Album Review: Taylor Swift – Redby krista kurisaki on Oct, 27 2012
When Taylor Swift launches into the stadium-fire chorus of album opener “State of Grace,” she sings, “And I never saw you coming / And I’ll never be the same.” And although anyone with access to the Internet would be able to tell you that the lines are obviously about another of Taylor’s epic love stories, they seem to address the concept of Red as a whole.
Let’s be real here. I know I wasn’t the only one shocked when Swift revealed the details of her new record last summer. The straightened hair, the Kennedy-esque outfits, and the complete abandon of the classic Taylor Swift font on the album cover. When she announced the title of her first single, I seriously thought she was kidding. I definitely didn’t see it coming. And at that moment, I definitely didn’t get it either.
But if I know anything at all (an idea I constantly question here at Berkeley), it’s that Taylor Swift is not an idiot. Actually, she’s quite the opposite. One of the few in the industry able to effectively manage her own career path, public image, and musical direction. She’s broken records in music sales, won multiple Grammys, and sold out stadiums in mere seconds. So at this point, I think she knows exactly what she’s doing, even though we as listeners might not.
Red is Taylor Swift’s first experiment. And it’s as schizophrenic and jarring as it is contagious. Track by track, she defies genres and tries on new personas, a concept that illustrates Swift’s aim to make the album about the tumultuous experience of love. Enlisting the talents of hit-makers Max Martin and Shellback, Swift dabbles in the simplistic lyrics and heavier production of pop on tracks like “22″ and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” “State of Grace” and her collaborations with Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeren (dubbed the British Jason Mraz) see Swift adding rock and alternative influences to her repertoire. Yet, she shows that she still hasn’t left her country roots behind on the gorgeously raw “All Too Well” and “I Almost Do.” It’s here that she truly shines; at 22, her ability to tell vivid stories through song has only gotten better. For “Starlight,” one of the last tracks on the record, Swift drew inspiration from a vintage photograph of Ethel Kennedy dancing with her husband. Though its sparkly production can seem overdone at times, the idealistic take on a romance during the summer of ’45 is refreshing and the very essence of Taylor’s style. But not everything is rainbows and butterflies. On “The Lucky One,” Swift pulls out her own version of Britney Spears’ pop classic “Lucky” and laments the pitfalls of fame and fortune, all over a sparse acoustic track and muted drumbeat.
In the end, Red proves that Taylor Swift runs her own show. She’s a musician who can change characters like a girl changes clothes (shout out to old-school Katy Perry) regardless of her audience’s expectations. Her musicianship, knowledge of the business, and personal integrity are admirable. With this record, she proves that her raw talent transcends the genre that attempts to define it. Love her or hate her, Taylor Swift is clearly here to stay. The style of her music will evolve as her life changes, but the girl from Nashville stays the same, as honest and wonderstruck as ever.
Red‘s second single “Begin Again”