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Album Review

Album Review: Taylor Swift - 1989

By  November 8, 2014

With all the furore that has been happening in Taylor Swift’s life (unleashing 2014’s first platinum record, announcing another world tour and riding on a steady barrage of press), it’s truly a wonder how the American singer-songwriter manages to keep up with her nocturnal #taylurking jaunts.

It’s all part of the 1989 conquest however – a blitzkrieg that surrounds not just a “collection of 13 new songs” but really, a career-defining era for the same woman who penned Love Story yet remaining staunch to her identity and fans.  While Red tentatively poked around with more contemporary influences (dubsteb amongst them) and inched away from Swift’s Nashvillian roots, her latest offering then, is an unabashed declaration of independence.

 “This is a story about coming into your own, and as a result…coming alive.”

As New York’s Global Welcome Ambassador, 1989’s glitzy opener is Swift’s tribute to the Big Apple; a befitting soundtrack set against the backdrop of its ambition-driven ethos. Representing a haven for new beginnings (“Everyone here was someone else before”), we are received by a refreshing side to Swift that is far from naïve but still possesses a familiar sense of optimism. Welcome To New York’s chirpy synths are not standalone as the presence of producer bigwigs including Max Martin and Shellback are naturally more prevalent than ever. From the lush soundscapes of Style to the saccharine buzz of Wildest Dreams, the album is nearly devoid of Swift’s signature twang if not for How You Get The Girl (which even then, is largely punctuated by the blow of playful programming).

For a project that’s inherently influenced by the pop music of the late 80’s, Swift’s winning collaboration has to be with Bleachers mastermind, Jack Antonoff. Lending Out of the Woods an ominous edge that further clouds the song’s theme of uncertainty, the fun. multi-instrumentalist even furnishes the anthem with his own warped background vocals. The giddying fervour that is similarly replicated in I Wish You Would seems to be quite characteristic of Antonoff a la Strange Desire. Equally poignant is the Imogen Heap co-write, Clean, a sobering finish to what is probably Swift’s most ostentatious effort to date.

1989 might be dotted with drum machines and the like but apparently, Swift is perfectly capable of slipping snugly into these new aural shoes. If anything, she’s freed up more space for her pitch perfect vocals to be more nuanced, skirting between satirically alluring (Blank Space), scathing (Bad Blood’s yelps) and full on breathy (This Love). Some may even consider the bridge to Shake It Off as another feeble T-Swizzle attempt at breaching the rap game but the track’s very (ironic?) existence points to how adamant she is in being undeterred by oft-unjustified, scrutinising criticism.  

Swift’s journey into the wider world of pop is a cohesive and ravishing endeavour that reflects her own embrace of her individuality – one which should undeniably be celebrated as and if (read: when) it spawns multiple radio hits, all the better.  

Track Cuts: Blank SpaceOut of the Woods, Style, Wildest Dream, This Love, Clean

Photo credit: Big Machine Records

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