"1989" has no trace of the country sound that launched Taylor Swift's career.
1989 is Taylor Swift’s fourth album, and it marks major departure from her previous albums by incorporating a completely new sound.
While in the past she was considered a country or country pop artist, that is no longer the case. 1989 has been called Swift’s first completely pop album. (Arguably that was 22, but I digress.) For her first full-on pop album, which is clearly inspired by more vintage pop from the decade of the album title, it does well. It’s obviously not perfect, but I was surprised that it wasn’t necessarily bad either.
While 1989 revolutionizes Swift’s sound, it does not do so for the overarching theme of the album. Like the rest of Swift’s work, the main focus of the album is her relationships and their intricacies, along with love in general. This disappointed me to a degree since. If the synthpop didn’t eventually bore me, the subject of the lyrics eventually did. Though, at this point, I honestly shouldn’t be surprised.
The album opens with “Welcome to New York,” yet another anthem to the American megalopolis. While the production and melody are decent, the lyrics are uninspiring and boring. This one, unfortunately, is not nearly as representative of the city. There are much better odes to New York City than this one. If you need an anthem to New York, you can find many better ones. “Empire State of Mind” first comes to mind— no pun intended.
Fortunately, this is not an accurate representation of the rest of the album. After “Welcome to New York,” we hear “Blank Space.” The second track is a significantly better song than the first. You could probably skip “Welcome to New York” and start here and you wouldn’t be missing out on much. Though the thematic material of “Blank Space” isn’t revolutionary for Swift, as it is yet another song about her relationships, it’s at the least more interesting than her other songs about her past relationships. In the song, she acknowledges the reputation that the media has given her and responds playfully. There is a division in the album: the first half-ish is clearly superior to the second half-ish.
Following a very Lana Del Rey-esque “Wildest Dreams,” the album becomes unforgettable. All songs prior to the divide barring “Welcome to New York” and perhaps “Style,” are interesting; “Out of the Woods” is by far my favorite song from the album.
That’s not to say that the second half of the album is completely bad; it’s just that the tracks on it are not especially memorable. By the end of the deluxe version of the album, I was just simply bored of the synthpop. The songs towards the end of the album did not make nearly the same impression on me as the initial songs.
For Swift’s first true foray into into pop, this is an excellent start (though I wasn’t a huge fan of yet another album about love, heart break and relationships). The album was quite repetitive, and by the second half I just could not keep full interest. Despite the criticism I have given, I wouldn’t say that this is a bad album, per se. Long time Swift fans may be disappointed in her transition from country, however I don’t think that is the case for me.