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ALBUM REVIEW: Taylor Swift – 1989

Taylor-Swift-1989-300x300I’m just going to say it now. Taylor Swift’s 1989 is one of the best albums of 2014 and this is along Slipknot’s The Gray ChapterAnberlin’s Lowborn, Taking Back Sunday’s Happiness Is and several other albums. It has been a pretty amazing year in music if we ignore the fact that none of the albums have gone platinum yet. Now that I have desperately attempted to save my reputation of being a hardcore metalhead; it is best that I launch immediately into what will most likely be the quickest way to anger people – seeing as it is apparently “wrong” for men to like, nevertheless love, Taylor Swift’s music. That is, however, a conversation for a different day.

One cannot deny the sheer brilliance of 1989. It serves as an album that swiftly murders Swift’s image as being the doe-eyed country pop singer as she rapidly severs all ties with Nashville. From the ashes, she rises like a glorious phoenix to adopt the most punk rock attitude that pop music has seen since P!nk. When I say punk rock I do not mean angry political statements or five Australians with four chord riffs. I rather mean that Swift could not possibly care what people think of her and she is just going to do whatever she wants. Her lead single “Shake It Off” is a prime example of this. The song does happen to be about her not caring what people think of her and she is just going to, as the song suggests, shake off any criticism that “haters” may throw at her.

The real reason for the song being the reflection of her new punk rock attitude is how she decided to make her lead single a massively rapid departure from her original sound. She trades the twangy country guitars for well-polished synth and catchy electronic drum claps – much like she did on the more popular songs from Red – and she even throws in a sneaky rap verse to act as the bridge on the song. She did this without batting an eyelash even despite Twitter and the Youtube comment section exploding into some ridiculous medium for complaining about how she has changed her sound too much and they miss the old sound. Who knew that pop fans could sound like angry Linkin Park fans?

The glaring irony is that people complained about her country sound, and now they’re complaining about her maturing as an artist and embracing a new sound – a sound that is honestly better than anything she has ever created in any of her previous four albums. Perhaps it reverts once again back to people loving to hate her because she happens to write songs about her ex-boyfriends; which doesn’t make sense because many male pop singers do the same thing. Maybe it is because Swift does it in a way that is blunt and scathing and doesn’t really subscribe to the idea of “poetic license”. It is a fact that is obvious on 1989 as she doesn’t bother with covering up the repeated references to many of her ex-lovers, whoever they might be.  This is just another reason 1989 is punk rock in such a pop way. There is no sugar-coating. It is a blatant statement of “this is what I want to do and there is really nothing you can do to stop me.”

Besides being punk rock, 1989 also happens to be infectiously catchy. Just like with the lead singles from Red, each song on 1989 will get stuck in your head and you’ll find yourself bursting into song at the most absurd times. The opening song “Welcome to New York” screams at you to never give up on your dreams while catchy drum claps and funky synth lines. “Blank Space” greets you with hip hop drum samples and Swifts vocals even adopt a tempo that is akin to many hip hop artists. She spits venom about one of her many jilted lovers, yet it comes off as being so sweet and innocent. The entire song seems to admit to her falling for guys who are probably going to break her heart, or whose hearts she is going to break. She admits to this in the lyric “I’m a nightmare dressed as day-dream.”

That is another thing that is brilliant about 1989. Swifts lyrics are sublime, and entirely her own. For instance, “Wonderland” references Alice in Wonderland on many occasions but still turns it into a love song. If they were to make yet another remake of Alice in Wonderland then this song has to be included on the soundtrack. Especially with the lyric “Didn’t you calm my fears with your Cheshire Cat smile?” Most of the lyrics are simple and mundane yet they references things that the everyday person can relate to and they portray the raw intensity of the emotions each song is based around while the instrumentals distract your attention of the often melancholic nature of the lyrics.

Industry experts have pinned their hopes on 1989 being the first album to go platinum this year, and honestly with an album this brilliant I’d be surprised if it doesn’t go platinum. 1989 is a sure-fire contender for the “Best Album Award” in the Grammies next year and I will be rooting so hard for the album to win awards left-right a centre. 1989 is an album for hopeless romantics, jilted lovers, people who just got stood up, people who just broke up, new romantics and every person who has ever felt a feeling that could be loosely described as love or infatuation.  Wherever Taylor Swift is going, it is somewhere brilliant and nobody is going to stand in her way.

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Craig Roxburgh

I hail from the sunny city of Cape Town. Also known to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. When I'm not hunched up over my laptop looking for music and indulging in social media, you can find me tentatively playing horror games, roaming the streets on foot, reading books and probably dancing like a deranged penguin

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