While I never have cared much for Taylor Swift’s blend of country and pop, I have always found myself secretly and shamefully enjoying her poppy singles.
When I heard the first single from “1989,” the infectiously catchy “Shake It Off,” I noticed a distinct departure from the country inflection that was on her previous material, and I found myself anticipating a Taylor Swift album for the first time in my life.
I was pleased to find that throughout “1989,” Swift leaves her country roots behind and fully embraces the pop aspect of her sound. The country ballads and acoustic guitars that defined her old sound have been replaced with ‘80s pop tunes featuring synthesizers and electronic drums, and the results are certainly better than what I was expecting.
Though “Shake It Off” still remains the album’s highlight, there are multiple other quality songs on this record. Album opener “Welcome to New York” feels like the mission statement for the record, with self-referential lyrics about the change in Swift’s sound. The song is also a very strong electropop track with fantastic melodies.
Other highlights include the Haim-sounding “Out of the Woods,” the stripped-down “Blank Space,” the potentially Passion Pit-influenced “All You Had to Do Was Stay,” and the subdued and dreamy “Wildest Dreams.”
With this change of instrumentation, some might be worried that Swift gets lost in her new sound, but I can assure those people that is not the case. This album is still a Taylor Swift record through and through. Her trademark vocals and harmonies color this record in a way that is distinctly unique to her, and her bubbly personality
With that said, I do wish that certain aspects of her style would have changed, or at least grown, with this new record. I find the things that I did not like about Swift’s music still hold me back from falling in love with “1989.”
One of the biggest issues I have with the record is the volume of relationship subject matter. At this point, I cannot tell if Swift is trying to be tongue-in-cheek or if she still thinks that this subject matter is fresh, but I found myself completely uninterested with Swift’s relationship woes after the third or fourth song still addressing the issue.
Another is the fact that I feel her music is still aimed at a preteen market. This album just feels like it was made for young girls who are experiencing their first real relationships. While that is not an issue if that is the intention, after multiple albums addressing those feelings, I want to see Swift tackle more substantial subject matter and shed some of the bubblegum aesthetic.
Of course, as with much commercial pop music, filler is also an issue. Toward the back half of the record, the weakness of certain songs becomes obvious. “How You Get the Girl” is easily the most immature song on the record, being overly cheesy and unenjoyable on every level. “Bad Blood” rubs me in the wrong way on just about every front, “This Love” is overly sensitive and musically weak and the Imogen Heap collaboration is passable, but my high expectations were not met.
Overall, the album is an intriguing step forward. Musically, the album is a bit of a mixed bag, fantastically produced, mixed and mastered, but offering little in the way of substance. With that said, I think the positives outweigh the negatives and I have high hopes for Swift’s next release.