By HANNAH DZIEZANOWSKI
Whether you love her, hate her, or fall somewhere in between, you have an opinion about Taylor Swift. Everyone does. A self-proclaimed underdog, she has successfully been rising to the top of contemporary music, gently stretching musical boundaries to suit her ever-shifting style since her first album in 2006. Well, Swift’s latest album (1989, released Monday) has burst through the walls of her somewhat confining country-pop style and has catapulted her to a long-reserved seat among today’s queens of pop. Yes, it is finally official: T-Swizzle has dropped the twang and gone full-blown pop. It was only a matter of time.
This new album is home to the insanely popular single “Shake It Off,” which immediately hit Billboard’s Hot 100 chart at No. 1 upon release. Swift is smart, and knows how to consistently please within a fluctuant genre. This is the same artist who created “I Knew You Were Trouble,” the hit song that my music professor played in class because he was incapable of denying the fact that he found it utterly catchy and “badass.” And I am not about to name any names, but I have at least five friends who, in private, confessed to me that they are obsessed with “Shake It Off,” and that they were hiding this fact because they felt alone in this love – like candy corn, it is terrible, but so, so good.
As a whole, 1989 delivers. It starts off with “Welcome to New York,” the signposting track that marks Swift’s transition to both a new city and new genre. The line, “Everybody here was someone else before,” is a self-aware confirmation that Swift is reinventing herself with this album. The 13-song track list is mostly bright in sound and light in content; replacing talky country narratives are tracks that utilize the full range of Swift’s voice and reject the diary entry structure for the more conventional, often repetitive pop song structure. The pop style allows Swift to sing about love on a broader scale, so that the targets of her songs are more difficult to discern (which her high-profile ex-boyfriends probably appreciate). However, Swift still retains her famously fierce and jaded, yet resiliently optimistic perspective on relationships, and even dedicates an entire song, “Blank Space,” to addressing this perspective. The lyrics of “Blank Space” outline her thinking through a relationship before it starts, picturing it going down in flames in the end, and preparing a song with blank spaces to insert the boy’s name into post-breakup.
Production-wise, the two tracks that stand out the most are “Out of the Woods” (the second single off the album) and “I Wish You Would” – both incorporate 80s-reminiscent bursting beats, bright synths, and resonant vocal effects. A few tracks take a dip in energy, but overall, the album maintains a fun, dynamic quality that nicely complements the strength and confidence that Swift has gained from moving to New York, solidifying her musical style, and swearing off dating for an indefinite period of time. The album is neither perfect nor groundbreaking, but it is the hit pop album that the world has patiently been waiting for all year.
Now, since there is only one album (the soundtrack to Frozen) has gone platinum this year, the pressing question in the music world is, will 1989 be the first? At this time last year, five albums had already gone platinum; since all of Swift’s previous albums have gone platinum several times over, it is incredibly likely that 1989 will already be platinum by the time this article is published – therefore, will Swift be the only artist of 2014 with a platinum album? If that turns out to be the case, then you should probably give 1989 a listen…just to partake in the making of musical history.