REVIEW: Taylor Swift, '1989'

by - Monday, November 03, 2014

‘I got that red lip classic thing that you like… I got that good girl thing and a tight little skirt’… Taylor Swift knows exactly how she looks to the wider world. Serial dater, lyrical dirty-laundry airer and yet somehow the doe-eyed innocent, the perfect american dream. A good country girl who pines after her beloved, watches the cheerleaders jealously and counts the teardrops on her guitar. Confined to the realms of the family-friendly, destined to be sidelined while the less wholesome girls do their thing.

In one fell swoop, Taylor Swift killed the prom queen. ‘Shake It Off’ was a mission statement with handclaps, an f-you to naysayers that could only have been made more obvious if it had donned hot pants and twerked in the viewers face…oh wait. Attacking her complainers with good grace and humour, she began to show signs of life behind the glossy blue eyes, creating music to match her new-found feminist attitude. 

It should come as no surprise then, that 1989 is an album with similar directness. While ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and ‘Dear John’ were thinly veiled ‘up yours’ to ex boyfriends, the tales of love, loss and lust displayed here are far less embittered and much more observational for it. It’s not much of a stretch to guess who ‘Style’ might be about, but it doesn’t really matter - far more exciting than a One Direction tryst is the future-pop niche Swift carves out, icy verses blending into a fist-pumper of a chorus that lodges itself deep into the cerebral cortex. Similarly satisfying is ‘I Know Places’, sure the result of Swift’s new found BFF-ness with Lorde, so darkly delicious and almost RnB like is the melody. 

In fact, it comes from a place of kindness when we notice that much of the record is rooted in the better moments of it’s pop forefathers, or more, accurately, foremothers. 1989 is a pinterest board of female influences, inherently feminist in that it celebrates the best efforts of much of pop's most interesting women. Wildest Dreams is the song that Robyn and Lana Del Rey never wrote, the epitome of the gap in the market that Taylor should occupy. The lyric ‘He’s so tall and handsome as hell/ he’s so bad but he does it so well’ is simple, but captures the essence of the breathless Tumblr love that Swift sings so succinctly. ‘Out Of The Woods’ underwhelmed initially, but in the context of a record, it has something of Kylie’s ‘All The Lovers’ about it, whilst ‘I Wish You Would’ could have been lifted directly from the studio sessions for Haim album number two. 

However, it’s only truly great pop stars who can save the best till last. 'New Romantics' is that song. Revisiting Swift’s penchant for a scarlet letter, this is nearest Swift has ever come to a song that could make it onto the ‘Girls’ soundtrack, drawling the lyrics with the cool-girl care of a someone who is having far too much fun. ‘The rumours are terrible and cruel/ but honey most of them are true’ she teases, staring directly in the eye of anybody who might attempt to slut-shame her into submission. Swifty doesn’t want to play Romeo and Juliet anymore - she wants to be a millennial girl, and more power to her. 

Whether you’re approaching adulthood or feeling re-energised after a break-up, this is an album to file alongside ‘Beyonce.’ The sexual politics might not be there with the same force, but the liberation of a girl discovering who she wants to be sure is. Embrace it or fear it, there’s no way you’ll be able to avoid ‘this. sick. beat.'

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