REVIEW: Taylor Swift – 1989

If you can’t be bothered reading an entire review of quite possibly the smartest pop album of 2014, here are three diluted reasons as to why Taylor Swift‘s rather wonderful 1989 (deluxe version, of course) should be top of your purchase list:

1) Bangers. All of the bangers.

2) Said bangers being matched by ridiculously good writing.

3) The refreshing sound of Tay-Tay never for a single second insulting the intelligence of her audience. (See also: no its becky.)

If you’re still with us, let’s elaborate. Point one: we all loved Red, but it still very much had one scarlet-painted toe in country water. Not so on 1989, which from the very beginning talks about being able to dance and search ‘for a sound we haven’t heard before’ on Welcome To New York. Even if that’s not strictly true on Blank Space, which borrows from the Lorde school of carefree youth-pop, most of 1989 moves with lithe and knowing sass to blog-baiting electronic beats. Try saying that about Begin Again.

There’s absolutely no dearth of singles here, that’s for sure. Style takes the window-down, California-coast approach that’s more reminiscent of an upcoming buzz band than a platinum-seller; even All You Had to Do Was Stay can’t suppress its doleful subject matter under its cheerleading chorus. It doesn’t even make sense to ask for a taste of whatever happy-juice Swift is drinking; on tracks like this she’s pretty much bottled that infectious joy.

Point two: “Everybody here was someone else before”. “You look like my next mistake”. “Darling I’m a nightmare dressed as a daydream”. Hell, even “this. sick. beat.” Without context, just ordinary pop missives. In Swiftian (officially coined term, FYI) discourse, they’re pithy and pointed marks of a fantastically clever songwriter. It doesn’t matter who the songs are about any more – although if we needed any hint about who Bad Blood is referring to, “you live with Ghosts” is a rather blunt giveaway – given Swift has turned those dehumanising column inches into something we can all relate to.

Which leads us nicely on to point three: dismiss this as a teen-pop album at your own expense, because age- and audience-appropriate don’t figure on Swift’s non-patronising agenda. Of course it’s all family-friendly, but we’ve spun this record a fair few times and don’t feel remotely close to mining it (and some seriously brilliant bonus tracks) for all its gold. Let’s face it, a girl who can effortlessly troll Tumblr is hardly going to insult her audience’s intelligence.

As a result, favourite tracks will change day by day and new, knockout lines will reveal themselves with every listen. By the time you’re done, 1989 will represent one of three different things depending on who you are. For listeners both casual and fanatical, a pop record to respect, admire, and lose your bedroom-dancing shit to. For her contemporaries, a reminder of lost youth and opportunities that they’ll struggle to catch up with. For Taylor Swift, 1989 will undoubtedly symbolise the year she became an absolute pop boss.

Adeel Amini

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Taylor Swift - 1989
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