Off” features Taylor Swift’s new philosophy with the critics, “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”  She’s just gonna “shake it off.”  The song is a hit, with a catchy hook; however, the lyrics are not the move towards maturity that the rest of the album shows.  This song – while already something that people dance to – could have been written by Taylor Swift on her first album nearly 10 years ago, not Taylor Swift at age 24.

Overall, however, 1989 is on track to sell big.  The original predictions for the album sales in the first week were around 800,000.  In the first 24 hours, the album sold over 600,000 copies.  Now, it is estimated that by Nov. 3, the album will have sold 1.3 million copies – the largest first week debut for a female artist, beating Britney Spears’ Oops I Did It Again… By topping one million sales in one week, Swift will be the only female artist to have three back-to-back albums sell one million copies in one week (2012’s Red and 2010’s Speak Now also did so).

These sales are for a reason.  Taylor Swift, in spite of her superstardom, still manages to convey a “girl next door” type of relatable attitude with her interviews and her album.  She recently made a tumblr account (taylorswift.tumblr.com) and spends her nights stalking her fan’s pages.  In the months before the album’s release, she invited 89 fans to each of her four houses, baked them cookies, danced with them in her living room, played them the entire album, and took photos with them.   In spite of this, when the album leaked two days before its release date, the leak had nothing to do with those fans.  In fact, the leak did not even trend on social media, because fans were the ones reporting the links and stopping the leak.

1989 features all of Taylor Swift’s natural abilities to write hooks and catchy songs.  These songs will be danced to by listeners of all ages.  Most of the album also features her knack for personal lyrics and narratives, though some of it does unfortunately fall short.  In the name of good music, sometimes Swift falls prey to writing a danceable song – instead of one that lets her listeners get to know her better or one that tells a good story.

One prime example of this is album opener, “Welcome to New York.”  One of her best lyrics on the album is in this song, when Taylor Swift sings, “Took our broken hearts and put them in a drawer.”  That line could be a sound bite for Swift’s attitude in interviews over the past few months.  Swift is now comfortable in being single and spending time with her friends, as opposed to being in a relationship.

While that line is gold, the rest of the song, heavy on the synths, shows almost none of the lyrical cleverness that Taylor Swift’s songs are known for, and the chorus feels utterly lacking in its repetition (“Welcome to New York/It’s been waiting for you” repeated). For someone who raves about New York in interviews, Swift shared almost none of her personal experience there in this song.

Luckily, the album picks up pace with track two, “Blank Space,” which stands out as one of the best songs on the album. This song feels like it could have been on a comedy album, as she herself has acknowledged she wrote it as a joke.

“I’ve 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.”  Swift embraces her media persona as the jilted woman who dates solely for songwriting purposes, and the result is amazing and comedic. In the pre-chorus, you can almost hear her smiling through the lines, “I can make the bad boys good for a weekend” and “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” This song has already shot to number two on iTunes without being a single, so I’m sure it will be officially released as one soon.

Another album front-runner is the song “Style.”  It sounds unique, and Swift’s voice is at its best.  The song begins with Swift singing low, “Midnight, you come and pick me up, no headlights,” creating a mysterious vibe.  Yet, by the time the chorus comes, it is pure fun, with the reference “James Dean daydream look in your eyes” and a relationship that won’t stop: “When we come crashing down we come back every time / We never go out of style.”

“Wildest Dreams” also features Swift at her best, though most cynical.  Meeting someone for the first time, she already predicts the ending.  The bridge of this song is my favorite part of the entire album, as she sings, “You’ll see me in hindsight, tangled up with you all night, burning it down.  Someday when you leave me, I bet these memories follow you around.”

“Clean,” the album-closer, has become a fan favorite. Swift sings “When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe.”  The song contains her unique lyrics and imagery with lines like “When the butterflies turned the dust, they covered my entire room” and “You’re all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”

Some songs on this album aren’t successful, like “All You Had To Do Was Stay.”  It has an unfortunate high-pitched warble of the word “stay” on the chorus that creates a nails-on-the-chalkboard type of effect.  Others like “How You Get the Girl,” while fun, are generic and seem out of place on the album.  For the most part, however, this album is one of number-one hits.  It is hard to pinpoint what song will head towards the radio next, as most of these could shoot to number one immediately.

Taylor Swift used to make her hits off releasing songs that read like a diary entry. 1989 may not be the best diary Taylor Swift has released.  After finishing the album, I’m not sure I know much more about her than I did before, but Swift no longer needs to make her ex-boyfriends the topic of her songs, and she does not need to share every personal detail about her life to write a good song.  When asked how this album –still love and relationship heavy– was telling a different story than her others, Swift explained that she’s telling the story of relationships that had a 50/50 split.  She’s not the victim anymore; she’s telling a story of relationships she was not helpless in.   

1989 is available on iTunes, and a deluxe edition with three additional songs and three songwriting voice memos is available at Target.  I recommend buying 1989 now.

Theresa Kelly is a third-year student majoring in English literature secondary education.  She can be reached at TK780615@wcupa.edu.

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