There was a lot of hoopla made when Taylor Swift announced back in August that she would be abandoning her country ways and making the full transition to pop with her new album, “1989.”
With the announcement came the release of “Shake It Off,” the first single off the album, and speculation that this will either be the best thing she’s done in her career or the worst.
As it turned out, “Shake It Off” was perfect. It had the right amount of poppy spunk, yet was still so Taylor.
Then “Out of the Woods” came out, which takes a couple of listens for it to be cemented into your soul. But “Welcome to New York” was almost a lazy attempt at an 80s pop song, and it was discouraging.
The three songs are so different from one another that it was hard to figure out what “1989” would be like as a whole. But listening to the album top to bottom — specifically the deluxe version — reveals a simple truth: don’t ever underestimate Taylor Swift.
Swift reinvents herself with “1989,” her fifth studio album, but does it in a more subtle way than people realize. Yes, the songs are more poppy. Yes, there are decidedly less guitars and banjos, and there are no traces of real drums anywhere on the album.
But Swift’s songwriting style is still very much intact, even while writing a little less about her past relationships — but only a little. And with Swift writing every song on the album, “1989” still has that Taylor Swift “feel.”
The biggest departures from older Swift-y swag are the defiant, sultry and even kind of creepy “Shake It Off,” “Bad Blood” and “I Know Places.” Aside from this, classic Swift is alive and well on her new album, with the addition of songs that reach farther than her traditional teenage audience.
If there had to be a poster song for Swift’s transformation into womanhood, it would be “Blank Space.” The track brings listeners into Taylor’s dating head, and reveals a side of herself that is crazy and obsessive. The song is infectious, and the chorus carries a vulnerability that is unique only to Swift.
Taylor did give the album a mild throwback to her previous work with “How You Get The Girl.” The song is the only acoustic guitar-driven of the bunch, and surprises with a pop-anthem chorus. The track is pure fun, much like “Stay Stay Stay” from her previous album, “Red.”
The pop genre works well for Swift, but the sound has always been there in some aspect. She has been steadily transitioning out of the country genre since 2010’s “Speak Now.” Songs like “Mine,” “Story of Us” and “Superman” gave her fans hints of her pop desires. However, she still managed to sustain that country/rock/pop feel that Swifties have come to know and love.
The pop element was even more egregious in 2012’s “Red.” Everyone knows the classics “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “22.” She even went a little dubstep in “I Knew You Were Trouble” and practically full pop with “Starlight.”
With every album, Taylor has become less innocent and more sexually empowered. She fully embraces her new persona with her songwriting in “1989,” touting lines like “I can make the bad guys good for a weekend” and “darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
Taylor has grown up before our eyes, and “1989” is the result of the struggles of a teenager pushing through her adolescence and emerging into a strong, confident adult woman.
It is far and away her best work, both lyrically and musically, cementing herself as a songwriter who can take any genre and make it her own.