Sunday, November 2, 2014

Taylor Swift’s "1989" reviewed

by Melissa Scott

I’m not Taylor Swift’s number one fan. But after listening to 1989, I admit that her talent as an artist for writing and producing widely popular and remarkable music remains as impressive as ever.

In less than one week, 1989 is platinum, selling over 1.2 million “copies.” Industry insiders forecast a likely total of 1.3 million for the week. With that current tracking, Swift finds herself achieving the best opening week sales in her career—and possibly the best of any female artists’ career. Britney Spears holds the record for most first-week sales in an album with her Oops…I Did it Again. Spears’s record tallied 1.319 million sales. With two more days left in her opening week release, Swift just might knock Spears out of the top spot.

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Even if Swift misses Spears’s chart topping number, she deserves admiration. No solo artist has topped one million sales, for an album in an opening week, since Swift did it two years ago with Red. In fact, the sales numbers of 1989 mark her place as the only artist ever to score three albums exceeding one million sales, in only one week. That feat alone indicates the immense attraction of Swift’s music. Whether or not I support Swift, the artist, there’s no denying that she works hard for this success.

Focusing on the album content, 1989 surprised me entirely. Her classic sugary alto and bells-and-whistles type of fluctuating melodies actually made the album captivating. I approached the album skeptically. So the fact that I enjoyed Swift’s charm and structure throughout the album stunned me. Swift finds a way to combine her musical skill with a shrewd use of 21st century pop technology; the result is striking. She may or may not slip in some auto-tune—it’s almost impossible to tell. But the perfect balance of her thin, alto vocals and a technologically-sounding beat enriches the music beautifully. Demonstrations of this startling technique find their way through the blending of Swift’s high note with an electronic ring in “All You Had to Do Was Stay,” and the chopped verses in “Blank Space”—ticking along a gearshift-like beat. Swift’s album mixes an artificial and authentic sound in a way that I have never heard before.

Not only does Swift mix vocal and tech-sound into her music—she artfully sprinkles and blends notable techniques from other artists into her songs, while maintaining a clear Taylor Swift hold on them. “Wildest Dreams” molds together a dreamy Lana del Rey grace and “Blank Space” points to a flowing Lorde-alike tune. Even “Bad Blood,” (the feisty ballad allegedly nipping at Katy Perry) places an irrefutably Perry-like defiance and even a little Avril Lavigne sass on the rhythm. Yet each song is also unmistakably one of Swift’s own.

“I Know Places” reminds me of one of Rihanna’s exotic best. The breathlessly repetitive, but strong, “Out the Woods” suggests a trace of Demi Lovato. Even Swifts’ lyrics, a twist of ambiguous and distinct, mimic the flow of Selena Gomez’s hits. The album may claim an 80’s sound, but I think it’s a melting pot of many modern artists’ most successful musical characteristics. 

Another incredible talent Swift portrays is her ability to invoke strong feeling. Confidence and freedom pound throughout the song compilation. Her apparently effortless movement of words, phrases, and notes demonstrate clear moods.  It’s nearly impossible to miss the theme of each and every song. While that may seem like an obvious criterion for songwriting, Swift achieves something well beyond mediocre. Her melodious cries and sighs—those that I used to sarcastically criticize—hold a conversation that could be called intellectual. And of course, they’re catchy too.

Finally, I expected the typical ex-boyfriend slurs. Swift has acknowledged the presence of multiple relationship call-outs on the album. But not once did she directly mock or criticize an individual in her songs. She depicts accepting—almost content—reminiscence, even in songs recalling difficult relationships or painful breakups. “Style,” clearly referring to Harry Styles, simply calls back the attractiveness of the two of them together, despite his “being out with some other girl.” Weakness, sorrow, and regret hold no place in this album—only memory and, admittedly, maturity. I normally like to poke fun at Swift’s childish retaliation, but I find none of that in this album.

Here, Swift’s earned my respect. She developed a new style through risk taking and innovation. For that, she deserves all the credit and success that 1989 already has and continues to accumulate. 


  1. I think she has finally grown up and yes the music is good!


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