by AARON MEGAR
Since the release of her debut album in 2006, Taylor Swift has been the universal shining star of country music, appealing to both country fans and people, like myself, who cringe at the sound of Blake Shelton or Miranda Lambert.
On Monday, however, she finally broke free of the grasps of Nashville, Tennessee and her country roots with the release of 1989, a true “pop” album that is unique both in Taylor’s discography and that of modern pop as a whole. And yet, the album is unmistakingly Taylor Swift, soaring high above contemporary pop stars in a record jam-packed with tracks that are simply awesome.
1989‘s first song, “Welcome to New York,” serves as the backbone of the entire album, embodying everything that this new era of Taylor Swift stands for: a wide-eyed country girl finally ready to take on the bright spotlight of the Big Apple with a strong and confident energy that has never been seen in Taylor before. The synth-based background, along with a vocal far less organic than anything ever heard from Taylor, creates a refreshing and exciting sound that maintains the phenomenal artistic talent of Taylor Swift and characterizes the rest of 1989.
Aside from a couple of tracks (“Shake it Off,” “This Love,” and “Clean”), the rest of the album consists of nine songs that carry a similar sound to “Welcome to New York,” yet are all incredibly and uniquely dynamic on their own. It is to no surprise that almost all of the album’s songs revolve around the topic of love because, well, what else has Taylor Swift ever written about. Even so, her lyrical style of romantic story-telling, whether it be about finding, experiencing, or losing love, seems as though it will never fail, as songs like “Out of the Woods” and “How You Get the Girl” give the same chills that one feels when listening to some of her most emotionally riveting old tracks, like “Holy Ground” or “Haunted.”
Personally, I have hated the album’s lead single, “Shake it Off,” since its late-summer release. And when I learned it came from Taylor, I was very disappointed with what I imagined would be an implication for the rest of her new record. I came into 1989 with drastically lower expectations than I had two years ago when first listening to Red, and on Monday I was pleasantly proven otherwise. Nearly every song could be released as a dominant single, and I can guarantee that mainstream radio will cycle through at least half the album for several months to come. This album is too different from anything ever done by Taylor before to be concretely labeled as her best record, but it is certainly in contention, and without a doubt among the best pop albums, if not the best, from the past couple of years.
While country fans may feel abandoned, Taylor fans, like myself, can find this as a personal evolution by the artist that, though no better or worse than Taylor had been before, is magnificently enjoyable and, like I said before, simply awesome.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Favorite Songs: “Welcome to New York,” “Out of the Woods,” “I Wish You Would,” and “How You Get the Girl”