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Whether or not you call yourself a fan, it’s impossible to deny the absolute star power harnessed by Taylor Swift. After almost a decade of making music, she has become more than an artist; she’s a movement, a brand, her every move deliberate and diamond-studded (basically, girl’s got money). With over 26 million albums sold worldwide, it seems T-Swift has the formula down pat: make a pop album, put an acoustic spin on it and call it country. In 2012, “Red” was the first true game changer, with the EDM-inspired “I Knew You Were Trouble” — it’s just as far from country as anyone could’ve imagined she would go. No one could’ve predicted what would come next.

With “1989,” Swift delivers a potent dose of 80s-inspired pop with nary an acoustic guitar in sight. Driven by an upbeat dance vibe, we find the ballad-loving Taylor venturing far from her country roots and into a land of pure pop bliss. It feels like a homecoming, where Swifty’s been running a marathon for the past eight years and has finally crashed through the tape of the finish line with a celebratory dance party for thousands of her closest friends.

Even in her bluesier moments, she explores an electronic soundscape never before seen on her records. Her risk is worth the reward and she comes out of it with a cohesive and exciting album that is sure to mark a turning point in her music career.

In the opening track, “Welcome to New York,” we meet a new Taylor Swift. Instead of moping on lost love and living in the past, she is reborn, confident, glowing and ready to freakin’ dance. This song is formulaic in structure, almost robotic in its delivery and sets the tone for the album (“It’s a new soundtrack / I could dance to this beat forevermore”).

“Blank Space” is perhaps the smartest song on the record and the most indicative of the change that Swift has gone through, not only as a songwriter, but also as a person in the spotlight.

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Courtesy of Big Machine
Courtesy of Big Machine

he song addresses the relationship gossip surrounding the starlet for the past few years. In her own words, Taylor told the Sunday Times UK “The media has created this complex, fictionalized cartoon version of me … this man-eating, jet-setting, serial dater.” Taylor toys with this concept in the song, playing the temperamental girlfriend the tabloids make her out to be.

Try as you might, it’s difficult to identify even one track on “1989” as the “weakest song.” Instead, listeners are rewarded with a delightful smorgasbord of pop; the eerie “Out of the Woods,” the breathy “I Know Places” and the heavy-handed drums of  “Bad Blood.” “Wildest Dreams,” an absolute gem of a track (“He’s so tall / And handsome as hell / He’s so bad / But he does it so well”), is so Lana-esque that I had to check twice to make sure I wasn’t listening to “Born To Die” by mistake.

While I’m very impressed by the tenacity of both Swift’s songwriting and musical composition, what is most astounding is the understanding she has of her audience. She hosted secret listening sessions for fans in the months leading up to the album drop, creating huge buzz even before a track-list was released. By connecting with fans on Tumblr and Twitter and making them an active part of her album release, Swift set a precedent for publicity among her peers in the industry.

Things have changed, it’s true. Taylor Swift has traded in her long curly locks and cowboy boots for a sleek blonde bob and an even sleeker new sound. “1989” is a huge step in the right direction to establishing T-Swift as the quintessential pop icon she deserves to be. Step aside, Britney Spears; a new princess of pop has been crowned.

RECOMMENDED: If “1989” doesn’t get you up, out of your seat and scream-singing into your hairbrush, I don’t know what could.

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