's Speak Now
was released in 2010, and it coincided perfectly with my first major breakup. Having always identified myself as too cool for pop music, I might never have given the album a chance if not for my best friend at the time, who had absolutely no shame. But, there's something about a breakup that makes people latch onto T-Swift, and I was not immune. Somehow, she knows what it feels like to crush, love, and lose. Or, she knew
how it feels. Taylor wrote all 14 songs on Speak Now
by herself, and whether you want to call it a pop album or country album—I really don't care which—it had a thing or two to say about growing up, dating, and breaking up that millions of teenage girls like myself could relate to.
Fast forward to 2014: Taylor moved to the "big ole city
" she sang about in her Speak Now
days; she's been a celebrity for virtually all of her adult life; and only one track from her new album 1989
was penned by her alone ("This Love"). 1989
is composed of the pop side of Taylor Swift's catalog without any of the twangy, vaguely country vibes of her previous work. Still, that there is no discernible country influence on this record is not what bothers me. The problem is that if I listened to this album blindfolded, I might not know who it was. Even it's title is unoriginal. 1989
is supposed to be a reference to Taylor's birth year a symbol for nostalgia and an opportunity to pay tribute to her inspirations. Instead, it's an arbitrary name for a compilation of songs that any pop star in the business could have made at least almost as good as T-Swift did. (And for the record, every amateur rapper I know has a mix tape or song named after their year of birth it's not that creative.) In fact, Taylor's vocals at times remind me of everyone from 2010-era Miley Cyrus
("Blank Space") to extra pop-ified Lana Del Rey ("Wildest Dreams"). Everyone except the old Taylor Swift, that is.
That's not to say this a bad album, exactly. I mean, it's not Bob Dylan
or anything but, for pop, it's decent enough. "Blank Space" is an impeccably catchy song, as is "Style," which is easily my favorite. The majority of the album is so anonymously poppy, though, that it bums me out a little. Most songs were co-written and produced by Max Martin and/or Shellback, two A-list pop producers who, between them, are responsible for songs like Britney
's "...Baby One More Time" and Pink
's "So What" as well as T-Swift hits like "22." So, Taylor has been on this path toward musical conformity since Red
came out in 2012 (okay, probably before then, too), but 1989
has completely removed her from the musical identity we all once knew and (some of us) loved. I mean, I'm all for the growth of an artist, but it's hard to accept that the same girl singing "Teardrops On My Guitar" and "You Belong With Me" is the 24 year-old nebulous brand whose name is written on this album.
is a filler record, something producers have been hanging onto until they found the right filler pop star, out of ideas, who could record it with a smile and a world tour. Taylor's first singles ("Welcome to New York," "Shake It Off," and "Out of the Woods") are fun and all but, again, they totally lack originality. At least Miley Cyrus makes a point to be different from everyone else, even if it does make her look stupid. But this bland, forgettable pop album just doesn't feel like the Taylor Swift on whom I was briefly but shamelessly dependent during my pit of teenage breakup despair.
This is grown-up Taylor, who has been famous since before she could vote. Grown-up Taylor who has
to be the same as all the other pop stars now, because she's not down-to-earth and normal enough to write about things normal people can relate to, which was what made her so popular from the start. I guess this is how she ended up with the chorus of "I Wish You Would," which is simply "I/I/I/ I wish," and to which, I say: Taylor, I wish you would go back to your old ways.
Watch the controversial video
for "Shake It Off", below: