‘1989’ lacks original Swift charm

This is one of the hardest reviews for me to write in recent memory, mostly because I truly like Taylor Swift.

I’m not her biggest fan, and I don’t own any of her albums but she continuously proves to be one of the more genuine people in the entertainment industry.

Her critics are relentless, throwing aspects of her personal life at her as if her writing songs about past relationships is any different from what hit songwriters have been doing for years. This is partially what makes “1989” such an important album.

“1989” represents more than just Swift’s first official foray into pop music; it represents her decidedly putting everything else aside and making not only the album she wants to make, but the album she needs to make.

I like Taylor Swift, and after hearing the pop juggernaut and single of the year that is “Shake it Off,” I was rooting for both her and this album. That’s what makes this album so hard to write about – the difference between how much I want to like “1989” and how much I actually do like “1989.”

The biggest flaw here is how it is not undeniably a Taylor Swift record; in reality, it could have been written by Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne or a slew of ghostwriters in the industry. In 2008, Swift had a hand in writing the entirety of her album “Fearless” and it showed with a striking originality.

Here, songs like opener “Welcome to New York” or “How You Get the Girl” are generic slices of radio-pop that weigh the rest of the album down.

The worst offender is “Bad Blood,” a foot-stomping sing-along that stoops to using celebrity beef as source material. This is a glaring misstep not only musically, but upsetting because we know that Swift has proven time and time again that she knows better.

Most Swift fans will have no problems dealing with these flaws and there is still plenty for new listeners to celebrate throughout “1989.” Swift makes a fine pop musician, as proved with songs like “Style,” “Wildest Dreams” and the aforementioned single, “Shake It Off.”

“Out of the Woods” is an album highlight co-written with Jack Antonoff from fun. and Bleachers, and his influence shines through in an array of synths and backing vocals closer.

“Clean” may be one of the strongest songs in Swift’s discography, lyrically keen in a way we miss throughout most of “1989” after the emotional powerhouse that was 2012’s “Red.”

“1989” will more than likely go on to hold an odd place is Taylor Swift’s discography; it will always be an album that represents a significant change for her, but only time will tell whether the music will remain significant.

Swift’s debut in the pop world is likely to please fans of Tumblr and pumpkin spice everywhere and that’s OK.

It’s also clear that at the age of only 24 and already with five increasingly impressive albums under her belt, Swift still has plenty of room to grow as an artist and the right fanbase to support her along the way.

 

AARON MOOK

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