Friday, October 24, 2014

Track By Track Review: Taylor Swift - 1989

Taylor Swift's fifth album and first fully pop record was co produced by hitmaker Max Martin and is gunning for a platinum debut week. But is it worth the hype?

Welcome to New York: A lovely album opener, built on a sea of flashing synths. Swift wasn't kidding when she said 1989 was straight pop, and by New York's path, it seems to be the right move. A-

Blank Space: Passive aggressive shots at her detractors - "they'll tell you I'm insane" - play over a Lorde's Tennis Court inspired beat. A qucik mood change from the predecessor, but a welcome one. Some single potential lies around here. A-

Style: Something about this song just screams fun. It's so enjoyable, whether that's hidden in Swift's offbeat leaning or the production, it's hard to figure out. A-

Out of the Woods: The chorus is a bit bland, and at this point it exposes the formulamatic nature of the album: banging pop songs with Top 40 radio choruses. This seems like an innocent mistake from Swift, but if it were anyone else, Track 4 being an album filler would be a serious problem. B-

All You Had To Do Was Stay: Stay, despite it's peppy vibe feels oddly depressing. The lyrics are typical Swift, crushing the one who crushed her with her words. It's effective, but not anything extremely memorable. B

Shake it Off: A blatant single choice and hit, Shake It Off falsely makes it seem that Swift can't hold her ground in the pop world against Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. Too repetitive and overdone. D+

I Wish You Would: Less synths + more guitar = more variety. It's the closest thing to a ballad thus far, but it gets a bit jumbled. So far, it seems like the first three tracks are the Top three. C+

Bad Blood: The now infamous Katy Perry diss track. The sassy cheerleader chant turns into a vulnerable confession of being struck in Swift's soft spots. "Still got scars on my back from your knife" and "Band-aids don't fix bullet holes" make this standout lyrically thus far. Not terribly catchy, but terribly fascinating. A-

Wildest Dreams: The first slow tempo track trots in at Track 9. Exasperated breaths make this one sound tired. Nothing about it can cling to ones ears like the rest of the album. Very easy to pass over. D

How You Get the Girl: Some of the old Taylor returns with the strum of the first acoustic guitar. It doesn't seem like this one will be a single; and that's okay. This little gem can remain an album track for only the most deserving listeners. 1989's 22 is here and worth the wait. A+

This Love: The acoustic guitar makes a return on one of Swift's most somber tracks to date. One can't help thinking however that Sara Bareilles or even Enya could have pulled off this arioso ballad better. C+

I Know Places: The drum line at the beginning gave the illusion that Places might be a sharp contrast from the bubblegum sound of the rest of the album. Unfortunately, Places falls into the Max Martin choruses that have now become a realm of no escape for the album. D+

Clean: The curtain closes on 1989 with Clean. Quiet, simple and boring. The end of the album makes her audience feel exhausted. Though "the drought was the very worst" is a fascinating opening hook. D

1989 is filled with hits and misses. Swift's former pinpoint musical accuracy has been clouded by genre lines and trying to fit into the pop scene. As albums are going to continuously flutter around the pop sphere, 1989 feels too quiet and polite to make a blatant statement about who Swift is as a bonafide pop artist. And that means that this album will be passed over. Though the gems on 1989 are worthy of some true recognition, the full body of work is pigeonholed to be factory pressed pop.

Overall: 56/100 

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