Wednesday 29 October 2014

Review of '1989' by Taylor Swift

It’s been barely a week since this album’s release and already it’s turning platinum.

Taylor Swift is clearly the girl on everyone’s lips right now (and the girl that most men dream of having on their lips). Football fans. Politicians. Inmates on Death Row. They’re all talking about her.

Forget ISIS. Forget Ebola. Taylor Swift’s new album is what’s important right now.
And seeing as it was so fucking important, I decided to check it out for myself.

Truth be told, I’d heard ‘Shake it Off’ before delving into this record and well, I hate to admit it, but I liked the track. As a blogger and connoisseur of indie and underground music I’m not supposed to like mainstream fodder like Taylor Swift and up until this point her country-pop had always bored me. However, her new more dancey approach to song-writing is actually starting to have some scary effects on me. The catchiness of her choruses and the upbeat instrumentals that she’s pulling out the bag are actually damn good.

It isn’t fair, I wanted to pull apart this album. I wanted to write fifty paragraphs of witty insults and nasty metaphors mean enough to make Mike Tyson cry.

However, instead I’ve actually got to do some complimenting. (Basically, if you’ve came here for a brutal panning, leave now!)

Fun Fact: Taylor Swift was born in 1989, hence the title. Perhaps as a tribute to this year, Swift has decided to throw some eighties vibes into this album. Eighties-revival is nothing new – La Roux was doing it earlier this year. What makes this record unique is the perfect subtlety of its usage, the odd synth here and there, some Fine Young Cannibals drums on ‘I Wish You Would'. It’s just enough to give the record a glimmer of nostalgia, but evened out with enough modern sounds to stop it from feeling retro.

Vocally, Taylor Swift has never sounded so bouncy. From the trap-rap-like staccato delivery of ‘Blank Space’ to the downward chromatic notes on the chorus of ‘Shake It Off’, the singing feels energetic and youthful. Intonation is the key to catchiness – not many pop singers/songwriters seem to get that these days – and this chick has it nailed, never coming across as irritating, instead always coming across as simply fun and infectious.

Yes, her lyrics aren’t great. Her description of New York in the opening track is about as insightful as a book on how to read. Still, as a lover of Kasabian and as someone who found Riff Raff’s Neon Icon entertaining, I have no real right to criticise lyricism. So long as lyrics aren’t offensive or needlessly crass, I can let them slide. In clich├ęd terms: it doesn’t matter what you sing, it’s how you sing it.

My biggest complaint with this album, and the reason I’m giving it three stars, is the fact that things start to get a bit samey three quarters of the way through. Cut away a few tracks towards the middle end and this could have been a solid album. I like to be teased and this record outstays its welcome.