Album Review: A superfan and first-time listener discuss and review Taylor Swift’s “1989”
What happens when a Taylor Swift devotee and a first-time listener sit down and talk about the new Taylor Swift album? Superfan Mike Mendoza and self-declared T-Swift denier Craig Wright do just that in honor of 1989, Swift’s newest release. Following the conversation is each writer’s review.
Craig Wright: Clearly, I’m not a Taylor Swift expert, but this album is much different than her previous material. How do you feel it compares?
Mike Mendoza: It’s very different. Even compared to the pop songs that she’s previously done, the songs in this album are done so there’s no confusion. Songs like “You Belong With Me” and “Red” were experiments of a hybrid – mixing country and pop – but songs in 1989 aren’t experiments, just Swift’s dedication to pop.
CW: I never listened to Taylor Swift because I thought she was nothing more than a beautiful, generic country star who gained popularity for her looks and high-profile celebrity breakups. Much like Bieber, I knew about her persona, but knew none of her work. This album is clearly a smart pop album, full of new sounds, cocky humor and it’s destined to reach tons of people.
MM: Yeah, she’s definitely gained a lot of recognition for her high-profile relationships, but she has been able to transform them into successful songs, and in this album she doesn’t shy away from mocking her relationship decisions. She’s been working on this album for two years and has had tons of time to craft it where she could target and reach a larger and different audience.
CW: Many people are predicting that this will be the first platinum album of 2014, but with the audience crossover, I feel like she will lose some of her country fans who are more likely to buy full albums than the pop audience which may be more inclined to buy a few individual songs, or stick to Spotify.
MM: I certainly think she’s going to lose a good portion of her country audience and that might affect her chances of going platinum, but I feel that because she’s reaching for a new audience, she can easily make up the few lost in the transition.
CW: People should be prepared for this transition because as you mentioned earlier, her career has been increasing the amount of pop and weening off the country, but “Shake It Off” is more than just pop. That’s a statement song saying that she doesn’t really care about what people think. She is going to do what she wants, and I think that is the best thing for her to do if this album is the result.
MM: I definitely agree “Shake It Off” is a statement song, and that’s why I believe it was the first song to be released from 1989. She had to send out the message that she was making a big transition, and no matter what critics or lost fans were going to think, she was going to run with it and hope for the best.
CW: My favorites are “Shake It Off,” “How You Get the Girl” and “Welcome to New York.” I was expecting to half hate this album, but secretly love it. In reality, I have nothing but respect for it and am happy with the final product.
MM: Songs like “Style” and “How You Get the Girl” will for sure be picked up quickly by radio stations and fans. I have no doubt that these two songs – along with the three singles (“Shake It Off,” “Out of the Woods” and “Welcome to New York”) will become the most popular. I think a lot of people who don’t really listen to Taylor Swift might feel the same way you do because they really don’t know what to expect, but I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised with how much they actually like the album, or at least a few of the songs.
Taylor Swift transitions from dropping relationships to dropping beats
Review by Craig Wright
As a longtime T-Swift rejecter, I was finally convinced to give Taylor Swift a fair chance for the first time on 1989, and now I feel like I should be apologizing to her for never giving her a chance. At least she didn’t write a song about me.
With a polished pop sound, Swift attacks with a newfound swagger and carefree attitude that could never be met by an innocent girl singing country tunes with her guitar. Swift is aiming for the largest audience possible, and with this sound, she will clearly be reaching new listeners.
As proven by the lead single, “Shake It Off,” Swift no longer cares what people think of her. She is simply going to shake it off and keep doing her thing. Instead of giving in to criticism, she has simply learned more dance moves, and helplessly giggles while saying, “I go on too many dates / but I can’t make them stay.” Haters gonna hate, and she will keep dancing.
“Welcome to New York” begins 1989 with a drum machine and synthesizer intro with gentle doubled vocals before transforming into a full pop dance tune. Asserting her star power, she brags that “Lights are so bright but they never blind me.” The big stage is calling, and Swift is more than ready to entertain.
Expanding her sound further, “Blank Space” builds like a song by her good friend Lorde, including the drum buildups and cultural critiques of “Starbucks lovers” who believe Swift is crazy. Her vocal delivery even shares Lorde’s signature vocal swoon, but Swift does a good job to key in portions from her early years. It’s one of the few songs on 1989 with audible acoustic guitar and overt references to failed romances. Swift teases audiences by briefly reminiscing in her Country past, while also propelling her career forward into new, unforeseen territories.
Taylor Swift and 1989 provide purest form of pop while keeping some old habits
Review by Mike Mendoza
For the better part of three years now, I’ve been obsessed with Taylor Swift and her music for reasons too complicated and maybe a little too embarrassing to get into. But as a proud “super fan,” I felt the need to criticize Swift’s transition from country to pop, but 1989 is executed to perfection.
1989, Swift’s fifth album is her first full pop album, but it’s also unlike many current pop albums. 1989 is inspired by Swift’s current obsession with 80’s pop, so notably different to many current pop songs, there’s no emulation of hip-hop or R&B.
Swift and her new album provide some of the purest form of pop music since Katy Perry’s album One of the Boys, but she too emulates hip-hop in her latest hit song.
“Welcome to New York” (strategically placed as the album’s first track) formally welcomes listeners to “the new soundtrack.” A synthesizer and an electronic feel that makes it feel like you’re in a dance club during the 1980s replaces Swift’s traditional acoustic intro.
The song also serves as Swift’s diary, documenting her move to New York City and the fresh start the big city presents to Ms. Swift, “When we first dropped our bags on apartment floors / Everybody here was someone else before.”
“This Love” comes towards the end of the album and might actually confuse some people because this song could double as one of Swift’s past country-pop hybrids. The intro of this ballad has Swift’s acoustic strumming and her vocals are soft and steady throughout, which give it that slow dance feel.
The review for RollingStone sums up 1989 the best: “1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing else she’s ever tried before.”
Yes, it’s different, but Ms. Swift crafts each song to perfection that the girl from Nashville is never lost.
Follow Craig Wright on Twitter @wgwcraig
Follow Mike Mendoza on Twitter @MikeWheresIke
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