Over the past two years since her third studio album, Speak Now‘s, release, Taylor Swift has arguably been no stranger to controversy. In between famously crashing a Kennedy wedding and experiencing all kinds of “tumultuous, crazy, insane, intense, semi-toxic relationships” , Swift had been hard at work with multiple big names in the music industry to create an effective fourth studio effort that would have the potential to finally break her out of a general “box” of just teenage fans. Arguably, at 22 years old, Swift is still young and full of plenty of fun, but is bound to have matured some since her debut in 2006. With a certain coming of age comes a newfound maturity in the production and even lyrical message of some of her songs on this fourth album (“Sad Beautiful Tragic”, “The Last Time”), while other tracks stretch more out into the signature “pop” sound that now comes predominantly with the era (“We Are Never Getting Back Together”, “22”), and others stay right in the same pocket of strummy pseudo-country songs that appeal to the same fans that have brought her success in the first place (“Begin Again”, “I Almost Do”).
Essentially, there is something for everyone with Red while the album still manages to maintain a feeling of overall cohesiveness- something that not many production teams can always do, making for a very impressive home-run for Swift and hers in being able to achieve the idea of expanding their audience. Even I, someone who was never all-to-enthused about her previous works, with the exception of her exquisite past collaboration with The Civil Wars on “Safe and Sound”, was more than enthused to listen to the new album, something that most new fans of the young pop star may very well agree on.
While not everyone will be warm towards the truly pop offerings, one can appreciate the great production value behind the songs, such as with Max Martin and Shellback-produced track “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, what with its catchy melody, clever inclusion of small bits of spoken word, and stereo-blaring falsetto-tinged pop chorus were bound to become a hit, much like past Martin and Shellback hits as “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera, or Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You”. Like the two name-checked songs released before it, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” became a smash hit, making for Swift’s first No. 1 Pop Single ever- an accomplishment in and of itself.
Check out YouTube sensation Noah Guthrie’s soulful and heartfelt acoustic take on “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” here!
This same winning formula is reused in songs like “22”, with its sing-along chorus, tinges of electro, and sweet falsetto designed for a killer pop song dipped in a coat of the same lyrical “ex-hate” that managed to help get her on the map in the first place. “I Knew You Were Trouble”, however, is arguably the most exciting of the more-pop songs on the album, featuring an electrifying vocal delivery from Swift mixed with an equally electrifying very well-produced dubstep-like instrumental backing (especially at the chorus). The song builds up with electric guitar and some bits of synth before getting into the heavier dubstep, and while it may not click with everyone, it is very, very well-done for what it is.
While some songs don’t necessarily build up to the sum of their parts and offer not much more than nice transitions into some of the bigger names on the album (“The Lucky One”), nothing really quite ever falls below average. Duets with Ed Sheeran, recently made famous with his hit single, “The A Team”, on “Everything Has Changed” and Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol on “The Last Time” offer some of the album’s most radiant moments. Mix all of these aforementioned sounds with relatable ballads that really set a scene (“All Too Well”, “Begin Again”) and some more country-pop songs surrounding young love and heartbreak somewhere between her original sound and something entirely new (“Red”, “Stay Stay Stay”).
Despite a couple of sleeper tracks, Taylor Swift has managed to create an overall exciting, extremely well put-together album that will not only appeal to those that have followed her since her 2006 debut or at any point during the past six years, but also one that will appeal to a much broader spectrum of listeners. Having employed current hit-makers in the industry to produce some real pop hits amongst all other sorts of sweet sounds exuding from her album, Red seems like it is one very, very big step in the right direction for Swift, having found a way to make new fans while not exactly alienating those who have been close to her for all of this time. With some country here, some pop there, some rock there, and a couple of sweet duets that all somehow come together as a real coherent piece, Red is a winning formula.
Top 5 Tracks:
1. “The Last Time” with Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol
2. “Everything Has Changed” with Ed Sheeran
3. “State of Grace”
4. “All Too Well”
5. “I Knew You Were Trouble”
Have you listened to Red yet? If so, what are your favorite tracks from off the album? Let me know in the comments below!
You can purchase Red on iTunes for $14.99 or on Amazon for $9.99 or as a physical copy at any local retailer.