When Taylor Swift released her album Red in 2012, she released an album that was the most pop orientated record she had released in her career up to that point. With only a smattering of country to be heard throughout the album, and the bouncy pop hooks of Red’s singles “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “22”, Taylor expanded her sound to include other genres outside of country. The album ended up being incredibly successful, and her fifth effort 1989 is shaping up to be no different. The biggest change on this new effort is the album’s sound and direction. Named 1989 for the year Taylor was born, the record is a tribute to the sounds of 80’s pop, and is according to Swift “her first real pop record.” That couldn’t be more true, as there is not one hint of country throughout 1989, and while her diehard fans might be a bit sad over this fact, for the rest of us, we see once again that Taylor can write great songs, and while many of her fans were not around in the late 80’s, at least they can get a taste of the decades flavor through Swift’s abrupt change and inspiration.
1989 opens with “Welcome To New York” a bare pop tune that sounds like nothing Swift has released so far. The songs spacey sounding vibe with overdubbed and auto tuned vocals illustrates that Taylor has gone in an entirely new direction, and right from the first notes, we realize that Swift has totally abandoned country, even though she might still have a soft spot for the genre. “Welcome To New York” is the first step in reinvention and it isn’t a bad first step. “Out of the Woods” is going in very much the same direction as “New York” though this time synths make up the songs overall sound, and the fuller sound envelopes listeners, drawing them into the stories that Swift tells all too well. While 1989 tries hard to avoid the subject of Swift’s serial dating life, “Woods” makes sure that we still know something about it, even if we are tired of it. The track which centers on her brief relationship with Harry Styles back in 2012 is a very catchy track with echoing vocals, and the repetition of the phrase “out of the woods” is part of a very addicting chorus, which we won’t be able to stop singing. At this point, we become aware that Taylor can make almost any genre sound good, while also making it relatable to her fans.
“Shake It Off” the world’s first introduction to 1989, is a catchy number that will send fans reminders of Ariana Grande’s summer hit “Problem”, with the horns at different points throughout the song, along with the chorus which bops along with ease. The song also features a huge admittance from Swift. When it comes to boys, we know she has dated a lot, and during the song she admits that she knows what people are saying about her relationships. As fans and critics, we are happy that she is finally admitting that “she can’t make them stay”, as the bulk of her previous songs were written about the men she has dated. The song “Bad Blood” is the records worst, and by far the blandest track on the album. The music overall is very nondescript, and the overdubbed vocals which talk about a friendship gone wrong (the track is rumored to be about Katy Perry) sounds far to grinding to become a popular Swift tune. While it is good to hear that Taylor is taking chances with her new music, “Bad Blood” could have easily been cut, and the decision to include it on the record was a bad one, as it doesn’t have the easygoing and colorful sound of the album’s previous tracks.
“Clean” the albums closing song begins with a drum machine and a xylophone like sound, along with Taylor’s vocals. The song, much like “Bad Blood” is very boring with both songs sounding flat and like they were trying to fill up space on a record that is already brimming with bright tunes. While 1989 doesn’t feel like a Grammy winner, the creative risk that Swift has taken will make the album memorable all on its own. While we saw that Taylor was obviously invested in longevity with Red, on 1989 she is invested heavily in creativity and the future of Swift’s career will take many twist and turns, and as we soak in Taylor’s reinvention, we are excited for what will come next.