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Taylor Swift matures, shocks with her wildly catchy ‘1989’

By Elizabeth Rakow / For The Pitt News

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Taylor Swift

1989

Grade: B+

It’s cool to hate Taylor Swift. 

She’s a powerhouse female performer who consistently releases hit after hit, giving new meaning to the word “catchy” and a refreshing sense of authenticity to the phrase “stuck in your head all day.” Swift recently declared herself a feminist, weighed in on the shop-over-share debate in the music industry and has even thrown private release parties for her fans. 

Yet she can’t seem to shed her reputation as a serial dater or overshadow her tendency to call out in her music the high-profile men who have wronged her. But, with her new album and newfound attitude, the singer is making one thing painfully obvious — she knows what you think, and she really doesn’t care.

1989 unleashed a new side of Swift, dropping the “Teardrops on My Guitar” doe-eyed, sappy teen persona and introducing fans and haters alike to a new brand. The album’s lead single, “Shake It Off,” was released in August, and Swift addressed the haters directly, essentially telling them to keep “hating” and she’ll just “keep cruising.” With this album, Swift is getting at something different. Sure, she’s still writing about men, love and heartbreak, but she’s doing it gracefully.

She’s grown out of childish ranting, straying from thoughtless, whiney lyrics like those in Speak Now’s “Mean” (“All you are is mean/ and a liar and pathetic and alone in life”). She parallels this with 1989’s “Bad Blood,” which takes a much less obvious stance at addressing a tormentor — “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes … If you love like that, blood runs cold.”

She’s also dropping her innocent image, leaving traces of liaisons in more than one song and making it known that she’s finally figured it out: The bad has to come with the good. “Style” describes a midnight meetup that sets itself apart from Speak Now’s “Enchanted” or Red’s “Treacherous,” with its lack of a mystified, excitable narrator — the girl in this song knows what’s going down, and she shamelessly alludes to her desires.

Out of the Woods,” “All You Had To Do Was Stay” and “I Wish You Would” recall messy relationships and have traces of classic Swift, leaving hints and dropping specific memories that can be traced back to the celebrity boyfriends the songs are about. These three tracks are some of the most fun — the lyrics tend to repeat themselves as the melody takes precedence, and the dance-pop-charged beats make it impossible to avoid a head bob.

1989 still has its lulls — “This Love” proves to be rather tedious, and “How You Get The Girl” falls flat in terms of creativity. But Swift more than redeems herself, especially in the captivating final track on the album, “Clean,” in which she collaborates with singer/songwriter Imogen Heap. “Ten months older, I won’t give in/ Now that I’m clean, I’m never gonna risk it.” In this track, Swift tells a different story than those told in “All Too Well” or “Dear John.” 

She’s singing about loss, but it’s much less inquisitive. Gone are the pleas and the wondering what went wrong. Cue the acceptance, the recognition of a relationship that failed and the mature reaction to pain without blame.

The attention-grabbing lyrics in what could become the most popular track on the album, “Blank Space,” demonstrate her recognition and acceptance of the reputation she’ll likely never be able to shake. “Ain’t it funny, rumors fly/ And I know you heard about me … I can make the bad guys good for a weekend.” The razor-sharp lyrics with the acid-dipped sound immediately set the song apart from the twangy chords of “You Belong With Me” or the guitar-centric melodies that accompany almost every song on 2012’s Red.

Taylor Swift still gives her feelings permission to run, but, these days, she has a much firmer grasp on the leash.

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Taylor Swift matures, shocks with her wildly catchy ‘1989’