Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Taylor Swift's 1989 album, reviewed

I wanted to like Taylor Swift's new album, 1989, I really did. I'm a massive fan of Taylor Swift's work, and seeing her live is quite an experience, so I was keen to get hold of a copy of the album as soon as possible.

The album design is definitely one for traditionalists - the cardboard sleeve complete with simple, home photo style shot of Taylor is perfectly in line with the Girl-Next-Door image the lady has projected so far. In a well-thought out touch, the album also contains an envelope of polaroid-style photos of Taylor, complete with handwritten captions which later transpire to be song lyrics - something which is bound to get hardcore Swifties squealing with delight.

A brief flick through the photos and we're onto the main course, the music itself. The technopop twist that we've been promised/threatened with in the run-up to album release rears its head straight away in the opening track, Welcome to New York, a generic, poppy tune with very little to identify it as Swift's work.

Second track Blank Space has vague overtones of her iconic vocals...and a couple of interchangeable tracks passed before anything else caught my attention.

The hidden gem on the album is the already released single, Shake It Off. Not only does it go some way to showing off her incredible voice, the lyrics are the Taylor that we all know and love. From this point on, the album becomes slightly more Taylor, although she's definitely stepped away from her Nashville roots. Sob.

So a pop album it is, but it's hard to compare it to any particular pop artist, not because it's so unique, but precisely because it's so generic. It's easy to get the feeling that T-Swizz was aiming for a Madonna cerca-Immaculate-Collection-style album, but she's not quite there yet. Technopop is for singers who can't sing and need autotuning to within an inch of their lives. Unless something dramatic has changed since the Red tour came to a close in February, Taylor Swift can, very much, sing.  It's not that it's bad music - it's not. But Taylor Swift is a phenomenal musician when she's at the top of her game, and it's disappointing to not see her full vocal potential shine through in 1989.

The real test will be how comfortably she performs this new music style live. Thus far it seems that the Swizzle PR machine has cottoned on to Taylor Swift's once-teenage fans having grown up, and showing less interest in her songs about Harry Styles and the like, so Taylor's music has been prodded in a new direction out of necessity rather than choice. Only time will tell.

And now, let's all take a second to enjoy some vintage Taylor Swift, complete with country twangs:

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