tue 16/07/2024

CD: Taylor Swift - 1989 | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Taylor Swift - 1989

CD: Taylor Swift - 1989

Former Nashvile starlet shakes it off on a classy pop album

80s girl: Taylor Swift's new album goes full New York pop

There's a "foreword" which accompanies the new Taylor Swift album – because it's not enough for the one-time Nashville starlet gone full New York pop star merely to create physical objects for the digital age: she also has to give them forewords – which says that these songs that were "once about my life" are "now about yours".

It's for this reason that those articles that list the romantic encounters claimed to have inspired every song Swift has written since 2010's "Dear John" onwards do her an incredible disservice: the gossip column inches are irrelevant. That Swift can use vivid images from her own life experiences to create songs so universal they are taken to heart across the generations is the sign of a skilled songwriter mature beyond her years. Besides, calling Track 3 "Style" was a stroke of genius.

If 2012's Red hinted at Swift's ability to combine her lovelorn lyrics with a pop hook, 1989 – the follow-up is titled for the year of her birth – is that reinvention gone full circle. Co-executive produced by Swedish hitmaker Max Martin, whose production credits added the sheen to some of Red's big singles, 1989 makes a great case for being a contemporary pop record on a casual listen, but its charms are decidedly retro. With the exception of "Shake It Off", the gleeful kiss-off to the "haters" that topped the US charts in August, there's no obvious smash hit here – although after repeated listens you could probably take your pick. "Welcome to New York", the glossy love song to Swift's new home that opens the album is an obvious contender, although I'm leaning more towards the giddy infatuation of "Blank Space" with its endlessly quotable lyrics.

While the classy "Style" and cheerleeder-chant "Out of the Woods" make much of the 80s synth pop Swift claims as an influence in the sleeve notes, other tracks contain hat-tips to her contemporaries: "Bad Blood" bears an opening sequence that sounds like Toni Basil covering Lorde's "Royals" that is either genius or grating (I reserve judgement until the first morning I wake up with it in my head); while "Wildest Dreams" is a more approachable Lana Del Rey. Closing track "Clean" – a co-write with Imogen Heap – is probably the only track here that Swift could have snuck out in her country days, although Heap's trademark vibraphone and some gorgeous imagery ("You're still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can't wear anymore") blow its cover. No matter: if this is the new Taylor Swift, I'm all in.

Overleaf: watch the "Shake It Off" video


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