From a country crooner to a pop princess, Taylor Swift’s recent career plot-twist has been on newsstands everywhere.
With her typical album release pattern following the strict timeline of two years (one for touring her previous album and the second for writing and recording the next), her fifth album has been highly anticipated since the ‘Red Tour’ ended in 2013.
With Swift’s music style slowly inching away from the country genre since her 2006 debut, critics and fans alike have been waiting for the transition to be complete. With her recent release of 1989, selling 1.2 million copies in its first week according to Nielsen SoundScan, it’s safe to say that Swift no longer fits the ‘country cutie’ bill.
1989, filled with anthemic pop songs and electronic drums, dives straight into the edgy pop category that Ms. Swift was aiming for. Songs like ‘Style,’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ are a definite change, with an 80’s sounding guitar and a string symphony respectively, something Swift has never before used.
‘Shake It Off,’ the album’s lead single released August 18th, was the first sign of the change that was yet to come. With horns and a newfound jazziness, it was a telltale sign that while her lyrics would remain the same, the production and sound would be vastly different.
‘Blank Space,’ one of the wittiest songs of the 16 included on the deluxe edition, is almost a bit of self-mockery. Swift sings of her typical whirlwind relationship: “Nice to meet you, where you been? I could show you incredible things.”
She continues on, taking a different approach on love, talking about herself as the media views her: a love-crazed young woman with a knack for turning real life romance into a number one hit. But perhaps the cleverest lyric in the song, the one that really plays on her reputation as a dating disaster, is the title line:
“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.”
Despite the new sound and feel of the album, Swift does, in fact, return to her heartfelt roots. Songs like ‘Clean’ and ‘This Love’ illustrate relationships that have fallen apart, and in some cases, found their way back together. She expresses the same desires she has in previous albums, a love that lasts, but as evident in tracks like ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay,’ it’s clear that it’s something she hasn’t yet found.
In addition to the digital distribution, Swift releases a deluxe edition of each album through Target, typically with three extra songs, and this time around, three voice memos to show fans what her typical writing process is like.
The deluxe tracks, ‘Wonderland,’ ‘You Are In Love,’ and ‘New Romantics,’ might win the title of ‘most different’ on the album overall. ‘Wonderland,’ a purely pop song with echoing vocals and an exploding chorus contrasts the following track. ‘You Are In Love’ sounds like it should be the soundtrack to a high school dance in the 80s, while ‘New Romantics’ screams a sound eerily similar to that of Micheal Angelakos, lead singer of indietronica band Passion Pit.
The album, although a much needed growth for Swift, has caused a bit of an uproar among her more-than-loyal fans. Those who have stuck by the singer since her start tend to be more supportive of her country roots, while her newer fans, those riding the wave of the new-age sound, are more than pleased with the new direction she’s taken with this album.
While a complete change of genre might be something only dreamed of, but never done by most mainstream artists, Swift dove head first, fearless. The New York Times says that album is “full of expertly constructed, slightly neutered songs about heartbreak,” but insists that “there is an implicit enemy on this breezily effective album: the rest of mainstream pop, which 1989 has almost nothing in common with.”
And it’s true. While 1989 takes a swing at pop, it remains different from the rest. There’s no guest-rapper, no hip-hop or R&B. Although her style has changed, Swift remains a music-industry powerhouse. It’s the same combination of well-written lyrics laced with her usual catchy tunes, only this time, Ms. Swift is anything but ordinary.