When Taylor Swift hinted at a departure from her country beginnings earlier this year, it was no real surprise to most of her die hard fans or critics. Especially following the wide reaching ‘Red‘ album, which premiered on Tragic Kingdom two years ago and featured a wider range of musical influences than her previous sugar coated country chart-toppers. In true Swift form though, she took her 80’s dance pop inspiration to the limits – and perhaps even beyond – on her fifth and most recent effort ‘1989‘. The synth driven beats and pounding drums provided by pop-music masters like Max Martin and Ryan Tedder mixed with Swift’s new take on vocal production make for the singer’s most mature and well-rounded record to date.
The lead single “Shake It Off” pokes fun at the headlines and rumors that often surround the singer, which is cleverly concealed by the infectious Martin produced chorus. While hints of clever metaphors can still be detected within the record, most notable is the lack of Taylor’s direct aims at past lovers. Focusing more on the music itself rather than controversial content, the result is a masterfully crafted compilation of sophisticated and fresh pop tunes.
From the album’s first track “Welcome to New York” to the Imogen Heap collaboration closer “Clean”, this record is effortless. Standout tracks include the tongue-in-cheek “Blank Space”, which pays tribute to the singer’s “long list of lovers” that have become songwriting material, followed by a cleverly titled 70’s inspired sound on “Style”. The cinematic and whimsical “Wildest Dream” offers a breathy Swift over an orchestra of strings almost exhaling “Say you’ll remember me, standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset”. And the album’s darkest moment “I Know Places” is one of the album’s most thrilling moments, while still offering a swelling chorus that shines a light on Taylor’s seasoned songwriting ability.
When most artists are reaching for relevance, Swift delivers timeless, grown up pop music on ‘1989’ that should take her far beyond the next stage of her wildly successful career. Well done, Ms. Swift.
Pre-order ‘1989’ on iTunes right now and download the it in full on October 27th.