Here’s something you won’t be able to ‘shake off.’
On October 27, 2014, Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album, 1989, the follow-up to the hugely successful release of Swift’s previous record, Red, which produced record breaking sales as well as a number one single in 2012.
Nevertheless, Taylor Swift is back two years later with a brand new trick up her sleeve: pop music.
Swift, known typically for her signature country style and exceptional song writing abilities, has broken up with her former sound in favor of a more pop concentrated sound. Although many of the tracks on her last album had pop influences, 1989, named after the year of her birth as well as the era of music that the album is influenced by, is her first album that is fully pop; it does not contain even the single strum of a guitar the way her traditional music does.
Despite the mixed reviews her new sound is receiving, there is no doubt that it will be just as successful as her previous works. The album’s lead single, “Shake It Off,” debuted at the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in late August, making it one of the few songs to do so in the chart’s long history.
Which songs have the ability to solidify Taylor Swift as a pop music icon? Read the track-by-track review to find out.
1. 1989 kicks off with the album’s second promotion single as the first track. “Welcome to New York” is a joyous ode to the city of New York that discusses the endless possibilities and lifestyle changes that occur when moving to the Big Apple, like Swift did at the beginning of this year. After giving the song just one listen, the chorus will be stuck in your head for the remainder of the day — and rightfully so — because it is a true pop classic that will be able to stand the test of time, similar to how other songs about the city by Jay Z and Frank Sinatra are able to. The song is a perfect way to open the album and sets the stage for what the album’s sound will be like.
2. “Blank Space” takes on a totally different sound and message than the first track. Within it, Taylor pokes fun at her past dating habits as well as the way she is portrayed by the media while she invites a new man to try to love her. Although the chorus is very catchy and has the words “future hit” written all over it, the beat stopping when she sings “and I’ll write your name,” when referring to her list of ex-lovers, could definitely be done without. In addition, despite being an early favorite among fans, I personally feel the song is slightly overrated. However, the song is still fun and light-hearted regardless of the minor flaw.
3. Although the title may be deceiving, “Style,” also known as the song that went to number one in Canada before its title or audio was released, is not about fashion, but rather a relationship that will “never go out of style.” On the song, which can be found in a current Target commercial, Swift sings about a relationship that contains many ups and downs in which times with her lover may wind up in “burning flames or paradise.” “Style” is clearly the album’s best so far lyrically as well as musically, as the beat and chorus could not be more on point.
4. Up next on the album is “Out of the Woods,” which strays very much from her typical sound with the song’s opening beat paralleling the opening to Katy Perry’s number one single, “Dark Horse.” The song follows “Style,” which are both about a tumultuous relationship which is said to be Swift’s high profile romance with One Direction member Harry Styles. This theory is proven in the line “your necklace hanging from my neck… two paper airplanes flying, flying.” The couple was spotted wearing matching airplane necklaces, according to Billboard. Although the chorus gets repetitive, the song’s unusual beat makes it irresistible.
5. “All You Had to Do Was Stay” is the fifth track on the album. Taylor sings about an ex that has come crawling back to her, despite the fact that he broke her heart, after she has since moved on.
6. 1989’s lead single, “Shake It Off,” is sixth. The song has become one of the biggest of the year, and rightfully so. “Shake’s” positive message about not letting the “haters” affect her is relatable and fun while the music video and bridge of the song are as close as it gets to perfection. “Shake It Off” is definitely a tough act to follow and Taylor’s second single must try to match its success.
7. The seventh song on the album, “I Wish You Would,” is average at best. The song follows the typical Taylor Swift song formula in which she describes a tumultuous relationship. This song is not as good as the songs before it; it seems to have too much going on at once and can get distracting. Although far from terrible, “I Wish You Would” is the worst on the album so far.
8. Arguably the most anticipated song on the album, “Bad Blood” is next. While doing press for this album, Swift stated that the song was not about a former flame, but rather a fellow female musician who she claimed to be “straight up enemies with.” All evidence points to Katy Perry as the song’s inspiration, as shown in the two musician’s long and rather vengeful history. The chorus contains near rhymes and chanting, enough to make every pop music fan elated.
9. “Wildest Dreams” sounds like an outtake from a Lana Del Rey album complete with lyrics of longing that only Taylor Swift can write. Swift mirrors Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” in the line “his hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room,” and this makes it difficult to tell if Swift is paying homage to or parodying Del Rey according to Billboard. Regardless, the song is the first ballad so far and it cannot be forgotten.
10. “How You Get the Girl” is the tenth track on the album and is similar to “Style” in its chorus. The narrative styled song contains some of Taylor’s old and new tricks, and is catchy enough to be a radio single, but is not as good as some of the tracks earlier songs such as “Style” and “Shake It Off.”
11. Also a ballad, “This Love,” shows a vulnerable side of Swift and this is apparent in her whisper inspired vocal style. The song is boring compared to some of the album’s more upbeat songs. Swift sings about how she realized her current love is meant to be, but with a slow and sweet melody, fans may feel that this song is somewhat lacking. Clearly, the song is not the album’s strongest point.
12. “’I Know Places” is next, and at first listen, the song may be mistaken for an older hit by Swift called “Mine.” The song is also similar to a number one single by one of Taylor’s best friends, “Royals” by Lorde. Uniquely, the song takes on a theme that has not been touched upon earlier on the album: hiding from the public with a lover, setting it a part from the rest of the album.
13. Wrapping up the standard edition of the album is “Clean.” On it, Taylor sings about cleansing herself of a former relationship and starting a new chapter in her life. Of all the album’s ballads, “Clean” is by far the best.
Love it or hate it, it looks like Taylor Swift’s new pop sound is here to stay — at least for now. Although the album strays from Swift’s typical sound, Taylor is still Taylor and the messages portrayed in her songs and the way in which she writes them are the same. 1989 is available in stores and on iTunes now.
Stand Out Tracks: Shake It Off, Style, Bad Blood, and Out of the Woods.