Were you looking for a T-Swift album without songs about her love life? Well, sorry to disappoint, but maybe synthesizers will help.
Swift’s transition to pop was not exactly abrupt. With pop songs like “We Are Never Getting Back Together” coming from her last album, it seemed as if the country star had progressively been moving away from her beginnings. However, Swift has certainly never released something as synthesized and straight-up pop like her latest release. With the help of mega-pop producer Max Martin, Taylor Swift’s 1989 is supposedly the former country singer’s departure from her roots and a foray into the world of pop, but she may have traveled back more than few years to find the inspiration for her new sound. The heavily synthesized music in tracks “Welcome to New York” and “Out of the Woods” are reminiscent of 1980s bands such as Depeche Mode and A-ha. In fact, a guitar, usually a Swift staple, does not make an appearance until “How You Get The Girl,” the tenth track on the album. That said, it’s really not a bad thing.
Swift wanted to make a pop album and that she accomplished. Her first single “Shake It Off” is clearly the album’s hit, but is very different from the majority of the other tracks. Where “Shake It Off” makes you want to dance, tracks like “Style” and “Bad Blood” offer more relaxed, steady beats (almost straight out of the Drive soundtrack) and less resounding, but still catchy, choruses. Most of the songs, ten out of thirteen, are still about her love life— we’re looking at you, Mr. Styles. However, the lyrics are more mature compared to her other albums. Where “We Are Never Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In” off Swift’s last album Red were somewhat jeering and vengeful, Swift seems more introspective and ready to move on with this record. Tracks like “All You Had To Do Was Stay” look at her past relationship without malice and a hell of a catchy chorus— definitely a standout on the album. “Wildest Dreams” also offers a more mature Swift only wanting to be remembered by her lost love. This song is extremely reminiscent of Lana Del Rey, almost eerily so, but another standout on the album. Songs like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space” offer a more unapologetic Swift defending her decisions in the her love life without caring whatever the media has to say.
Musically speaking, some songs on the album, “Welcome to New York” and “Out of the Woods,” feel one note with more-spoken-than-sang choruses that feel anti-climatic as compared to the verses that bookend them. Others like “Blank Space” boast a resounding beat without a solid catchy chorus to make the song memorable. All in all, the album is an interesting turn for Swift that contains several catchy songs, but no real hits other than “Shake It Off.”
Although the album is a fairly big departure from Taylor Swift’s last albums, it works. Swift always seemed more like a pop star than a country star, but her melodic and songwriting sensibilities still ring strong on this record, minus her comfortable acoustic guitar. Swift blended the new, but old 1980s synth-pop sound well with modern influences like Lorde and Lana Del Rey and released a unique pop record leaving listeners interested in hearing more from Taylor Swift’s new musical direction.