The first time I really listened to Taylor Swift was last year when I heard the song “Mean”. On the surface it seemed like another sad song about a love-gone-wrong, but it turned out this catchy and clever little tune is only disguised as such. When you dig a bit deeper you find that her ulterior motives are better served as a bit of an “eff you” to all her harsher critics (including Kanye, the end all be all of critics). I thought it was a good move. I know it is a bit boastful to compare oneself to Parks and Rec’s Ron Swanson, but if there is one way I am similar it lies in the irony that as he is a man who hates government, yet works for it while I am a man who hates critics, yet I write critiques for a music blog. So I really rather enjoyed hearing Taylor sing about how successful she is while all her critics are nothing but talking heads that continue to voice their loud opinions that nobody hears. Only to become exactly what she mocked in that song, I thought I would give her new album Red, a fair shake.
At first I couldn’t decide how to go about writing this article. I had already predetermined that I was going to praise this album just for kicks however, it has become increasingly more difficult to do so the more I listen to the album. Yes it’s fun in parts but its brutal in others … most others. And you can’t praise an album just for a few guilty pleasures so what was I supposed to do? I could write a whole tongue-in-cheek article coming from the perspective of a mindless teenager that loved it, but I didn’t want to step on any toes at Rolling Stone. I certainly don’t want to sit here and bash the album because I’m afraid if I get too critical of her she might just write a song about how mean I am, and I just couldn’t live with myself if that happened. Above all, I understand that I am not exactly the target audience she is looking for anyways. Sure, I do love me some pop music and can pull some fun out of the album, but I’m not exactly investing in teenage love songs on the regular so why does my opinion matter? So I’ve decided that the fairest thing to do is a Pro and Cons list. Less an all out critique and more an observation. Here are the things I like and respect as a 26 year old male, and things she could stand to work on if she ever feels the need to appeal more to my demographic.
Pro: Taylor writes all of her own lyrics and plays her own guitar on the album. This gives the album a very personal feel and proves that some female pop stars aren’t simply force fed their career. I think she also has a great understanding of her audience and caters to them wonderfully.
Con: 16 tracks of love. Whether she’s in love or out of love, that is all each and every song pertains to. A little topic diversity can go a long way, especially when you are going to throw 16 songs on a pop album.
Pro: The production is air tight. It sounds about as pristine as a pop album can get. Cleanly recorded and mixed to perfection. Every song has the ability to draw the listener in for that reason.
Con: She has a little trouble identifying her style. Sometimes she is acoustic pop-country, then she’s U2, then she is on the verge of dub step, then Bon Iver. None of these seemed like the wrong move entirely, but this back and forth will become boring/annoying at one point for fans of one but not the other.
Pro: She has a sense of humor about herself whether it’s her “Who is Taylor Swift anyways?” line in “22” or the “some indie record that’s much cooler than mine” tongue-in-cheek diss to herself on “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. The fact that she understands not everyone is into her makes it easier to find her endearing.
Con: The valley girl talk is NOT endearing. That is her least attractive quality. It is few a far between, but it still lingers and pops up in for an annoyance every once and again.
Pro: She’s extremely hot. This really has nothing to do with the album or her music in general, but there is no denying the fact that she is gorgeous and yes, that does appeal to me. I’m human.
Con: The lyrics at some points are almost unbearable. “It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters, and make fun of our ex-‘s …” this is the opening line to “22”. Which is Taylor Swift’s equivalent of “Friday” by Rebecca Black. The lyrics seemed to be aimed more for an age of 14 rather than 22.
Pro: She is clearly having fun. “Stay Stay Stay” is easily the most over-bubbly song on the album to the point it’s annoying, yet as soon as the song is over she laughs and says, “… so fun.” I’m not going to listen to this song over and over again, but a lot her fans will and they will have fun with it. She loves what she is doing and seems to understand her fans almost better than anyone.
Con: At some point you have to just call it what it is- Really. Cheesy. Pop.
In conclusion, yes you can pick this album apart on a critical scale, but there are enough redeeming qualities that should also be mentioned if you choose to do so. Try and keep in mind who the album is made for. The fact that my 14 year old niece prefers Taylor over someone like Britney Spears or worse yet, Skrillex, is okay with me.
Can’t Miss: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “Holy Ground”
Can’t Hit: “22”, “Sad Beautiful Tragic”, “Starlight”