Friday, November 21, 2014

Review : 1989

Ok, so you may have heard that Taylor Swift released a new album and it absolutely crushed all sales for 2014 and she also set a precedent by beating herself out of her own number one slot with her second single. I mean, maybe you heard about it, or maybe you live under a rock and have somehow never heard Shake it Off and were totally unaware of Taylor Swift beating all expectations and everything anyone has done in the record industry this year. So obviously, I bought the album, because Taylor is my spirit animal.

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If you're aware of how it went down, Taylor released "Shake it Off" and began ALL THE PROMOTION. She held these Secret Sessions where she invited her fans to her homes in Nashville, Rhode Island, L.A., and to London. She found these fans by stalking their social media sites for over a year. (No, I wasn't invited.) So when she started her promotion for 1989, she started with the Secret Sessions and continued with live streams and lots of tweeting and interviews and performances. She was EVERYWHERE. Before the release of 1989, she released Out of the Woods and also Welcome to New York (a song that landed her a role as the ambassador to tourism for New York)...you could find those songs online but the best way to have them was to pre-order 1989 via iTunes.

I'm sad to say that I did it. I wanted those songs. I wanted to listen to them, legally, for three weeks before the album was released. For her physical album, the best place to go was Target to get the deluxe edition. With the deluxe edition came three bonus songs, three voice recordings, and 13 polaroids. I almost always wait and go to Target for the deluxe edition, but I was a sucker to marketing and pre-ordered the album on iTunes and then bought the deluxe edition from Target. I like to rationalize this by saying that I don't have an optical drive right now so it was the best way to get the music for all my devices (phone and cd changer in the car), but I'm a sucker. I knew I was a sucker when I pre-ordered the album and I was fine with being a sucker when I bought the physical cd as well.

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I put my polaroids on the bulletin board in my studio.

So finally, I had the ENTIRE album and ALL the bonus tracks and do you know what I felt?

MASSIVE disappointment.

Yeah, I was disappointed with 1989.

I felt badly about it, because I am a Swiftie. I love Taylor and I wanted to see her grow, but the album just didn't live up to the hype. For starters, "Shake it Off" is a one off. The rest of the album sounds nothing like that and certainly has no horns. In fact, most of the album has no live instrumentation. And while it was billed as "pop," it would more accurately be described as "indie pop," which is to say, this ain't no Britney Spears dance album. As much as Taylor talked a good game about making an album for people to dance to, this album isn't exactly dance music. I can't imagine it being played at the club as is, but I guess I'd dance to it if I were watching her at a show. Nearly every reviewer was going on and on about how THIS was Taylor's magnum opus, but it isn't. I felt more of what the Boston Globe wrote, Taylor went pop, but at what expense?

Gone are Taylor's amazing, tight lyrics, like the chorus of Mine. Instead of really great lyrics, we've got choruses repeated over and over and over. Her vocabulary is still stunted, I can count "red lips", "perfect storm", "lost their minds" among other lyrics, repeated in more than one song. Prior to the release of the album, Taylor asserted that this was not your usual heartbreak album, but it is. Almost the entire album is still about relationships, with sometimes confusing lyrics, such as Style. (So you crash down, but you come back, because you don't go out of style? How does that work?) This album just felt less like a step forward, and more like a step sideways. I even said to my mom, "It feels like when your best friend gets a new boyfriend and never hangs out with you anymore."

I think Taylor's comment in a recent Time interview really said it all for me:

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Pre-1989, none of Taylor's songs felt like they were put together with "a good line". What is that even about? But then again, maybe this is because Taylor is trying to grow and change. 1989 sounds cynical where her other albums never did. I'm not sure I like that, but isn't that a normal part of growing up? And if Taylor wants to stretch her artistry, how can she do that with baby steps? Who am I to begrudge my favorite artist growing as a person and as an artist?

Since my initial disappointment and realization that a lot of the hype was just hype, I've grown to love 1989. It's been played on repeat for weeks in my car and on my phone and on my computer as I go places and run and sew. I've already learned all the words to several songs and really fallen in love with a few of them. In particular, Blank Space, I Know Places, Wildest Dreams, and You are in Love really resonate with me...I like their sound and I like their lyrics. 1989 is more upbeat than her albums prior to Red and has added several tracks to my running playlists. And yes, there is new content in there beyond all the old heartbreak, interesting stories told outside of her usual autobiographical tales, and her voice memos helped me better understand where she was coming from. There are a couple of songs I think are ok, but I like that this album is much more consistent than her previous albums. And while Red is still my favorite album, 1989 is going to be in heavy rotation forever, because at the end of the day, it's still Taylor, and being able to watch her grow and change is something I want to embrace and enjoy.

2 comments:

  1. I've never been much of a Taylor Swift fan, but I really love what I've heard of 1989 so far. I'm even considering purchasing the album, and I've never owned any of her albums.

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    1. Every woman should be a fan of Taylor Swift. She is absolutely destroying the music industry with sincerity and brilliant business acumen. She is completely unsung and often derided where her male counterparts would be applauded while she outpaces them in every arena. She is an excellent role model for young women and we should all stand by her side and support her for the strides she is making as a woman.

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