Since the release of her self-titled album six years ago, Taylor Swift has become even more relevant in the pop culture and music landscape with her fourth studio album, “Red.”
While calling Swift country is near impossible at this point in her career, that does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. While the style may be changing, the content is not. The album is, as stated by Taylor Swift herself in that little lyric booklet no one reads, about “love that was treacherous, sad, beautiful, and tragic. But most of all, this record is about love that was red.” She has maintained her role as a songwriter that takes no prisoners when it comes to her songs.
However, in any review of this album, from “Entertainment Weekly” to “Rolling Stone” the album is being labeled as a shift in Swift’s style, but it is really only expanding on what “Speak Now” started when it began to include heavy pop influences.
The only difference with this album is that Taylor is completely unapologetic about expanding her musical style. This can be attributed to the fact that she has worked with more producers and other artists, namely producer Max Martin, singer Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol and musician Ed Sheeran.
As for the actual album itself, the regular CD stands at 16 songs. The Target exclusive version has 22.
Despite the high number of songs, none of them feel particularly forced or a waste.
Standouts include: “State of Grace,” “Red,” “Treacherous,” “All Too Well” and “The Last Time.”
These tracks represent the best of what Taylor is bringing to her album. “State of Grace” mixes some of what Taylor is known for: her lyrics. It also offers a bit of the genre swap while still being incredibly catchy. It has just enough emotion to stick to Swift’s lyrical style while having a bit more energy than her slower ballads.
And very few modern artists nail those emotional ballads like Swift does; “Treacherous,” “All Too Well” and “Begin Again” scoop up the praise and title of being most like some of the older, more emotional songs she is known for. They are very descriptive in nature, slower in pace, and contain hints of her country roots.
All three songs make it easy to determine who in Swift’s life inspired them, something her older songs accomplish with ease. They also have a distinct slow pace that melds with the intense emotions or feelings of passion she is so famous for among her audience.
On the opposite side of that spectrum lay her pop songs, “Stay Stay Stay” and “22.” Neither is really a stand out, but they keep the album feeling fresh by offering something other than a slow outpouring of lyrical heartbreak.
Yet her pop song and lead single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is so unbelievably catchy it will likely still be on the radio for years to come. Casual listeners will be drawn in by the chorus, and diehard Swift fans will love the edgier attitude of being unapologetic about her past Swift brings in with her lyrics.
Not every one of her songs deserves a gold star though. Her song “Everything Has Changed” featuring Ed Sheeran just falls flat. It is great she is collaborating with other artists, but what seems like a perfect match of artists just seems to lack the spark, as Sheeran sings mostly backing vocals that leave Swift sounding like she is screeching.
The other song that sticks out the most is “The Lucky One.” It seems like every artist has a song about how hard it is to be famous, and it has not really worked out too well for anyone—save Britney Spears 12 years ago with the similarly titled track “Lucky.”
Overall, Taylor Swift offers a wide range of lyrical topics, from happy to heartbreak, and genres. The mix between the upbeat pop with sorrowful lyrics and slow emotional ballads creates a diverse album that ought to continue to please Swift’s ever-growing fan base.