One word- Polaroids! I’m loving the 80’s vibe that this album brings.
Gone is the twangy guitar and the Southern melodies though her voice still resonates with the remnants of that Nashville girl.
I’ve been a fan of Taylor Swift’s music since she broke on the map of sixteen-year olds with classics such as Love Story and White Horse. At the edges of my adolescence, there was Fearless, Teardrops on My Guitar, Dear John, Enchanted, Back to December. And then, at twenty (her twenty-two), she brought out Red which was full of crooning ballads and bitter confessionals- All to Well, Everything has Changed, Red, Come Back…Be Here, Treacherous, I Knew You Were Trouble, 22, The Last Time (And Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever, much to my horror).
Associating yourself to Taylor has seemed to mean being a die-hard romantic and giving your soul up to the devil because she’s thought to be too girly, too childish, too immature.
But they beat the princess-y fairy tales out of you, replace it with the kind of philosophy where you put up walls and turn guarded, sober, broken. And then they tell you you have grown up.
After shrieking Shake it Off from the rooftops- a license to BE yourself, Out of the Woods was a darkly upbeat song about a relationship falling apart even though “the monsters turned out to be just trees”. The sound is different but the voice is the same.
I was setting myself up for disappointment by this point. Songs like Welcome to New York and new Romantics just look like well-poised publicity stunts but like always, there is some beautiful music in the folds of 1989.
Why I am talking about this album though is because it has a sort of welcome-to-your-mid-twenties and to the grown-ups version of everything on the planet feels for me. This is really about growing up in a pop culture, with all its superficiality intact inside you and yet being in a conflict with yourself every minute along the way.
Granted that I heard Wildest Dreams (“Say you’ll remember me/Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sun set babe/ Red lips and rosy cheeks/Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams”) and for a moment wasn’t sure whether I was listening to Taylor Swift or Lana del Ray. And that Bad Blood is just a song about two girls whose friendship runs into a rut (the only song I cannot bear on this album). And that I Know Places seems to remind people of a Hunger Games- Lorde mash. But there are hidden gems here and the lyrics are haunting too.
In ‘Clean’, Taylor croons some of her most mature lines yet:
10 months sober, I must admit Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it 10 months older I won’t give in Now that I’m clean I’m never gonna risk it The drought was the very worst When the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst
This song is purgative and cleansing, much like Kelly Clarkson’s Sober or Hilary Duff’s ‘Come Clean’ which has a similar undercurrent, but it has a tone of regret at growing out of dreams and into the real world. ‘Blank Space’ is like a mockery at the world of flashing cameras and gossip columns.
Got a long list of ex-lovers They’ll tell you I’m insane ‘Cause you know I love the players And you love the game
You can’t be sure how much she alternates between sarcasm and truthful declarations in this song but when she sings, ‘So it’s gonna be forever or its gonna go down in flames’, you catch another glimpse of being a grown-up.
Another song about rushing romance under the eyes of the whole world is I Know Places. ‘Something happens when everybody finds out..Love’s a fragile little flame it can burn out.’ and ‘They are the hunters, we are the foxes’.
I love ‘All You Had to do was Stay’ (“People like you always want back the love they gave away/And people like me wanna believe you when you say you’ve changed”) and ‘This Love’ (“When you’re young, you just to run But you come back to what you need”), ‘Style’ falls a little behind with the ‘James Dean day-dream look in your eyes’.
There’s inventiveness here. Some room for wishful thinking and growth is always left of course. But between all the PR managing and careful product placement that ensures commercial success, I somehow always find a part of my voice with Taylor Swift and her girl-next-door-this-could-totally-be-happening-to-you music, my one and only self-admitted, mainstream country-turned-pop obsession.