Prime Cuts: Blank Space, Style, Shake It Off
Taylor Swift's "1989" is heralded by music industrialists as the Messiah of today's music. According to a recent report by Billboard magazine, none of the albums released in 2014 has sold over a million copies. The bestselling record this year is the soundtrack "Frozen" which was released last year. And the only record that is only going to redeem the music industry this year is Taylor Swift's "1989," an album that was expected to ship over a million copies in its debut week. Unfortunately for this year's most successful record, "1989" doesn't even feel comfortable to be acquainted with today's music. Hence, the titular and the whole album's tenure harkens back to Swift's year of birth, hoping to bypass today's musical mess by hopping on the 80s bandwagon which is quickly becoming a fashionable trope these days.
As far as the album's direction is concerned, Swift's opener "Welcome to New York" is most telling. "Welcome to New York" is her Dear John letter to Nashville and country music as Swift indulges in some big whopping dance beats and exaggerated synth works. However, as far as a tribute to the Gotham city goes, "Welcome in New York" pales in comparison to similar Valentine's to the Big Apple by Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel and Alicia Keys. Swift's adoration for the big city is shot in its vocabulary. Other than being excited about the big lights and the optimism the city holds, the song reads more like an essay written by a high school student. Much better is when Swift sings about love and relationships. What makes Swift such a sweetheart amongst teenage girls is that she knows how to speak their language. Case in point is "Blank Space," you can hear all the young girls nodding their heads in girlie pow wow when Swift sings: "saw you and I though oh my God/look at that face/you look like my next mistake."
Just like her juicy dating life that has been a tabloid folder, her songs also rifle with pinpoint specific examples that we can't help but wonder how much of autobiography is interwoven into the song. Just as her John Mayer and Joe Jonas have had been at the receiving end, Harry Styles of One Direction gets Swift's personal attention in "Style" especially when Swift speaks of his "James Dean daydream look." "Shake It Off," the kinetic single that debut at #1 on Billboard's pop chart, shows why Swift spends the big bucks to get Max Martin and Shellback on her production team. Adorned with a boom-clap drum patterns and strong digital hooks, "Shake It Off" brings Swift sonically to the next level. Take the atmospheric layers of sounds and the electronic almost EDM-sounding drums off, "Out of the Woods" is the closet to Swift's earlier country days.
If you are looking for Swift in her quieter and more contemplative frame, "Clean" is a highlight. Teaming with esoteric British alt-popper Imogen Heap, Swift surrenders more to her collaborator than on any other song on the album. Its melody has more air and fewer syllables, and it's a song heavy on metaphors with arresting lines like "You're still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can't wear anymore." Nevertheless, despite the album's more polished and obviously more costly sound, Swift somehow gets fewer opportunities to let her heart out compared to her earlier albums. With that said, taking "1989" for what it is, the sound may be more sophisticated but Swift is still Swift, her polysyllable notes, her dicing take on boys and her keening observations on life are all here.
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