I’m not going to lie, when I heard my dear friend Taylor Swift was releasing a pop album titled after the year she was born and gaining inspiration from that same decade, I was hesitant. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ’80s and all the hair that came with it. I mean, who doesn’t love some Whitney, right? But I had reservations concerning how she would meld the electronic, synthesized music of the 80s with a progressive, contemporary sound that she decided to pursue in her fourth album, “Red.” In typical Taylor fashion, she pleasantly surprised me. “1989” sounds exactly like Taylor Swift in a way that I have never heard before.
In “Red,” Taylor had cornucopia of different sounds all in a singular album. From banjo and power guitar to piano and dubstep, Taylor tried it all. I would like to call that album Taylor Swift’s adolescent stage. She was confused and finding herself. Her lyrics affirmed that: she was angry and left a trail of men in her wake, each song dripping with emotion right off of her ruby lips. Taylor ended up selling 4.2 million copies of “Red” as of August of this year, so I guess it worked for her. We saw glimpses of “1989” in “Red” with songs like “All Too Well.” Taylor then took those quick glances into the future and expounded upon that single sound and created a whole album based around it.
It is very safe to say that Swift has reinvented where she receives inspiration and places her priorities. Over the past year, after her break up with Harry Styles, she has become noticeably more independent. In an interview with People Magazine, Swift said that she has not even thought about pursuing another romantic relationship. She only cares about being with her friends and strengthening the relationships that matter. She is content with where she is in life, and I can hear it in her music.
While the track list on “1989” is almost exclusively comprised of songs about relationships, I wouldn’t call them “typical” Taylor Swift love songs that we have heard (and loved) in the past. Several songs like “Out of the Woods,” “Bad Blood” and “I Wish You Would” can be applied to any kind of relationship. But don’t let that get you down; there are plenty of songs about romance. “Blank Space,” “I Know Places” and the comically named track, “Style,” are examples of this.
What sets “1989” apart from other pop albums and Taylor apart from other pop artists is that neither rely on trying to replicate hip-hop. Taylor sounds purely what she set out to create, an album with a timeless sound but at the same time containing a very current feel. She has matured her sound and lyrics well beyond from where she started. With almost no mainstream pop elements, Taylor has made an enduring album that will stay relevant long past the artists of the “now.”
Taylor Swift is living her dream. We know she is because she told us about in “Mean.” She finally made it to the “big ole’ city.” New York is her new backdrop. Nashville and the country sound it represents is now far in rearview mirror. We are far from the days of slammin’ screen doors and burning pictures but this new Taylor is refreshing. But she hasn’t forgotten herself, she has found herself. It gives me hope for the future of music to see the voice of a generation grow up with the very generation she has defined.