Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Taylor Swift - 1989

Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here.”

      The year was 1989 when Scott Swift and Andrea Swift gave the world the soon-to-be 100 pounds of lean-mean American sweetheart machine, Taylor Swift, who would go on to be one of the most successful young singer-songwriters in the US, being signed at the young age of sweet sixteen by Big Machine Records. Ever since then Swifty Swift has been pumping out hits fueled and inspired by Joe Jonas, Harry Styles and the rest of the seven dwarves she has once called her boyfriend or so it would appear, but for the dynamite-stick emotion brick that she is, she's simply got a lot on her mind and she doesn't mind sharing it even though sometimes you wish she would.
      By now, Swizzles has produced five studio albums that have all had over five million sales worldwide. Her fifth studio album, released in 2014 and named 1989, begins with Welcome to New York – perchance the song to most emulate the song scene of the 80s in the synthopop style encompassing the electronic repetitive music which is a prelude to Tay-Tay Swizzles' overlayed backing vocals welcoming the listener to New York. It marks the departure from her previous style and tells the listener that “Hay-hay, I tried to make something completely different and incredible and here are a dozen songs to prove that I could.” So, let's set the scene: 1980s, New York, just got off the bus from middle-of-nowhere far-far South, bleeding hearts and heartbreakers all with their pockets full of dreams and the people themselves are much like Taylor sees herself in this wonderland: “A nightmare dressed like a daydream”. The city, as Tar-Tar sauce Tay-Tay tries to communicate to us, has been waiting for us and “everybody here was someone else before.” It's a song of dreams not yet broken – of the American-Dream's wayward travelers, misfits and broken things, for the rugrats and mishaps, the people escaping homes and one-horse towns for something greater – The Big rotten Apple. It's something wholly romantic and definitely something that would appeal to Swift's demographic (the 'Don't tell me what to do, mom, I'm old enough' fourteen year olds), but it's also something very 80s which says that the album is not going to be some half-assed try to make something different nor is the romantic retrospect of times passed an entirely hit-and-miss attempt. She's going for different and dang nabbit she's going to prevail...sort of. The lyrics themselves reveal a pro LGBT+ attitude and a carelessly caring tone. The song sounds like an 80s club hit so why not a modern one as well at such fast-paced times when everyone is revitalising and remodifying the old to fit the new  
      The album screams dance-pop or maybe that's just the high-pitched voice of Swift's. It has the tempo and rhythm down to the beat and spits on the organic with all of its electronic grandeur. Max Martin's drums and syntheziser are present throughout and many of the songs are cowritten with Jack Antonoff. Yet, at times it feels like Taylor's voice is more suited to country and her attempt is a wailing echo of a quarter-life crisis, but gosh, she's just not going to give up and I applaud that like I applaud the paralympics. I mean, come on, her sass is just precious.
      The second track is titled Blank Space, a song that more people are probably familiar with and it was one of several songs on the album to really go big and that's to our Blondie Bear's credit – one song on your album becoming a hit is great, but a couple of them is a statement. It's saying that whether you love her or hate her, she understands pop music and appeals to the larger demographic listening to it – all the mindless, tasteless prepubescent sad face xoxo's who aren't really looking for anything with consistency or meaning but are quite content with something catchy and seemingly empowering which she certainly provides. It's no wonder that this song was released as a single along with several others such as Shake it Off and Bad Blood. 
      Now, granted, the second whole of Taylor's fan base is probably made up of jealous, angry, 'independent, 'strong', and melancholic current and ex girlfriends who don't need no man to tell them what to do. Women power, right? That's great, but it's not really women power. It's not feminism that she's advocating, it's empty dreams and emptiness, needyness and bare breasts, partying and something far less concerning than her interviews would lead us to believe yet it's still empowering. Go-Go gadget. As far as the song is concerned, Blank Space tells us that love is a game so it must tell us that Swift is a loser. She can “make the bad guys good for a weekend.” Do a thousand breakups a desperate woman make? Methinks not necessarily. It's definitely a high-tide struggle to find the right person so a hundred relationships is no laughing matter. Thankfully the song is catchy though, right? It's Tar-Tar's big F YOU to all the haters, apparently including me, who bring up her failed relationships and the main theme of her songs and use it against her. She gets it, she understands that she's got a “long list of ex-lovers” that will tell us that she's insane and the Blank Space is merely her next mistake, hopefully the last one, but probably not. The song reached the top of the charts with people thinking that she had a long list of Starbucks lovers which she herself later had to clarify that it was in fact “ex-lovers.” Obviously the people who listen to her music have great hearing and she in turn has on-point pronunciation. The song, however, is telling us that failed relationships are fine and perchance the whole album is telling us that everything is fine, but more complex than that – the haters are gonna hate, she's gonna' date and all of this is trivial and no one, not a single person should be allowed to bring you down out of hatred. I don't know about you, but I choke up just at the thought of such delightful things. The song captures this in one word type phrases enumerating life with a music track that continues with dance-pop and the line of instruments that make this album stand out from her other four albums – no longer country and she's proud and so she should be. You go, girl.
      What has to be taken into account is the controversy of her preceeding album, Red. Swift received and continues to receive much criticism for her dating life and as she began to work on 1989 during her tour of Red, she definitely had the controversy and dislike in mind and has to a degree justly addressed it with a huge middle finger. All of her reputation has been balled up and spat out and the slimy spit now tripping on the windowsill is titled Shake It Off. If anything then this is everything you can take out of her album – the players are going to play, the haters are going to hate and potatoes are going to potate. Shake it Off is what Swift's pop music culminates into – it's uptempo, but wait, is that, yes, a saxophone with those backing hype-man vocals. It's like The Little Pretzel Who Could walked into a bar, transformed it into a club, called up her high-heeled, tight-waist, low-skirt squadron and went all cray-cray, but cheerfully and innocently in the true American style of our sweetheart. 
      Style, the nugget placed between Blank Space and Out Of The Woods, all three being released as singles, is a highway cruise communicating the relationship high. The fly clothes, try-hard guys driving convertibles in style. The style itself is wearing and changing paramours like clothes and it can most aptly be described as electro pop-rock disco music. The song is like someone told a five year old to play all the instruments they like and mix-&-match them together in a way that it overpowers everything else and then let Swift scream over it. As you go through Style in all its synthesizer glory and proceed to listen to Out of The Woods and All You Had To Do Was Stay it is clear that we're not listening to a country-girl Taylor, but a fully-automatic, two-years-in-the-making pop album that surpasses her 2012 album Red by over three million sales, totaling at over nine million sales worldwide. In Out of the Woods, Swift's familiar soft voice against the strong, robust thumping of the electric drums creates an interesting medley of sounds that truly transport the listener into the woods. However, the relatively cleverly executed instrumental portion that really proves that she is able to create a pop album does not change the fact that her American sweetheart's voice would be better suited to sing country ballads, but inch by inch she's crawling and growing into more pop than popcorn.

      Bad Blood, the eight track on the album, is a song with a lot of potential to be a fabulous piece with catchy lyrics and an empowering message for all the heartbroken teenagers out there. Unfortunately it probably wouldn’t make it to the top of the charts without the overwhelmingly strong drums and banging bass tthrough which Taylor tries to make her voice be heard (somehow succeeding). Only thing worse about the bass that dominates the song instead of Taylor’s voice and her intended message is the horrific remix of the song with Kendrick Lamar. I mean, I get it, someone thought it would be a good idea to throw Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift together, but the result is a moldy Oreo not an Oreo Mcflurry. As if Wiz Khalifa trying to ruin Payphone wasn't enough. All that being said, the album went out to make a statement and it succeeded and I'll definitely continue listening to it in my basement or singing it in the shower when nobody is home. If blue was a three and yellow was a five then this album would get a green. There's mushroom for improvement as far as balancing instrumentals and vocals is concerned. A solid 3.5/5  If this album was playing Survivor then it wouldn't be voted off before the third week.

Gregory Klas.

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