Taylor Swift - 1989

by Jessikah Hope Stenson

1989, named after the year of her birth, represents a bold change of direction for Taylor Swift’s musical style. It’s been just over two years since the previous album, Red, which combined Swift’s traditional country style with the more commonly known pop tracks including 22 and I Knew You Were Trouble. As these songs have clearly established themselves as the most successful from Red, it makes sense for Swift to move in this musical direction, right? It’s the fifth album and so, of course, some fans feel that Taylor should stay loyal to her typical, cute country style. My argument is that if she produced another country album, critics and listeners would be fuming about her ‘similar sound’. So my advice, suck it up and embrace the change.

If you are yet to hear 1989’s lead single, Shake It Off – oh wait, you don’t exist. It is impossible to avoid this tune and no matter how many times you may have claimed that you don’t like it, I bet you’ve found yourself singing along at some point. Rising above the opinions of others is a mission statement that proves Swift to be an excellent role model and the tune itself is truly refreshing.

Admittedly, the first track of the album, titled Welcome To New York, is a little disappointing. Taylor Swift has an excellent voice which is hidden behind a ridiculous amount of auto-tune. Despite this, Swift is completely right when she sings “I could dance to this beat forevermore” – it’s irresistible. Likewise, the positivity ringing through Swift’s lyrics is an excellent development in her talent as a songwriter.

Guitars are non-existent as electronic sounds and drums take over in tracks Blank Space and Style, which represent the general tone of the album. Nonetheless, the songs somehow maintain the sense of sincerity that we are accustomed to. When speaking on her YouTube channel about the following track, Out Of The Woods, Taylor stated: “Even if a relationship is breakable and fragile and full of anxiety it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthwhile, exciting and beautiful and everything that we look for”. Her insightful perspective on the complexity of human nature is illuminating. Yet Swift hasn’t quite mastered her writing style for the pop genre just yet, as repetition is over-used in this track, causing it to become slightly irritating.

The album progresses smoothly with All You Had To Do Was Stay which includes interesting vocal layers. Next, I Wish You Would demonstrates Swift’s new found attitude with continually altering melodies, raw lyrics, and dramatic drops to a capella statements. This attitude is taken forward into Bad Blood, which is almost unrecognisable as a Taylor Swift song. The memorable beat and calls of ‘Hey!’ introduce us to the new Taylor Swift, and she is so lovable. Taylor reaches a wide range of stunning notes in Bad Blood, confirming it to be a stand-out track and reminding us of her talents as an impressive vocalist.

The powerful climax of Wildest Dreams is nostalgic and intensely emotional. Flattering this, Swift’s voice is chilling as she murmurs, “Say you’ll remember me”, making it potentially the best song on the album both technically and emotionally. Other tracks include How To Get The Girl, a light and fun example of Swift taking a step into a genre more suited to her, while I Know Places has a hint of electro; Swift impressively pulls this off, daring experimentation with synth. Also, This Love is a ballad demonstrating just how broad 1989 is as an album. Despite holding a slow and steady beat, This Love refuses to become dull at any point and the album remains gripping. The concluding track, Clean, is unique in the way that it is both sinister and tranquil. Swift whispers “The drop was the very worst”, contrasting peaceful tones with desperate vocals.

Personally, I’ve always had admiration for Taylor Swift. She began progressing through the music industry at age 16 and has become an iconic figure because of her integrity. 1989 confirms that Swift has matured since the days of Love Story and Teardrops On My Guitar. The powerful and bold statements made on 1989 illustrate that despite the haters, Taylor Swift can shake it off like no other - and for that, she definitely deserves some respect. If I haven’t convinced you yet that this change of genre was a good move, then all you have to do is give the album a quick listen.