Going retro


Photo from the guardian http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Observer/Columnist/Columnists/2014/10/24/1414169836312/taylor-swift-009.jpg

Much has changed in the 25 years since 1989: George H. W. Bush is no longer president, brick cell phones have been replaced by iPhones, and cassettes have been replaced by digital music downloads. Taylor Swift’s new album “1989” draws inspiration from the year she was born, as well as the musical sounds of that decade. For her, this album is like a rebirth, transitioning from country to pop, so the album being the same name as the year of her birth is well fitting. No longer a teenage, curly-haired country singer, Swift has completely transformed into a pop artist. With her new album selling over 1.2 million albums in the first week, Swift became the first artist in history to have three albums (“Speak Now”, “Red”, and “1989”) pass the 1 million mark in the first week sales.

In 2012, Swift released “Red,” a sixteen-track album full of both country and pop songs.  Many critics claimed she was no longer country. “1989” sent the message that Swift was country no more. However, this album still sounds like a Taylor Swift album, no matter the genre, because of its beats, use of synthesizers and her confident vocals.

Swift has changed her overall sound on her new album, replacing banjos with 1980s bass lines and drawing inspiration from other popular artists. In “Wildest Dreams” and “I Know Places,” listeners may notice a resemblance to Lana del Rey and Lorde, respectively. Swift stressed, however, that her songwriting hasn’t changed.

In a recent interview, Swift said if she didn’t write songs, then she wouldn’t sing. Lyrics are always the most important aspect of music for Swift, and it is evident  with the quality of lyricism in “1989”. Each song is written by her, which gives it a personal touch as she takes events in her life and molds them into music. One reason this album is as good as it is is because her songs are relatable, and people like songs that they can relate to.

Taylor Swift's 5th studio album, "1989." Image from Wikipedia.
Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album, “1989.” Image from Wikipedia.

The leading single, “Shake It Off,” was an instant radio hit, receiving praise from people who enjoyed the upbeat attitude of the song. If you expected sad and slow songs about love, you will be disappointed. In recent interviews, she explained that there aren’t any breakup songs because she hasn’t had a bad breakup in the past year and a half of her life. “1989” is full of catchy and upbeat songs, such as “Bad Blood” and “How You Get the Girl”. All of the songs have a message on there that Swift is trying to convey out to the world. Rather than sad songs on previous albums, Swift uses her recent move to New York (as evident in “Welcome to New York”) to show her new, happy life. A happy life means happy, upbeat songs that can become instantaneous hits, and that’s exactly what Swift made.

In the song “Blank Space,” for example, she uses sarcasm to write from the point of view of the serial dater she says the media makes her out to be. She uses the line “they’ll tell you I’m insane,” explaining to a current boyfriend that past boyfriends think she is crazy. Swift  delivers a solid punch in the face of mainstream media, using their negativity to make a great song. “Out of the Woods” is about the fragility of some relationships, while “Bad Blood” is about a former friendship breaking down. No matter the subject, Swift uses her songwriting skills to make her songs stand out above the rest.

Though Swift embraces a pop sound in “1989” that is vastly different than her country roots, she continues her tradition of writing highly relatable songs that are the key to her past and future success. Her use of personal experience as inspiration makes her more relatable than many other singers in her genre and has helped her sell out stadiums across four continents. She has won seven Grammys, and there’s no doubt that “1989” will be up for at least one in the near future. Swift will continue to dominate the pop world and the charts as long as she keeps putting out albums like “1989.”


4.5/5 stars