Taylor Swift | Red
Taylor Swift holds a unique position within the music industry in that she doesn’t do sultry dance routines and hasn’t ever drastically changed her image, thus for most, she is considered a squeaky-clean role model. This hasn’t changed in the two years since Speak Now. So, if we see no major personal changes to speak of are we going to see a difference within her music on Red, her fourth studio album? True, she is starting to merge subtly from the country world to that of pop, but once again Red has provided us with that the good old game of guess-the-celebrity-ex with another album-cum-diary of Swift’s confessional lyrics. Although a similar routine to past efforts, this certainly provides her strong fan base with words and circumstances they can relate to of heartbreak and young love and they have thus followed Swift in their masses – but for how long will this be able to last?
With a mature sounding introduction with ‘State of Grace’ Swift’s vocals float onto a track which progresses to become something of a soft-rock strut, suiting her voice very well, perhaps a new musical direction already? Maybe not however, as the title track of the album ‘Red’ then starts to creep into what we would expect from the singer describing similarities of loving and losing a boyfriend, “Loving him is like trying to change your mind, Once you’re already flying through the free fall” with what some might find too repetitive and auto tuned of a chorus for the country loving Swift they know.
As the album progresses it is clear there have been some filler neatly packed between the better hits on the disc. ‘Treachorous’, ‘The Lucky One’ and ‘I Almost Do’ possess words that many may be able to relate to but melodically come across as rather bland, nothing different or hard-hitting enough to really make you feel Swift’s emotion, which is disappointing as to give her credit she is one of the few singers who really does sing in detail about her life and how she feels.
On a lighter note, the album production featured vocals being recorded in various locations using mega hit makers such as Shellback and Jeff Bhasker but undoubtedly the core tracks of the album have been produced by Max Martin in Sweden (think Britney Spears’ hit maker). His contributions – the tracks ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ featuring a surprisingly good chorus chanting “trouble trouble trouble” and ’22′, a refreshingly youthful song, something you would expect of Swift’s peer group – are, even if a blatant pop assault, certainly lighthearted fan-pleasers that will undoubtedly be future hits.
And Red has already produced one hell of a hit. Martin’s third track comes in the form of lead single ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’, an infectiously catchy and pleasantly humorous song. The first of Swift’s songs to peak at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in America is one to remember with lyrics of “and you, would hide away and find your peace of mind, with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” – well at least she can poke fun of herself. The gleeful melodies continue with ‘Stay, Stay, Stay’ with folky guitars creating a somewhat twangy country song full of girlish melodies contrasting with her lyrics of “Before you I only dated self-indulgent takers, who took all their problems out on me”.
If people were worried about the pop factor of the country stars’ album however, it is quickly broken up with two duets ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ featuring the very reputable Gary Lightbody (Snow Patrol) and Ed Sheeran, who have certainly been added to provide Swift with a huge dose of credibility for older listeners. In particular ‘The Last Time’, a slow paced haunting love song, if released, could push her into new realms of the industry and in a more adult-orientated direction.
As the album draws to a close, Swift mentions her current squeeze of the Kennedy clan in ‘Starlight’ with “He was 17 and crazy, running wild, wild” and is lyrically reminiscent of her earlier work (think ‘Love Story’) – romantic, young and light hearted – a formula which certainly works and is welcomed. It’s unfortunate the album doesn’t end on this song, as the ending bars of the track would suit very well, but ‘Begin Again’ with a subtle country twang in the background is the simple finale song describing the feelings post-breakup and having a new crush, which lyrically could be seen as a ‘what will happen next?’ situation.
There is no doubting Swift has put everything into her lyrics, heightening every sense in her body with feelings of extreme emotion, and yet this seems to be the maximum limit of her songs – five years down the line will her fans still be wanting to hear yet another album based entirely upon how in love or upset she is over a recent relationship? With the album itself being the length it is, it certainly cannot be digested in one listen, (some tracks could have easily been omitted) and with songs reaching for the most part 4-5 minutes it is a lengthy listening process rather than a short sweet collection of hits. Despite this, it will certainly please her fans who appreciate her lyrical honesty and will continue to carve a mark in the industry for her. However if she wants a music career of longevity, it might be time to mix up the recipe a little bit and create something somewhat more unusual, so maybe for her next album, she can ensure she loses the boyfriend and writes about something new.