Monday, 27 October 2014

Taylor Swift -1989 [Album Review]

Taylor Swift's fifth studio album '1989' is an unapologetic liberation of self and personal truth, and she's going to make you dance to it.

On the surface, 1989 seems unlike anything Taylor Swift has done before. You won't hear a single banjo or acoustic guitar on this album, instead she hands over 80's pop synths and commands a type of bedroom dancing only seen in Disney movies, even when the story she's telling is worthy of tears. But her decision to cannonball into the depths of the pop world was not met without criticism; just as soon as Swift announced that this would be the first album to depart from her country-crossover sound, she was accused of abandoning her roots in favour of something more mainstream. But Swift isn't some washed up musician trying to be relevant again, she's a 24 year old with enough power to make an 8 second clip of pure static shoot to number 1 on iTunes. She's an artist and, yes, a person too, and in both respects she is evolving.

In many ways, 1989 is Swift's emancipation from what the world thinks of her. Perhaps this is why she dedicated the entire film clip to 'Shake It Off', the albums first single, to dancing around in exactly the way that causes people to mock her relentlessly after award shows. In a similar vein, the track 'Blank Space' sees Swift taking her media-appointed 'man-eater' identity and wearing it with satirical pride; at the bridge, she playfully tells us that 'darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream', before sighing 'got a long list of ex-lovers / they'll tell you I'm insane' in the chorus. She is well aware of the fictions the world has been telling about her, she just doesn't seem to care anymore. 

Nor does she seem to put much substance in the idea that her penchant for singing about love is a bad thing. 'Wildest Dreams', arguably one of the most distinctive sounds on the record, has an old-Hollywood vibe similar to that of Lana Del Rey. Its dark intensity tells the tale of a love that Swift knew was destined to fail from the start, yet it still breaks into a bittersweet hopefulness every time the chorus hits. 'I Know Places', on the other hand, describes Swift's attempt to save a growing romance from the media's game of hunter-and-prey. It's restless and urgent, and reveals just as much about her view of celebrity culture as it does about the man she's running from it with.

Then there's the anthemic 'Bad Blood', a song widely believed to be about Swift's hot and cold encounters with Katy Perry. Scalding verses tell the story of a friendship turned sour but ultimately pares back to deliver a chanting chorus. This is one that serial Facebook over-sharers will be quoting every time they have a falling out with a friend, I'm calling it now.

For the most part, Swift strays from the typical pop sound that often fences in her industry counterparts. 'How You Get The Girl' and 'Welcome To New York' may be the closest she comes to jumping that fence, but despite this they remain relatable and catchy as hell. 'This Love', perhaps the most ballad-like song on the album, is the least catchy with Swift's echoey voice often quite jarring and is lyrically less advanced than one might expect, but the emotion behind her soft crooning still threatens to pull you in.

Perhaps the most special moment on the album though is 'Clean', a simple, almost ethereal track that takes you through the experience of getting over a great love. Swift's ability to tell deeply moving stories without compromising the integrity of her lyrics is something of a trademark for her. She is known for her detail; the recounting of dates and colours and exact words that people said to her put in winding journeys of songs. 'Clean', while just as lyrically sophisticated, embraces simplicity instead. With just a beat behind her voice, she sings 'gone was any trace of you / I think I am finally clean.' And with that, she is able to convey the liberation behind finally being able let go and shedding your skin to start anew. 

At its core, 1989 remains true to what fans have come to expect from Taylor Swift; a from-the-heart soundtrack providing insight to the past two years of her life. With a plethora of rave reviews and the possibility that it could be the best-selling album of the year, so far Swift has re-emerged in much the same way that any artist with longevity does; as something different to what she used to be, and yet exactly the same where it matters most.

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