Swift Explores New Sound on 1989

1989. How do we know we’re hearing Taylor even if it’s unlike any of her past albums? Taylor’s voice is obviously a commonality, and everything is still emotionally charged, wild and excited; the feeling of the album hasn’t changed much, either. We can always rely on Taylor for attitude—just watch the “Blank Space” music video. There are a lot of her classic repetitions of double-note sounds (find: “I” sound in I Know Places, “Oh” in How You Get the Girl, “Ah” in Clean.) This album is an experiment, but it is still purely T-Swift.

So… what’s new? For one thing 1989 is decidedly pop, not a hint country. This album does pop right, too, and is diverse within its goal of sticking to one genre: pop-y across the spectrum from electronic elements to ballad types, and even to a little funk. Taylor tries a little bit of everything, which is why maybe we hear “Wildest Dreams” and think “Lana” or we hear her other songs and have moments of “wait a second, was that Lorde?” She has drawn from 80s pop, 90s pop, and recent hits to make this compilation of varied sounds.

Not only is Taylor’s genre transition inspiring her sound, but she has also been hanging out with some new friends (like Lorde, Ingrid Michaelson and Lena Dunham) lately, and they have influenced her sound as well as ideals. Part of this new direction is new messages. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, “1989 sets the record for fewest adjectives (and lowest romantic body count) on a Swift album.” She sends a clear message of strength and ease in “Shake It Off” and she parodies the version of herself that the public expects in “Blank Space” so effectively. 1989 is decidedly a step in the direction of strong, independent woman, especially considering the track “Clean,” which deals with starting over and the journey to define yourself without a former, familiar but unhealthy relationship.

Taylor has grown in sophistication and self-awareness since Red, while managing to keep her “America’s sweetheart next door” image. A friend of mine put it nicely—Taylor hasn’t lost the sweetheart next door feeling America has about her, she has just moved from “girl next door in a little Tennessee town” to “girl in the chic New York apartment across the street from you.” We still love her.

Dedicated Taylor Swift fans sometimes have a hard time adjusting with each new album because Taylor is always trying a new direction or theme, but everyone usually comes around and decides they approve of the move. This move was Taylor’s challenge to herself and her audience after blowing everybody’s minds with Red. Rolling Stone Magazine took a stab at why the new direction, saying, “…every Eighties pop star knew, you don’t follow one epic with another – instead, you surprise everybody with a quick-change experiment.” Aside from genre, there is another thing that makes 1989 quite different from Red or any other previous Swift album. Taylor collaborated with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers and fun., Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and Imogen Heap, just to name a few.

I keep cycling through the songs trying to pick a favorite or a top three so I can write reviews of a few songs for you guys too, but to be completely honest I think, “oh, definitely this one,” for most of the songs on 1989. So I put the album on shuffle and fate chose two for me to tell you a little bit more about:

“All You Had To Do Was Stay”

Favorite Line: Why’d you have to go and lock me out when I let you in?

First of all, I love the intro. If I were going through a breakup, this song would probably be the one I sing over and over to get through the tears in my room. It isn’t about dwelling, in fact one of the lines is, “People like you always want back the love they pushed aside, but people like me are gone forever when you say goodbye.” Taylor isn’t being pushed around. This song goes by pretty quickly – it’s one of the ones you have to replay and replay because the melody just doesn’t get old… Play it in the morning while you get ready, the subject isn’t necessarily cheerful, but the tone is definitely optimistic and the beat is perfect for dancing right into your outfit for the day.

“I Know Places”

Favorite Line: In the dead of night, your eyes so green, I know places, and I know for you, it’s always me

Something about the key this song is in and the rhythm of the first few lines set you up for an intense adventure. Taylor worked with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic on this song, and you can totally hear the influence, which is cool. On the deluxe album, there are some voice memos from Taylor about the process of making 1989 and this is one of the songs she tells a cool story about. This is another song with a confident message—Taylor won’t give up and she won’t be caught or beat by “the hunters.” “I Know Places” is the perfect song to pump up to before a test or while you’re writing a paper, everything about it says “we can do it!”•