Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album 1989 has officially stripped her of the “country girl” title. It may seem surprising, but is it really a big deal? It’s not as though Swift has had a real country hit in years, and maybe that’s what brought about the official announcement. 1989 is Swift’s follow-up to 2012’s hugely successful Red. It’s a pop album with good, catchy hits––she made the right call with this genre.
1989 opens with the synth-heavy “Welcome to New York.” It’s a fun song, but it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. It does feel very 1980s––which I love––but I can’t get over two specific lines in the song. There’s a line in the beginning where Swift says that she was “searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before,” which seems like a strange declaration to make to start an album that was designed to sound like it’s from 1989.
I also have some trouble with the line “You can want who you want/ boys and boys and girls and girls.” It’s not that I’m against the message. I like that Swift has moved away from the stigmata of country by agreeing that people can love who they love, but the line feels like a shoehorned attempt to make the song anthemic for everyone.
The fourth track “Out of the Woods” is not as likable as “Welcome to New York.” Lyrically, it feels like another one of Swift’s classic break-up songs without the acoustic guitar. Musically, it reminds me of Imagine Dragons’ “On Top of the World.” It’s not a bad song, but where “Welcome to New York” felt redone and unoriginal in an intentional and thematic way, this song is simply boring.
“Shake it Off” was the next track that’s been released at this point. Based on the amount of plays on the radio, it’s likely that most have probably jammed out to this song at some point. It’s a perfect pop song in every way. It draws on tried and true pop clichés, but it still feels fresh and fun. It’s not experimental or new, but that’s fine for this album.
I guess one critical thing that can be said is that it’s more 2014-pop than 1989-esque, but for the biggest single of the album, that’s probably a forgivable blunder.
Ultimately, what I’ve heard of 1989 is fun, poppy and really enjoyable. There’s nothing new here, but it still feels fresh and bound to draw listeners beyond Swift’s loyal audience.