Album Review – Taylor Swift’s “1989”
“This site’s called savingcountrymusic.com. Why are you talking about Taylor Swift? She’s not country. She never was. Now she’s even saying she isn’t.”
Well guess what, tough titty. This is my damn website, and if I want to talk about Taylor Swift, I will. And guess what, you’ll probably read about it.
It’s true that Taylor Swift has officially left country, and the majority of the country music media needs to ween themselves off the Taylor Swift click bait and recuse themselves from running features on every Instagram picture she posts. But I can make the case that when it comes to this specific album, 1989, it is the most relevant, most important album released in country music in the entirety of 2014, let alone in music overall, and for a host of reasons, even though it’s not country. Thinking otherwise is vanity, and ill-informed, to the point where it would be almost irresponsible not to broach the subject of this album, and the potential repercussions it could have on the country genre at large.
For starters, if you trace back to the origination point 1989, it will lead you to the corporate headquarters of Big Machine Records—an independent label located at 1219 16th Ave South in a portion of the City of Nashville known by locals as Music Row, aka the mother brain of the country music industrial complex. Not to mention that said Big Machine Records also happens to be up for sale according to reports that first surfaced the third week of October, and have subsequently been stoked anew, and specifically name this album, 1989, it’s success, and the success and contract status of Taylor Swift as linchpins to the entire deal.
But let’s not bog down in business jargon and behind-the-scenes details. The reason 1989 is important to country music is not in lieu of Taylor Swift declaring herself and this album pop, it is because of it. Country music isn’t mad at Taylor Swift for leaving the genre, they’re mad because she blew their cover. Of course she’s not country, and never has been. Nor is the majority of what is clad in country clothing. It just happens to be that Taylor Swift is the only artist with the balls to say it, and the balls to admit she wants to make pop music. Oh my heavens, what a shock! Meanwhile the rest of country is syncing up banjos with drum machine beats, and singing about getting high in the bathrooms of downtown clubs. Say they’re not country though, and they’ll admonish you as a closed-minded purist, and claim what they’re doing is “evolution.” If nothing else, give Taylor Swift some damn credit for being honest with herself and her fans. That’s one big monkey off her back … at least for now.
But genres aside, 1989 has already revealed itself as transcendent from a commercial perspective. I don’t know if it’s even possible for us to quantify what kind of feat this album has achieved by selling more albums in a week than any other project in a dozen years. When you factor in the unchecked flight from physical product and now even downloads that is absolutely ramrodding the music marketplace into a downward spiral, this feat is nothing short of miraculous. Would this be the equivalent of selling 2.5 million records on debut in 1989—the year the album is named for? Three million? More?
The decision to not make 1989 available on Spotify proved to be a smart one, as 14-year-old girls all across the country crashed their local Target stores to obtain their copy. Remember the Taylor Swift op-ed from the Wall Street Journal and her fearful plea? “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free,” she said. “In mentioning album sales, I’d like to point out that people are still buying albums, but now they’re buying just a few of them. They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow… It isn’t as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album…”
Unless you’re Taylor Swift.
Why is Taylor Swift’s 1989 relevant to a country music website? Because it is relevant to any music website, because we very well may be looking at the very last American album sold in a physical form that permeates the entire population. Vinyl collectors will tell you, if you crash any given pile of records, whether at a garage sale, a thrift store, etc., you always see the same revolving titles: John Denver’s Greatest Hits, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass for example. It’s uncanny, and doesn’t matter where you are in the country. It’s because everybody bought those records. Or at least the people that bought records did. 1989 may be the last record of that lineage, and the only person or album that might have a chance at besting or repeating this deed would be Taylor Swift in two years when she releases her next one. It was Taylor Swift’s last album Red that 1989 broke the record for a debut week initially, until the tally of 1989 sales started to reach past 1.25 million, and we had to go all the way back to 2002’s The Eminem Show to find a peer. That is an illustration of how Taylor Swift truly is the artist of a generation, even before factoring music’s dramatic sales slide. And the fact she accomplished all of this after declaring herself no longer country is a footnote worth not glossing over.
How did she do it? The Spotify embargo helped, but she also did it by showing love to the physical format. The cover of Swift’s 1989 is fairly nondescript, but purposely so, and you can almost squint and tell how over time it could become iconic with its retro attitude. But it really was the little treats Taylor Swift put inside each package that made her many fans and even passers by decide to go physical. In each package is a card that enters listeners into a sweepstakes for a chance to meet Taylor Swift. A Willy Wonka golden ticket so to speak. It also comes with a little package that says “Photos” that includes 13 cards, or mock Polaroids of Taylor Swift, each numbered as part of a bigger sequence, with the lyrics to songs scribbled in Sharpie on the bottom.
This all gives a physical representation to the incredible amount of social traffic Taylor Swift generates. It’s something tangible that separates her from the virtual stars of today. Like the spinning cover of Led Zepplin’s III‘s original album cover where you could change what’s peeking through the windows, it shows imagination, and effort.
The problem with 1989 though is that it is just not a very good album. Country, or not. The analogy employed for Taylor Swift albums by this country music critic for her previous releases was that of an Italian food critic sent to a Chinese restaurant, and asked to judge the Chinese food … as Italian food. Clearly the result would be a failing grade, and that is what Taylor Swift received, regardless of how good the music was as pop. But judging it as pop music specifically, it was hard to not admit that the music had its moments, and its depth and value.
1989 has some depth too, and some value here and there, but overall you feel like you’re getting the worst of all those older Taylor Swift albums—the unabashed pandering to the public at large in smash singles, and some of the self-ingratiating sentimentality—all condensed into one. There are respites, and as Taylor Swift says herself, this is the most cohesive album she’s ever made sonically, and that may be true. But I’m not sure that is something to be boasting about when this is the result.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 could have been great, and you get a sense that it almost was. The idea of this retro, 25-year throwback perspective personified in new music is probably a worthy one. That 25-year marker is thrown around regularly as the measurement of when music of the previous generation reaches its apex of emotional virility and maximum memory response in its listeners. Before the 25-year window, the music feels unfashionable. Beyond it, and it feels outmoded. 25 years is the sweet spot, and that is why country music is seeing a revival of its “Class of ’89” artists like the recently-unretired Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson who is going on a 25-year Anniversary tour.
25 years ago was a big time in country music, or at least the time of a big freshman class. But what about pop? 1989 was the year of Milli Vanilli. The 80’s were already an era of music that would be called lost by some, and laughable by others. Why does a lot of commercial country today sound like bad 80’s hair metal? Why did Taylor Swift’s Big Machine record label release a Mötley Crüe tribute album this year? Because it hits on that 25-year sweet spot. But hair metal and Milli Vanilli were godawful, just like much of 80’s music.
If you wanted to look for what has withstood the test of time from the 80’s era of pop, you look to New Wave, and one hit wonders. Yes, this was the era when synthesized music took hold in earnest, but it was also the time of tantalizing melodies and arrangement—guilty pleasures for Audiophiles and ear worms galore for the masses. And we’ve already seen Taylor Swift tap into this retro music magic, and rather successfully ahead of the 1989 release.
A song like “Enchanted” from Taylor Swift’s 2010 album Speak Now has that 80’s synth pop thing going strong. On 2012’s Red, a perfect example of this is the song “Starlight.” And the single that preceded this album called “Sweeter Than Fiction” that appeared on the soundtrack of the film One Chance also found Taylor Swift revitalizing the New Wave vibes that marked some of the best moments of 80’s pop, and doing it with Jack Antonoff as producer—the guitar player for the band Fun, and the man who also co-wrote and produced two songs for 1989, including one of the lead singles, “Out of the Woods.”
Listening to “Sweeter Than Fiction” and some of Swift’s other synth-pop songs from the past, you though that if this was the direction 1989 took, the results could be quite tantalizing. Taylor has proven to be adept at re-imagining the 80’s. But I hate to say, this album did not take that direction, really whatsoever. If “Sweeter Than Fiction,” or even “Starlight” or “Enchanted” were included on this album, they would immediately become the best tracks by far. One of the surprising things about 1989 is how much it resides solidly in the here and now, startlingly so. There’s not really any retro vibe. Instead we get Max Martin/Shellback smash single formulas, a fairly lackluster, unimaginative, and disappointing performance by Jack Antonoff, and only a few songs that really simulate any intrigue to the discerning ear.
1989, just like the year itself, is sort of a bore. The cohesiveness of the album eliminates any spice or suspense. The modes of production are transparent, and the melodies are rendered powerless by rhythmic seizures, excessive repetitiveness, and poor decision making in the composition. This album is just kind of a mess in places, guessing at what might make a song a smash hit instead of doing the inspiration justice.
It’s been the assertion by Saving Country Music that all popular music is slowly transitioning to simply being noise scientifically formulated to stimulate the highest possible dopamine response in the brain. Swedish hitmakers Max Martin and Shellback—who joined Taylor’s team at the behest of Scott Borchetta during Red—are the precursors to this impending era. They were responsible for Red‘s three huge pop hits, but like Taylor accurately picked up on, their compositions came out of nowhere on that album, like interjections to the listener, and hurt her overall effort, regardless of the success of the songs themselves. She avoids that same mistake here, but unfortunately she does it by enacting this Max Martin/Shellback composition-by-formula across the board on these 13 tracks.
Whatever the original melodies to these songs were, we’ll never know. Taylor herself has probably forgotten them already. I have little doubt most of the words are her own. But then she brought them into the studio, was asked to sing them a certain way, and then they were summarily dumped into a sound file, cut and pasted like text from a Wikipedia page into a student’s history report, and then used as the producers wished to craft what they believed would be infectious patterns for mega hits. The result is that any and all inspiration behind the songs has been scrubbed from the performances. Taylor Swift’s words and voice are just another sonic elements to fit into a pre-arranged composition optimized for mass consumption. The curly-haired awkward girl sitting in her bedroom writing down her feelings while playing her acoustic guitar was not only lost in this process, she was murdered.
What’s the most shocking about this is that we can expect this kind of behavior from the music cretins like Max Martin and Shellback, who along with Joey Moi and other producers are really at the heart of destroying American popular music. But Jack Antonoff of Fun, and Ryan Tedder—the OneRepublic frontman who also co-writes and produces a couple of songs on this album—seem so eager to play ball with this formulaic approach. This was possibly the fatal flaw of bringing in Max Martin on not just as a songwriter and producer, but as the executive producer of the project. Everything was exposed to his corrupting mandibles, aside from maybe the song “This Love” that Swift did with her long-time original producer Nathan Chapman.
In fact the guest producers do such a poor job and this album is such a lowering of the bar overall, the songs that shine the brightest are arguably the ones Max Martin and Shellback had the heaviest hand in—a complete role reversal from Red. Even Imogen Heap’s contribution on the final track “Clean” feels tired, forced, and unimaginative. However, this is nothing close to praise of the Swedish pair. It’s just happens to be that a few of the songs they didn’t completely suffocate the melodies or ruin the songs with rhythmic pap, though many of them they still did.
The song “Style” works well as a modern pop song, and the theme about being classic and above style trends is really smart, while the song also conveys the story of a passionate romance. The other standout of the album is “How You Get the Girl.” Despite being hamstrung by the annoyingly-rhythmic confusion at the beginning of the song, it rallies to evidence one of the most catchy moments on an album that is curiously lacking in them for a pop project. “This Love”—the only solo write by Swift on the entire album and produced by Nathan Chapman—is alright, but is a little too flat and Enya-like to hold the attention for very long, even though for once on this album you get the sense you’re listening to something very personal.
Other songs like “All You Had To Do Was Stay” would have been good, buy why, why choose to put some ridiculous banshee yawp enhancement on the final “stay” of every phrase to take a perfectly fine pop song and make it polarizing? “Wildest Dreams,” “I Wish You Would,” are just okay, and don’t even get me started with the album’s lead singles: “Shake It Off,” “Out of the Woods,” and “Welcome To New York.” These songs are just bullshit. “Out of the Woods” can’t be saved by the inclusion of a personal narrative because it is simply caustic to the ears with its rhythmically disjointed repetitiveness. “Bad Blood” is downright annoying. The entire project is so racked with poor rhythm decisions, repeated words and sounds, Shellback loading up Taylor Swift’s voice in a memory bank and playing it back on a MIDI controller like a Moog, it’s just objectionable to the ear in many places. 1989 is the worst album Taylor Swift has every made.
But how about the words, is there any redemption here? Sure, maybe. But once again we’re asked to praise Taylor Swift the songwriter when her words have been buried beneath layers of synthesizer beds and over-production that screams out for the predominant attention, while the lead single of the album is built around the vacuous “Players gonna play, and haters gonna hate” über clichÃ© of our era. If Taylor Swift wants respect as a lyricist, she needs to put the material out front that flatters these attributes, not that refutes them. Yes, there are some good lines, and good sentiments on 1989‘s lyrical set. But we’re not seeing Taylor Swift evolve. When she was fifteen, we were amazed at the maturity and self-awareness she embedded in her cute little pop songs. Now you’re starting to wonder if and how her fame has stunted her emotional development.
That doesn’t mean songs like “Wildest Dreams,” “This Love,” and “I Know Places” don’t have a little something. But songs like “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood” come across as immature and self-indulgent. Let’s not forget that Taylor Swift is still only 24. But where before she was a 15-year-old writing as a 24-year-old, now it feels like she’s a 24-year-old writing as an 18-year-old in segments of this album.
Where does 1989 rate when it comes to the great pop albums of this generation? It’s fate is probably secured in being considered top grade simply because of its commercial performance. Hell, the City of New York has already named Swift their “ambassador” for the next two years based off of 1989‘s lead song and Swift buying and apartment in Manhattan. But I’m sorry to say, “Welcome to New York” as a song offers nothing. At all. 1989 held up against Lorde’s Pure Heroine, or Adele’s 21, or even taking a further step back and looking at Nelly Furtado’s Loose for example, and you feel like it would be patently unfair to compare those projects to what Taylor Swift has offered up here. It’s more on par with Ke$ha’s Animal—simply a collection of digital production performances and studio magic with some flashes of fair writing.
Swift seems to think that to loosen the bonds of country, she had to completely go away from instrumentation. Virtually the entirety of 1989 was sequenced on Mac computers, and you can feel that in the results. Yet you listen to where the rest of pop music is headed, and you see it beginning to favor instrumentation more and more, like the standup bass in Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” that has consistently bested Swift’s “Shake It Off” in the charts.
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There are some decent moments on this album, and I don’t want to downplay this opinion. And I would be interested in hearing the songs that did not make the cut, as I’m sure there were many fleshed out in the studio that we’re not getting a chance to hear.
But it’s over. That young girl with big dreams and an acoustic guitar sitting on the edge of her bed writing silly little heartfelt songs that became America’s sweetheart has become just a franchise name for dubious-intentioned producers to do with what they will. Max Martin finished the job in 1989 he started on Red. The fact that Taylor Swift still writes most of her lyrics is simply a facade that she has complete control over what is transpiring, misleading not just her fans and the public, but more disappointingly, herself. The problem with money and success is that you can always have more of it, and this is usually where the compromising of principles occurs, trying to best records you’ve already broken. When you attain goals by reaching outside yourself, the losses are greater than the gains.
1989 does not represent the year Taylor Swift was born, it represents the moment her music died as a form of her original expression.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns Down.
November 3, 2014 @ 8:49 am
I didn’t like Taylor Swift’s country music but have always said what she did, she did well. I caught about 10 minutes of her playing at the LP Field as part of the CMA festival a few years back** and was very impressed with her performance, though it came across to me as more of a Kate Bush/Stevie Nicks rock chick type thing than anything I associate with country. Good luck to her but she still won’t be troubling my playlist!
** I had just walked over from seeing George Jones at the Ryman so it’s a fair bet I wouldn’t have been that impressed with many of the modern artists!
November 3, 2014 @ 9:04 am
Female songwriters (along with authors, poets,etc.) have a very narrow band of themes to write about. Generally, its love, and a few minor derivations on love. Once that avenue is exhausted, there is nothing left to say. Taylor ran out of things to say a while back. I think all of these digital tricks and devices are employed to cover the fact that she no longer (if she ever did) has anything novel or important to say.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:41 am
If anything female songwriters have been held in a box and forced to write exclusively about love. MANY MANY have broken out and written amazing, transcendent songs on other topics (Landslide, Wide Open Spaces). It’s not about women. Hell most Paul McCartney songs are just “silly love songs.”
Is the reason Disney princess always chase boys because Disney writers have too narrow a band of themes to work with?
November 3, 2014 @ 9:47 am
I may have hated the chemistry of the four Liverpudlians as a group, but each was a genius in his own right. I maintain that the Lennon/McCartney songs are treasures for the ages. (“I’m a Loser”, “Yesterday” etc.)
November 3, 2014 @ 10:26 am
Excellent observation here . Pop is mostly about sonic ‘tricks’ as ear candy and the visuals ..although much of the newer pop music has it all over country in the melody department ( Pink , Lorde etc.. )
November 3, 2014 @ 6:40 pm
Pretty sure Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark would disagree about having nothing else to write about.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:44 pm
… or PJ Harvey, Kristin Hersh, Sleater-Kinney, Abbe May, Laura Marling, Robyn, BjÃ¶rk, Annika Norlin, Sharon van Etten, Grimes and so, so many others (these are just the ones that spring to mind this minute) for that matter. An artist is an artist, whether male or female. To say women can only write about love and relations as a subject matter is mindboggling in its closed-mindedness!
November 4, 2014 @ 11:37 am
Where are the female James McMurtrys, Guy Clarks, Bob Dylans, Townes Van Zants, John Hiatts??? Where are the female William Faulkners, Ernest Hemingways, Leo Tolstoys, George Orwells? Where are the female Edgar Allan Poes, Henry Timrods, Robert Frosts? They don’t exist. Joni Mitchell? Please.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:06 pm
November 6, 2014 @ 12:26 am
Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Iris Dement, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Kelly Willis, Tift Merrit, Nancy Griffith, Kasey Chambers, Allison Moorer, Roseanne Cash just to name a few.
November 4, 2014 @ 2:04 pm
I’d like to add Lucinda Williams.
November 5, 2014 @ 7:55 pm
“Female songwriters (along with authors, poets,etc.) have a very narrow band of themes to write about.”
July 8, 2015 @ 6:14 pm
Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, The Indigo Girls, Odetta….
November 3, 2014 @ 9:26 am
I’m a pretty avid Vinyl collector. I have to agree about John Denver and Herb Alpert. That orange cover with the band lined up seems to follow me wherever I go. That said, Herb Alpert was never the kind of “celebrity” that many of his peers were. Let’s think about this: Herb Alpert is the only person to hit number one on the hot 100 as both an instrumentalist and a vocalist. he’s received an arts medal from our current president. But he is not now nor was he ever the kind of all-permeating celebrity that Taylor Swift is. I think the CD and later digital revolution enabled a celebrity like her to reach the masses of our impressionable youth. I wouldn’t let a child touch my vinyl collection. EVER. the same I expect held true for parents way back in the vinyl era, ergo, kids didn’t have “their own” music in the same way as they do now, and as a result, artists had to appeal to adults.
November 3, 2014 @ 12:22 pm
“ergo, kids didn”™t have “their own” music in the same way as they do now”
Sure they did. Teen pop has been popular going back all the way to the Beatles (and perhaps even earlier, with Elvis and Pat Boone).
November 3, 2014 @ 2:07 pm
an excellent point Eric, but if I may argue, statistics dictate that the Beatles outsold Elvis unless one factors in the sale of singles, at which Elvis truly was “The King.” the primary reason for buying a single over a full album is cost, as most “kids” wouldn’t have the same kind of buying power as working adults. More importantly, before music could be owned “immaterially” i.e. via a “digital” copy instead of a “physical” one, parents could be better vested in what they’re kids did and didn’t listen to. I remember a story in which my grandmother threw away my mother’s Bob Dylan records.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:14 pm
The primary fan base of both Elvis and the Beatles consisted largely of young people, including huge numbers of teens. Middle-aged and elderly people were overwhelmingly into jazz in the early 60’s (with some into folk as well). Based on some statistics that I once read, jazz dominated album sales during this period, and rock did not achieve sales dominance until very late in the 60’s.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:38 pm
your absolutely right Eric, but you’re missing the point I was getting at. I’m just saying that in this age of free and accessible music, it’s almost impossible for parents to exercise any control over their kids’ listening habits, and due to the ease now of owning material, it allows for celebrities like Taylor Swift to reach vast audiences like never before, and with the rise of music videos, so has risen an emphasis on the appearance of an artist that wasn’t present especially in the jazz era.
November 4, 2014 @ 10:46 am
I agree in part parents have no control but I also find it more common that parents and their kids music tastes are not different anymore. It used to be parents railed on new music as noise and garbage while the kids panned their parents music as old, in a general mainstream sense.
BUt6 I think with parents to trying to be their kids friends as opposed to adults a lot of things one wouldn’t normally think about be affected by this trend get affected.
When I go out dancing now I see people OLDER THAN ME singing along to Niki Minaj and dancing to Taylor Swift at the club that is geared towards people of their age! The club isn’t playing music of their generation it is playing the music of now and MAN people go nuts for Blurred Lines still and Black Widow and other songs. And these folks more than likely grew up on Marvin Gaye!
I blame radio for this partly because they can only play the same 40 song.
November 4, 2014 @ 11:06 am
Great point Bear …EVERYONE wants to play-like they are still 18 …..even Gramma . No one seems too concerned with the repercussions of their youth-geared lifestyle ( fixation ) and mindset thanks to commercialism and its seemingly successful efforts to brainwash the masses into believing “You’re worth it” . From erosion of traditions and values, the focus on ” ME ” to incredible consumer debt brought about by this philosophy of ” You’re Worth It ” ….no one wants to accept , embrace or deal with reality , it seems .
November 4, 2014 @ 11:49 am
I agree with you, Bear, about parents’ listening choices.
I was at a (second marriage) wedding a few weeks ago; the couple were both in their late 40s and the guests were mostly couples in their late 40s/early 50s.
The DJ played all current pop and the dance floor was jammed with older ladies who seemed to know the words to every song. When “Blurred Lines” came on, all their husbands ran out there to join them. I didn’t even know the song; had to ask my kids what it was.
I’ve never seen grown-ups — some of them grandparents — dance to popular music like that.
July 8, 2015 @ 6:17 pm
This is true hence the rise in physical sales of older act but kids have no money of their own so how did Taylor Swift outsell everyone. Their parents had to buy it. How do kids buy music (assuming they buy it) on iTunes with no credit card.
I find it humorous Taylor Swift would even try to break records of physical sales since that’s all going away in the mainstream market. Now we”l be looking at how had the most downloads or views, won’t we.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:30 am
This big pop sound just does not sound authentic coming from Taylor Swift. She is the girl that writes reasonably competent songs with just a guitar. Every pop song from her has sounded like she’s trying on a style to see if it fits. Oh, I’ll try a Gwen Stefani here. Oh, I’ll try a Lorde here.
I think authenticity from a massive pop star is hard to find, and I don’t say this because of the tween-like drama between the two, but I think someone like Katy Perry really does have such an outsized personality that most of her songs, grating as they may be, are truly authentic to her.
For my money, Paramore makes the best pop music going at the moment.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:44 am
“Well guess what, tough titty. This is my damn website, and if I want to talk about
Taylor Swift, I will. And guess what, you”™ll probably read about it.”
Heck yeah Trig, thanks for doing this. Like it or not, she is relevant. And when the book is written on country music, she’ll have more than a few pages dedicated to her.
November 3, 2014 @ 10:15 am
Trigger, any thoughts on Taylor Swift pulling her whole catalog off Spotify today? Is this just them trying to sell her new albums and old albums again or do you think she and Big Machine have enough pull to force Spotify and other streaming companies to pay out more per song?
November 3, 2014 @ 10:16 am
Have something coming up on this shortly.
November 3, 2014 @ 10:57 am
Trigger …you’ve covered a TON of ground with this review . I’m sure you could have covered much more but , thankfully , you stopped where you did .You ‘ve made some very astute points and some informed comments about the ‘songs’ and the production. You’ve explained the tricks used to market TS ( giveaways etc.. ) to the faithful and why , in your opinion , TS matters
However explaining the success an act like this can be done in a far easier fashion , in my humble opinion, and it is , least of all , about the music .
This state of the art car was built years ago with someone else’s $$$ . All it needed was a driver to steer it ..preferably someone pretty and ‘safe’ .
November 3, 2014 @ 11:24 am
I have to say I never liked Taylor Swift. But I am an old fart. Teenage woe doesn’t even register on my list of truths. But I have always felt Taylor Swift was a make believe girl who projected problems that her fans believed themselves to be true. They thought she was singing to them, not pandering to them. And they bought it all, including the physical cd. But the real test of any artist ( and I think calling Taylor Swift an artist is a major misstep) is how they grow and develop. When you play music for teenagers you are stuck in that time zone. Swift isn’t alone. Luke Bryan, FGL, and even Kenny Chesney can’t leave the college crowd even when they try. Swift’s biggest problem wasn’t that she wasn’t country. It was that country didn’t care as long has it had a star that brought in money. You can thank Garth and Shania for that. And Swift has had no real life to speak of because her real life was confection anyway. No real artist can grow and develop in the public eye all the time. And that is especially true when you are in the public eye in order to sell an image that correlates with your music. But teenagers don’t care. Their unrefined taste is quick to take hold of whatever music reflects back to them of their own self centeredness. And that is all that Swift was, is, or can be. She wasn’t Tammy running away from a husband, with her young girls, to be singer. She wasn’t a married Loretta with four kids at home, and a cheating husband. She was never even Dolly. She was a young, bright middle class child who’s father saw that she might be an idol for other middle class children with her immature poetry, and undefined voice. And so when when she fails to really develop isn’t she just another Chris Gaines with this record? Country was just the pimp that got her noticed. And now, out on her own, she can’t show you better tricks because in the end she was only a one- trick pony anyway. You got her best with “Tim McGraw”.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:35 am
‘Country was just the pimp that got her noticed. And now, out on her own, she can”™t show you better tricks because in the end she was only a one- trick pony anyway. You got her best with “Tim McGraw”.
Dead on Craig……
November 3, 2014 @ 12:20 pm
“You got her best with “Tim McGraw”.”
Disagree. I would put forth “Dear John”, “Never Grow Up”, and “Last Kiss” from Speak Now, as well as “Sad Beautiful Tragic”, “All Too Well”, and “Treacherous” from Red.
Unfortunately, you will not find any song of such quality in “1989”.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:08 pm
In my opinion I think the closest we get to the old signature Swift songwriting style on 1989 was ‘This Love’ since it was the first song written for the album and maybe ‘Wildest Dreams’
November 4, 2014 @ 12:40 am
Craig, that was one of the best written comments I have read on Saving Country Music. You said some things that needed to be said that even Trigger would not say. You explained very clearly what all the fuss about this overexposed celebrity is about.
March 23, 2015 @ 4:27 pm
As an 18 years old young woman, I find your comment very interesting! You made very interesting points!
I’ve been in a love/hate relationship with Taylor Swift’s music for almost all my teenage years, and a few months ago I finally listened to her entire discography. I almost completely agree with you. Taylor’s a good songwriter and the fact that her songs have so many details makes it seem like I’m reading a diary. Even better, in her first three albums she has many songs that aren’t about relationships and reflect most teenager’s problems. Add these factors to good marketing (and many other Taylor’s qualities), and you have tons of obsessed fans! Because Taylor was genuinely relatable and a decent role model. And really, if you think about it, isn’t Taylor better than the average pop star?
But the problem is that it seems Taylor’s running out of topics in her songs. Why? Because she insists that she’s still the girl-next door and she’s desperately trying to attract the teenage audience, when she could instead move on to the adult world. After all, money and popularity are all that seem to matter! Meanwhile, other fans like me, who are growing up and leaving their teens behind, are starting to feel annoyed. There’s so much grown-up stuff she could sing about, if she wanted! And I don’t want to be mean, but what the hell will she sing about in her next album, if she doesn’t get a new boyfriend soon? She’ll sing about her old exes? About how it’s like to be rich and famous?
Anyway, unlike you, I’m still trying to be optimistic. I still believe that I’ll be completely satisfied with her upcoming albums when she gets to her 30s. Because I don’t think she’ll be stuck in this time zone forever. She’l eventually get married, have kids and sing about more diverse themes. And despite all her defects, she’s still making some great songs. But I’ll still have to wait for that and it’s so sad to see her selling out! Because her third album showed a bright, promising future, and now that’s almost ruined.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:27 am
After reading this write-up, I checked out the audio samples on iTunes. Yeesh…
An actual throwback to late-’80s pop (such as Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ and Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer,’ which actually had somewhat varied sounds, and occasionally dared to address more socially conscious and personal subject matters beyond romantic love) would’ve been preferable to the modern-day assembly-line same-yness of what I heard. :p
November 3, 2014 @ 12:17 pm
I hate to repeat this, but what annoys me the most about this album is its misrepresentation of the music of 1989. Here is a chart of the actual top songs from that year:
Aside from Milli Vanilli and maybe to a slight extent Paula Abdul/Janet Jackson, Taylor’s album sounds absolutely nothing like 1989. A more appropriate title would have been “1999” or even “2009”.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:26 pm
I may be mistaken , Eric , but as you say ..this album is NOT what music sounded like in 1989 and I didn’t realize the reference was a music one. I thought the title was only a reference to the year she was born ….no ?
In any case its forgettable trendy radio drivel .
BTW check out SNL’s ” Swiftamine ” on You tube . Hilarious in a diplomatic sorta way .
November 3, 2014 @ 2:44 pm
Taylor went out of her way to say that the year 1989 inspired this album, sonically and thematically, and that she even went back and studied the year and era to understand it better (because she was not born yet).
My guess is that if we sifted through what was left on the cutting house floor with this album, we’d find songs that do embody the “1989” vibe. The desire to want to make a cohesive album may have been a flaw in this process.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:06 am
1989 was one of my favourite years in music, actually. For a long time I thought it was seminal even. Of course in time I’ve learnt that this is probably down to the fact that I was 19 then. I guess the music that hits you as you turn from a kid into the person that you are, as you develop your personality and as you discover the stuff that suits/mints that personality, will always be the most resonant in your life.
Amazing records released in 1989: “Doolittle” by the Pixies, The Stone Roses debut album, The Cure’s “Disintegration”. This is of course not what TS is referring to at all (though maybe she should have!) and has little bearing on this review, I’m just being a little nostalgic. Is it really 25 years?
November 4, 2014 @ 2:21 pm
I was 10 or 11 at the time, so I didn’t discover a lot of the better or more interesting, beyond-the-Top-40 stuff from that time until well after the fact; besides the Cure, Pixies and the Stone Roses, there was also:
Kate Bush, ‘The Sensual World’
Kirsty MacColl, ‘Kite’
Rickie Lee Jones, ‘Flying Cowboys’
XTC, ‘Oranges and Lemons’
Elvis Costello, ‘Spike’ (not one of his better albums, but has some terrific songs)
The Replacements, ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’ (ditto)
November 3, 2014 @ 1:23 pm
Listen to the Voice Memos on the Target album. Taylor brought the song Blank Space to Max Martin as a fully-formed thing – she’s not just writing lyrics for Martin melodies.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:29 pm
Also, this album reminds me of Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love. Taylor’s experimenting with synths and pop but admitted in a recent interview that she aims to record an Emmylou Harris album some day.
November 3, 2014 @ 1:41 pm
‘Taylor”™s experimenting with synths and pop but admitted in a recent interview that she aims to record an Emmylou Harris album some day.’
Hmm…TS better set the autotune on 100 if she’s planning on attempting an Emmy-Lou type all-acoustic album . There are several new You Tube videos of TS singing from her new album and the vocals are unforgivably dreadful ( including the performance of SHAKE IT OFF from the launch show….had to be embarrassing for her and her camp but I’m not sure that matters to them at this point ) .
I can’t help but think about all of the GREAT music , Songwriters and Singers with a capital ” S” that are overlooked each time a record like this is embraced by the masses . Yes I can understand young kids getting into the whole fan-worship , fashion and ear candy aspects of this…but it still seems so wrong and unfair to the countless REAL acts in it out of sheer passion ….especially when the business is hurting so badly for something honest and real to give it credibility again .
November 3, 2014 @ 2:08 pm
Weren’t you praising Katy Perry just a few months ago? Again, I am not defending “1989”, but I just do not understand why you would single out Taylor Swift for criticism while complimenting Katy Perry, who uses massive levels of Autotune in her songs.
November 3, 2014 @ 3:45 pm
“,,,,, but I just do not understand why you would single out Taylor Swift for criticism while complimenting Katy Perry, who uses massive levels of Autotune in her songs..”
Only because TS is one mentioned here as doing the Emmy Lou Harris -type album and THAT project would demand some SERIOUSLY pitch -perfect vocals .I know autotune is used by everyone everywhere all the time . But some people use it to enhance a good vocal performance ….and some people use it to create one .
Katy Perry recently did a Crossroads special, I believe it was , with Kasey Musgraves . Katy’s voice was quite stunning and her lyrics are among the best in pop , IMHO , craftwise and subject-wise , not to mention their marriage to a melody . You can find it on You Tube and determine for yourself whether or not Katy is a damn good pop vocalist – not perfect – but damn good. TS is much more about marketing than any vocal talents and I’ve assumed for years that was just a given and an industry ‘understood’
November 3, 2014 @ 7:47 pm
“TS is much more about marketing than any vocal talents”
I would re-write this as:
“TS is much more about songwriting and relatable vocals that convey the emotions of the songs than any acrobatic vocal talents”
November 3, 2014 @ 1:58 pm
Brilliant review, Trigger. I want to add that TS deserves some recognition for representing a responsible human being, not an irresponsible, sex-crazed, drug-induced perversion of a human being. In the world of pop music, she is a refreshingly sane compared to her contemporaries like Kesha and Gaga and all the rest. And, of course, this is part of her attraction to a wide audience.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:50 pm
But Ke$ha and Gaga were the big names of pop in 2010. In 2012 to 2014 (when this album was made), the big names have been Adele, Lorde, and most recently Meghan Trainor which all represent positive role models as well.
I don’t want to downplay Taylor’s importance as a role model, but it’s not unique as it once was. Pop music has been steadily evolving over the last few years as country has been devolving. And that hasn’t been talked about enough as a potential factor of why she left.
November 3, 2014 @ 3:02 pm
Yes, you are right. And we could Kimbra and Ingrid Michaelson, both of whom are far superior than the vast majority of country so-called artists. It is certainly a more complex sociological evaluation, but the enormous attraction of Nicki Minaj and Kesha, etc., is certainly disconcerting.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:12 pm
Before I logged onto SCM I thought to myself, I no shit wondered to myself why trigger hadn’t done reviews for this album and wade bowens new album yet. Silly me.
November 3, 2014 @ 2:27 pm
But what about pop? 1989 was the year of Milli Vanilli. The 80”²s were already an era of music that would be called lost by some, and laughable by others.
Well, it’s not like she was going to be writing an album that revolved around a concept from an Orson Scott Card novel, or a work full of songs about political and legal injustice, or a full-on rock opera about a heroin addict turned assassin. She might well have done the best she could with what she had to work with.
Such brings up the question, though, of why 1989? Why something like this, period? Other than, of course, pandering to those nostalgic for that time. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would say that it was the 1960s that was the golden age of American popular music for Motown all by itself.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:40 pm
Sonically, I actually prefer the 80’s to the 60’s, due to the greater variety of instrumentation as well as the soaring melodies.
To be reductionist, one could say that the best music from the 60’s resembled the country/folk sound, while the best music from the 80’s resembled the opera sound.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:49 pm
I actually prefer the 80”²s to the 60”²s
By and large I do too, but the thing about that in regards to the discussion is that the popular music of the time has nothing to do with that — unless all the bands I alluded to in my original comment (and their contemporaries) could be construed as being under that umbrella, which would be more than a bit of a stretch.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:52 pm
I actually sonically prefer the popular music of the 80’s to that of the 60’s. The musical arrangements of the 80’s, particularly in the power ballads, were significantly more complex and emotionally intense.
November 3, 2014 @ 3:59 pm
I don’t know about you, but I would pick the 80’s musically over this decade or the previous one. That’s for certain.
November 3, 2014 @ 5:20 pm
Could we possibly see an Easton Corbin review for Baby be My Love Song? It is a questionable song, but country nonetheless.
November 3, 2014 @ 6:52 pm
The picture of Max Martin’s ugly face was unnecessary.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:31 pm
can we please just get to the risque and sexy version of Taylor Swift already? this shit is lame…
November 3, 2014 @ 11:09 pm
“The fact that Taylor Swift still writes most of her lyrics is simply a facade that she has complete control over what is transpiring”
I would disagree with this. In interview after interview, she keeps bragging about leaving country music behind, even going so far as to refuse to put any country-leaning singles on the album. She seems to be very much proud of and in control over her musical direction.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:34 am
She’s like the Jim Jeffords of country music. Jeffords officially made the switch in 2001, but I think he had always been more like a Democrat deep down, representing a constituency that was never really a good fit for the GOP. Similarly, Taylor and her young fan base can now be reunited in the genre that they belonged in all along. Country music gave her an environment where she had the time and space to build her career with little direct competition, in spite of her limitations as a musician.
November 4, 2014 @ 11:55 pm
Here is another well written editorial I found on why her new album is so bad:
November 4, 2014 @ 12:05 am
This album is very disappointing musically and lyrically. Style was love at first listen for me and I’ve listened to it several times since. Shake It Off has grown on me thanks in part to its ubiquity. It may not quite be a “sick beat” but I feel like dancing when I hear it and I don’t like to dance. I see what you mean about Out of the Woods. I like the way it builds to a Swiftian crescendo of melodrama. Most of the album is quite boring. Not just repetition of choruses but so many similar lines. Crazy/insane, red/cherry lips, daydreams. And most of the production is awful. I disagree about Blank Space though. The more I listen, the more I think it’s a brilliant response to the tabloid image of her dating history. Just an opinion. Thanks for another interesting, thoughtful writeup.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:33 am
On a personal level, I support Taylor’s assertion that her personal life is none of our business, and the noise that has been made that she is either promiscuous or writes too many songs about ex’s is bullshit, and potentially sexist. This is the 3rd Taylor Swift album I have listened to in depth, over and over, and virtually obsessed over for review purposes, and it has never occurred to me that Taylor Swift sings too much about breakups. This is a shallow observation made by folks who don’t listen to music, they hear it.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:47 am
It really is ironic that 1989 was such an interesting, groundbreaking year in country and such a lame, forgettable one in pop… and yet she chooses 1989 for her pop “debut.”
I’m a big 80s fan but truthfully, most of the great, iconic music came out between 1982-85ish. The late 80s was pretty much dead space, with a few exceptions. And other than Shake it Off reminding me of Debbie Gibson (and why would anyone want to do that?), I’m not getting a late 80s vibe from Taylor here, bad or good. It just sounds like today’s pop music to me, a pretty harmless version of it but nothing special.
November 4, 2014 @ 1:05 am
In fact, with his cover of “The Promise,” Sturgill Simpson’s album is more 1989 than this one. ;p
November 4, 2014 @ 3:33 am
This is Debbie Gibson’s most famous song from 1989:
I see exactly zero similarities between it and “Shake It Off”.
November 4, 2014 @ 10:54 am
That’s because swift was going more for the sound of this song…
November 4, 2014 @ 12:31 pm
TS’ tune and video is almost a rip-off of the Debbie Gibson video you point out Bear .
November 4, 2014 @ 5:52 am
I agree with what you say When you attain goals by reaching outside yourself, the losses are greater than the gains”. I simply think that through this album, Taylor had abandoned whatever it is that makes her music special. Truth be told, ‘Red’ can still be considered a country album especially with songs such as ‘All Too Well’ and ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’, which can be one of those songs written with Nashville-esque values.
I have heard this album, but stopped at around track 6 cause I just simply can’t hear it any longer. I personally agree that this is her worst album.
I was introduced to country music back in 2006 when Michelle Branch formed a country duo called The Wreckers. And Taylor came up at the end of that year with songs that are simply different. It was her music that made a difference and she will never be comparable to the likes of any other musicians.
Still, if she is experimenting with synth pop on this record, who’s to say she won’t experiment with alt-country, bluegrass, folk, etc. I just think that she lose whatever it is that makes her different, especially in this era of music, by releasing 1989.
But, her old songs are still in my playlist. The awesome ‘The Best Day’, ‘Cold As You’, deep down it is the value of her creativity that makes her unique; but now, she is no different than all those other pop stars whose life on the Top 40 are limited.
I look forward to her next album! Oh and, I just wanna take this moment to say that Lee Ann Womack’s The Way I’m Livin’ is this year’s best album in all of music. The fact that internet is so focused on Taylor, had lost the attention that Miss Womack really deserve!
March 23, 2015 @ 4:49 pm
If you stopped at track 6, I strongly suggest you to listen to: Wildest Dreams; I know Places; You Are In Love (in the deluxe version); New Romantics (in the deluxe version). There are other good songs in the album, but these are my personal highlights.
Wildest Dreams is like a softer Lana Del Rey song, but it has so much sensuality and so many details!
“I said “No one has to know what we do,”
His hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room
And his voice is a familiar sound, nothing lasts forever
But this is getting good now”
I Know Places is full of danger, and a good metaphor to how Taylor’s forced to live her love life.
“Lights flash on the run for the fences
Let them say what they want, we won’t hear it
Lose lips, ships sink, all the damn time, not this time
Just grab my hand and don’t ever drop it
My love, they are the hunters, we are the foxes
And we run”
You Are In Love is a BEAUTIFUL happy love ballad, full of details, that completely reminds me the old Taylor.
“Morning, his place
Burnt toast, Sunday
You keep his shirt
He keeps his word
And for once you let go
Of your fears and your ghosts
One step, not much, but it said enough”
And New Romantics is ALL that 22 should have been. It’s a deliciously ironic (and slightly exaggerated) song about how many young girls sadly live their love lives.
“We need love, but all we want is danger
We team up and switch sides like a record changer
The rumours, are terrible and cruel
Buy honey most of them are true”
November 4, 2014 @ 6:32 am
pretty funny can’t turn on the tv without seeing this young lady.
dispensing words of wisdom for us all.
Fame is a hell of a drug
November 4, 2014 @ 11:04 am
I agree that it has NO 80s sound. I listened to it and thought this sounds very NOW, not even like two months from now but now, now. Badns like Ladyhawke, Chromeo, Annoraak, and Ladytron had produced that 80s throwback sound better than anything on here.
What is problematic for me is that the albums sales will be used as a barometer for years to come about how this album is the greatest work to come out since Eminem way back when or evarh! I don’t mind pop and I don’t mind that people like it, I just wish people would accept when music is bad. You can like bad music, I have much in my collection from my youth. But I know now it is bad and accept that and still enjoy it. I don’t get pissy and defensive when somebody comments about it.
Also I imagine Grammys will be all over this like a rash too. *grumbl* Thus continuing the trend of the mono genre. Yet part of me has an inkling that outside of the first single and MAYBE the second and the first week sales this album won’t do much else chart wise. I feel this way because the turn over rate of pop music this days is astounding. It all sounds the same so people quickly move onto the next song looking for a new sound and when it isn’t there there they move on again. This is why I believe “All About The Bass” as lasted this long at #1 in the same way “Blurred Lines” did. Now they may become 1 hit wonders by it is no fluke that these retro sounding songs are smash hits because people want new sounds and variety! Just like we need new tastes and variety in our diet.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:24 pm
This certainly sum up much of my feelings about mainstream music these days, TS included.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:43 pm
I get what Grohl is saying…and OK ..there is some truth to it . But its like saying ” Hey Jimi Hendrix didn’t need electricity….Les Paul didn’t need to invent multi-tracking ..we made great cave fires rubbing sticks together ”
I ‘ve accepted that I may be the only person on Planet Earth who is not a Dave Grohl fan, musically speaking .But he’s young yet ….he may still impress me . ( ‘Ok kids ..start stacking chairs against that door and hide under the table …..I think I may have poked ‘ The Bear ” )
November 4, 2014 @ 7:12 pm
I should clarify *I* am not a Dave Grohl fan per se. And certainly that is not the whole story but it is part of it. And in combination with other quotes I’ve heard like Vince Gill’s sadness that his songs/slash art coast as much as an app that makes farting noise, does paint a pretty bleak picture of mainstream music.
November 4, 2014 @ 12:53 pm
Enough of this myth that Taylor has only 14 year old girls as fans. I am well past 50 and a huge fan, have all her cd’s and have seen her live many times. She appeals to all ages, the age of fans is used to criticize and lessen her.
And if her fans were 14, 7 years ago the would be into their 20’s by now.
Why does the age of a fan matter, whether 15 or 50 people know what they like.
March 23, 2015 @ 5:03 pm
I agree with you, even tough I’m just 18. Taylor has many songs that can appeal to all ages, particularly in her last 3 albums. And a huge part of her fans are already in their 20s.
However, the singles in her last two albums prove she’s trying too much to appeal to an younger audience, when she could move on to the adult world. I’m a huge fan of her work in general, but I feel she’s selling out right now. It appears it’s more about the money and fame right now. Because those bad singles don’t show her true potential, and most listeners think she’s regressing and being immature in almost all her music. That’s frustrating, because there are great songs in her last two albums.
Anyway, it’s always awesome to find older Taylor Swift’s fans! And you’re so lucky to be able to go to her shows! I’ll literally have to travel to another country to do so! Maybe I’ll finally get a chance in a few years.
November 4, 2014 @ 3:23 pm
“Vinyl collectors will tell you, if you crash any given pile of records, whether at a garage sale, a thrift store, etc., you always see the same revolving titles: John Denver”™s Greatest Hits, Herb Alpert”™s Tijuana Brass for example. It”™s uncanny, and doesn”™t matter where you are in the country. It”™s because everybody bought those records.”
Owing to my habitual nitpicking, I have a problem with this assertion. Even albums that sold millions upon millions of copies aren’t subject to the “everybody bought one” generalization. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is said to have sold over 100 million copies worldwide and I’ve yet to meet more than two people that own the record in any format. Conversely, AC/DC’s Back in Black comes in second in terms of all-time copies sold at 50 million and I know no less than 10 people with a copy, some more than one. As yet another, more relevant example in the face of Taylor Swift’s achievement and your timeline, Creed’s Weathered debuted at number 1 in 2001 with around 900,000 copies sold in its first week. The album stayed at number 1 on the charts for 8 consecutive weeks, a record for the most weeks at that position that Creed holds along with the Beetles’ Anthology release. Yet I don’t know a single person aside from myself that owns that record (or at least will admit it). Of course, part of my skepticism comes from not being around when many of your older album examples dropped. But it’s hard not to believe even with older music that niches still affected the music the same way they do in the modern world.
“Like the spinning cover of Led Zepplin”™s III”˜s original album cover where you could change what”™s peeking through the windows, it shows imagination, and effort.”
This little “treat” from Led Zeppelin always felt like a gimmick to me, particularly since they eschewed even titling or putting their name on this album’s followup. It was sort of like “hey, we ran with that ploy last time so let’s do the total opposite with the next one.” I don’t see Taylor Swift’s little pictures to be much different. Part of this cynicism on my part stems from the prevalence of retailer-exclusive bonuses, which usually consist of such fluff if they don’t happen to be able to swing for bonus tracks like Target usually does.
November 4, 2014 @ 3:31 pm
On another note, I just don’t understand the fascination with Adele. Are my ears offended by her music? Not really, but given that I’m predominately a country and hard rock sort of guy it’s hard to appreciate what type of effect she’s had on her genre. I don’t here the supposed “deepness” that people praise the lyrics for or much of anything else. It just sounds like pop music with the same shallowness and lack of diversity that caused me to turn to country music way back when (before bro-country, obviously). I’m not trying to anger any Adele fans here, I’d just like some sort of cultural exposition to help me categorize her and 21 better. I bought a copy for my significant other and have heard the album completely at least once and the singles enough to make me sick of them. Tangental, I know, but I’m actually more interested in the ancillary notes of this review than the actual album in question.
November 4, 2014 @ 7:56 pm
Man …sign me up for a membership in the ” I Don’t Get Adele ” club . Unique voice ..yes . And perhaps that’s the answer in a nutshell . But it ends there for me . Lyrics are very poorly crafted and immature often rhyming the same word with itself . Nearest I can figure is that her sound was ” throw-back ” meat and potatoes arrangements -light on the dance pulse and synth and heavy on the “bluesier ” aspects of her vocal so she managed to appeal to an older market ( which she , indeed , did ) than most new acts might . Not to mention that she even looked ‘matronly’ compared to so many sexed-up young female acts .Stil… how that EVER took off the way it did totally escapes me .
November 4, 2014 @ 5:30 pm
Forgot to mention the main thing here.
This is an outstanding review Trigger. Maybe it’ll get to Taylor, and help her see things a little more clearly.
November 5, 2014 @ 7:57 pm
I enjoy Taylor Swift — I listened to her first album, and the original Carter Family today, and I don’t feel like I am going to hell. I even liked two thirds of Red, including the dreaded pop tracks. But all I’ve heard from 1989 is “Shakes it Off,” “Welcome to New York,” and “Out of the Woods” and man are they way worse than they needed to be. Damn, Taylor, you can do better. You already did. “Out of the Woods” felt like half an earworm, but when I finally heard the whole thing I was deeply unimpressed. I don’t like heavy techno shit, so that doesn’t help.
November 17, 2014 @ 1:51 pm
Your review is awful, Trigger. First of all, why you give 1989, 1 1/2 of 2 guns down just because it was Taylor Swift’s first pop album? Second, 1989 is amazing and I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan. Plus, 1989 got a score of 76/100 from Metacritic. Are you insane? 1989 is a great Taylor Swift album. You need to have respect to Taylor Swift. I know it’s just an opinion. But still, it could’ve done better if you don’t review 1989 at all. Just what I’m saying.
January 6, 2015 @ 4:29 pm
Trigger, you’re an idiot. Taylor is not ruling the World because of her music. People buy into the exotic creature that she is. SHE is the rare thing. Look in the mirror.
January 5, 2021 @ 5:10 am
It was nice to read this article again after half a decade while listening to folklore (and having evermore on queue). This album was the start of her falldown as a songwriter and now she managed to redeem herself and I couldn’t be happier. She really shine when she focus on telling her stories and otherwise.