When mentioning Taylor Swift previously on my blog, I’ve referred to her as my “not-so-guilty guilty pleasure.” However, I’ve changed my opinion on guilty pleasures, partially thanks to this video by wise YouTuber Ze Frank. Why should we feel bad about finding enjoyment in something like a movie or musician when our enjoyment doesn’t harm or even affect anyone else?
My friends already know that I’m a fan/generally fascinated by career choices of Taylor. To the criticism that she only writes songs about her ex-boyfriends, I have long called sexism. The majority of songs refer to love and relationships, often inspired by the musician’s real life, but you don’t hear this criticism about male artists. And let’s be honest—if I had her songwriting skills in my late teens and early 20s, I probably would have written angry songs about my exes too. Whether or not you like her public persona or her style of music, it’s self-evident that she’s good at what she does.
Okay, justification over, album review starting. The big announcement preceding 1989 was that it would be a full-fledged pop album. This should have surprised no one considering the singles released off of Red and other comments made by Taylor. As most reviewers have pointed out, she’s been welcome in the pop realm for a long time. Still, the official announcement caused me some anxiety. I think I can speak for many fans when I say that the appeal of Taylor’s music is that she creates a sense of intimacy. Each new album feels like a friend catching you up on her love life for the past two years. She can tell a story with specificity, but the feelings are vivid enough to apply to your own life. I worried that if she moved further into the land of Max Martin-produced radio hits, some of that intimacy would be lost.
Entertainment Weekly expresses a similar concern in their 1989 review, proving once again that they are the reviewers closest to my heart. However, our opinions differ somewhat on the result. Although I miss the presence of some classic T. Swift piano ballads, to me 1989 feels almost as personal as her previous albums. (Yes, I said “almost” because there is a discernible difference.) Entertainment Weekly seems to detect a greater loss, but I think our opinions can come to a happy medium. All comparisons aside, this is one catchy album.
The majority of 1989 was written with super-producer Max Martin and Shellback. I can happily say that I like these songs better than most of the trio’s collaborations on Red. The lyrics still have that Swiftie flair, which goes a long way toward making listeners feel at home. In “Blank Space” she pokes fun at her reputation as a serial-dater in a way that can still apply to anyone with a few ex-boyfriends stacked up. Both collaborations with Jack Antonoff (“Out Of The Woods” and “I Wish You Would”) are favorites of mine and add interesting layers to the musical landscape. Taylor also wrote a song with Imogen Heap (“Clean”), so I can’t fault her taste in other musicians.
Assuming they don’t have a deep-seeded hate for pop music, I can’t imagine that people won’t enjoy this album. I know it will be in heavy rotation in my car for the foreseeable future.