by Kami Kuenzli
In her latest album, Red, released on October 22, 2012, Taylor Swift steps out of her box and heads in an entirely new direction. Gone are the days of sweet country songs and soft curls, and in are top 20 hits and bright red lipstick. What does this mean for Taylor Swift fans? In a word, decision. With Red many fans are going to have to decide whether the beautiful country ballads, albeit few and far between, outweigh the distasteful number one pop hits.
In songs such as “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” Swift chants about calling it off with her on again off again boyfriend. Not only does the song lack originality but it also lacks maturity. The maturity level is that of songs off of her debut album, Taylor Swift. Of course, she was 16 back then, but now she no longer has an excuse. The only reason this song has received as much attention as it has is because of the catchy lyrics and not the actual talent taken to perform it. Reaching number one on the billboard hot 100, this song is the farthest away from the Taylor Swift we know and love.
While songs such as “22” and “I Knew you were Trouble” may not be as tasteless as “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, they are still overly autotuned and unlike Swift’s previous albums. With “22” Swift wasn’t entirely off the mark. The lyrics hold potential, addressing the shallow and superficial lives that most young adults live. The problem with this song is the way it was carried out. It shouldn’t have been pop and it didn’t need autotune. In all honesty the autotune is counterproductive, hurting the song rather than helping it.“I Knew you were Trouble” experiments with dubstep, which is not something commonly seen in country music. It has mainstream appeal debuting at number three on the billboard hot 100, but is that what long time fans are looking for? Is there perhaps a trend? It seems as if Swift is ditching her country fans to acquire a new fan base.
With “Starlight”, Swift beautifully combines pop with country. If she really is attempting to gain a new fan base, this would be the way to go about it as opposed to the baseless number one hits. It’s light and fun and everything you would expect from a Swift song, but with just a little extra spice. It’s comparable to “Enchanted” from Speak Now, in the way that the lyrics give off a magical aura. The only difference is that “Starlight” throws in a slight dance-y vibe. Swift steps out of her box with this one, but she doesn’t take it to a completely different level. With “Stay Stay Stay” (reminiscent of “Ours” from Speak Now) Swift does relatively the same thing. She dips her toe into the world of pop instead of diving in headfirst. The song has a catchy beat and fun lyrics but it’s nowhere outside of the realm of comfort.
Swift does not disappoint with “All too Well”. For those who have been long time Taylor Swift fans, this song may strike some sort of familiarity from previous albums. The similarity is due to Liz Rose who helped co-write this song as well as songs from Swift’s earlier albums. Lyrically the song has the classic Taylor Swift components of innocence and relationships. You could perhaps call it a cliché but it’s what is to be expected from Swift and it’s done in a beautiful and tasteful manner. Keeping with the same idea, “I Almost Do” is a lovely addition to Red. It screams Taylor Swift. It’s about a breakup (just like her other songs) in which she wants to go back and be with him but she doesn’t go back. The country vibe is apparent and the lyrics flow.
“Red” should be the star song from the album, after all it the album’s namesake. It should be absolutely amazing. It should be a worthy number one hit. It should be all of those things, and while it’s not a bad song, it just doesn’t stack up to some of the others on the album. Lyrically the song is absolutely perfect in every sense of the word.The idea of taking the concept of colors and transforming it into a song that isn’t built for a three year old is brilliant and challenging. Somehow Swift manages it and that in itself is awe inspiring. The problem with Red is the execution. The song went just a touch too far in the direction of pop turning what could be a truly fantastic song into just a decent one.
Along with the album, Swift released six bonus tracks which can be purchased exclusively at Target for $16.99 instead of $14.99. Of course any true fan would make the purchase but those who prefer country may also want to consider throwing in the extra two bucks. Two of the songs (“Red” and “Treacherous”) that are on the original album are released in their original demo recording form. The good thing about this is that for those who actually appreciate it, the instrumental is more apparent. “State of Grace” (also already released on the original album) is released in an acoustic version which is preferable in the sense that there are no overly pop elements. Three new tracks are also released; “Come Back… Be Here”, “The Moment I Knew”, and “Girl at Home”. “The Moment I Knew” is definitely the standout, with its enchanting sound. With “Come Back… Be Here” Swift appeals to her country fans. It’s not an outstanding song by any means but it would’ve been of more value on the actual album than several of the pop hits. “Girl at Home” tests the waters just like “Starlight” and “Stay Stay Stay” without pushing the envelope. It has a touch of pop but still remains light and happy.
Purchasing the album Red would not be a decision to be regretted. While there are misses, that is to be expected with all albums. Swift makes up for those misses beautifully, using her alluring vocals and songwriting talents. She created an album worthy of her reputation. She combined country and pop in a way that most people couldn’t even dream of.
Image by Big Machine Records