SWEET ON: The Year ‘1989’

Hi, I’m Amber, and I might be a newly-formed Taylor Swift addict.

“Hi, Amber. Have a frosted cupcake and a martini. And a kitten.”

Perhaps this addiction isn’t such a bad thing…

Taylor-Swift-1989-albumI was born a year before her, but sometimes it feels like we are miles apart in age still. Her 24, to my 26. When she first came on to the music scene, I wanted nothing to do with the tears on her guitar or her little black dress. I didn’t care for her country twang or her golden, ringleted hair. She was most things I wasn’t, and she had her feet firmly set in the “country music” camp.

No thanks. I was more than happy to stick with my heavily-rotating musical diet of Something Corporate, Jimmy Eat World and Mae.

But fast forward a few years. I grudgingly listen to the “Fearless” album on one of many four-hour drives home from college with my then-roommate. That song about being “Fifteen” wasn’t relatable to me, but the one about getting screwed over by a guy who doesn’t give a crap that he left your heart in a blender with the power button pushed to “on” sure was applicable.

I was in a bit of an angry phase in my college days then. The male species was usually the enemy. Taylor was wailing on these guys who burned her, and I was right there with her. “Speak Now” came out and I fell in love with the theatricality of it all. The song “Enchanted” is still one of my absolute favorites, same with “Sparks Fly.” I’d find myself willingly listening to her stuff on my final drives home from college and then I graduated. So did my music taste.

When “Red” came out, I didn’t want to like it. But of course I did. The first time I heard “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” I had no idea who was singing. Her sound changed. My life had gone in such a different direction than the last time she had released an album. Early 2012 found me newly broken up with, newly unemployed and wondering when life was going to begin again. I remember telling a friend of mine that “Red” was the album I needed two years prior. I was always just a bit ahead of Taylor in terms of maturity, growth, romantic entanglements and the like.

And now, we have “1989”, Taylor’s self-professed big-time pop album. Polaroids, synth beats, pen clicks and experimentation within a genre she’s never fully owned. I’m in a stable, awesome relationship. I live in an apartment all my own. My job is good and I’m not harboring wistful crushes on anyone anymore. I guess I’m what my boyfriend would call an #IndependentWomanInAmerica.

Does that mean I can’t relate to Taylor’s new music? Not necessarily. I just think that sometimes, not all albums are going to speak to you in such a manner that you can find yourself in every song.

I will be the first to admit that I had a lot of reservations about this album. Anytime Taylor would post one of her hand-scrawled lyrics on Instagram, I’d get a little bit more excited to hear it. The day it was released, I had to sit impatiently all day, waiting to listen. My fellow Swift-addicted friend first proclaimed the whole album sucked. Then she thought half of it sucked. And now, we’re planning a way to see Miss Swift in concert on her World Tour next summer.

So here’s my review of this sugar-laden, dark and dreary, wild and wonderful album…

1. Welcome to New York

Taylor says it’s been waiting for me, but I’d disagree. On first listen, I loathed this song. I remember hearing the clip of it when it finally came out as a pre-release before the rest of the album and I was so disappointed. I was very afraid for the rest of the album, since this was the lead-off track. Repetitive beats. Repetitive melody. No, no, no.

Now that I’ve spun this a few times, I find it mildly addictive but definitely not one of my favorites. Some of her annunciation sounds a bit… dare I say … bleating? Goat-like? Is that weird to say? It only happens in a few spots. All in all, this is one of those songs that sorority girls going to school in Ohio will probably love because they’ve all been dreaming of New York Cityyyyyyyy.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“When we first dropped our bags on apartment floors / Took our broken hearts, put them in a drawer / Everybody here was someone else before”

2. Blank Space

Oh god, I love this song. I love it so much. At first, when she was singing “Oh my god, look at that face”, I really wanted to roll my eyes. But then the song continued, and I just wanted to stomp around in high heels down some cobble-stoned street while this song played in the background. Maybe with a killer dress on, and one of those big fans blowing my hair around.

The beat is strong in this one, and I adore the imagery in the lyrics. She’s giving such a kiss-off to the media, and to all the boys who came before. What I really like about this song is that it’s not just a straight out narrative of Taylor dating a string of guys. Oh no. She also alludes to having POWER and CONTROL in the relationship. She turns the tables. She controls the narrative. And it is fascinating.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“Ain’t it funny, rumors fly / And I know you heard about me / So hey, let’s be friends / I’m dying to see how this one ends”

3. Style

This little ditty might be one of Swift’s greatest achievements. The longing in her voice, the amazing story she’s telling, the fact that this could be some background music to a slow car-chase in a movie… This track is definitely ranked up there as a big favorite on this whole album for me. I’m sure anyone listening to this either wants to be James Dean, or wants to be Taylor Swift. The red lip. The tight skirt. Good girl faith? WHAT? Taylor’s getting scandalous on this album, and it’s about time.

This song proves she is finally a grown-up. She doesn’t get too overt, but she’s at least flirting with the idea that the relationships she’s experiencing in her 20’s are no longer fairy-tale laden dramas. She is finally rooted a bit more in reality.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“I say I heard / oh, you’ve been out and about with some other girl / He says, what you heard is true but I / Can’t stop thinking about you and I / I said I’ve been there too a few times”

4. Out of the Woods

When I first heard this, I was so surprised. This song just struck me as intensely refreshing for Swift’s usual music. It’s big and bombastic, and creepy kind of. The lyrics don’t do a ton for me, if I’m being honest, because I get a little sick of the repetitiveness. I think the weakest lyric in the whole song is “Your necklace hanging from my neck.” No kidding, Taylor.

All in all though, I really dig the sound of this. She should team up with Jack Antonoff more often. You know, this whole time, I assumed the mysterious Jack was the lead singer of fun. I thought Lena Dunham was dating that guy, not this guy. This guy is what, the guitarist? Am I right on that? I haven’t Googled Jack recently so I’m not sure.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“But the monsters turned out to be just trees / When the sun came up / You were looking at me”

5. All You Had to Do Was Stay

This song is just ‘meh’ for me. I enjoy the weird high-pitched “Stay” she sings every so often. And the kind of shout-singing that reminds me a bit of “Hey Mickey You’re So Fine” kind of style. For a fifth track spot on the album, I guess this song makes sense enough here. I just feel like the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th songs were so strong that nothing else could keep comparing to those.

The melody DOES get in my head though.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“The more I think about it now / the less I know / All I know is that you drove us off the road”

6. Shake It Off

Oh yes, this song. The one that’s been force-fed down America’s collective throats for the last month or two. I think I saw this song in a commercial for “Dancing with the Stars.” When I first heard it, I loved it. It was fun, it was punchy. I watched her music video and laughed out loud to myself at my kitchen table. But I think I’m a little fatigued with the song now. I tend to skip it when it comes on if I’m playing through the whole album. That always happens with singles. I get too excited about them, play them to death, and then never want to hear them again.

And Taylor, girl, can we maybe put the kibosh on spoken-word rapping for most future songs? I know you’re really into sick beats now, but please. No more.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“Hella good hair”

7. I Wish You Would

This song is a dark horse to me. It crept up on me like, surprise! You thought this was just a song you could easily skip over BUT YOU CAN’T because the hook and the chorus is just beautiful. And exciting. And I adore it. This is another Jack Antonoff song, and he should be getting at least half the money from Taylor’s sales of this album. Only fair, right?

When I listen to this track, I bob my head a lot. I tap my feet. It makes me feel like I should be running a marathon. That would be hard though because I’m only able to run up to a 5K distance so far. BUT STILL. It’s making me motivated. It has movement to it, it’s such a good fast-paced song. And I love the last bit of chorus and whatnot!!! The subtle key change. SO GOOD.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“We’re a crooked love / In a straight line down / Makes you want to run and hide / Then it makes you turn right back around”

8. Bad Blood

Truth: the first time I heard the melody, it reminded me of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” Anyone else? Also, this sounds very mean-girl-cheerleader-pack singing against their enemy. And that’s not a bad thing.

This is supposedly about some big feud Taylor has with Katy Perry and her tour and hiring people away and stuff. I wanted the song to be a little… meaner? But still, it’s a pretty solid jam. I wonder if Taylor and Katy every discussed their mutual relations with John Mayer. I imagine that’d be such an awkward conversation. Side note- I generally dislike Katy Perry. Just have never been her biggest fan.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“You say sorry just for show / If you like like that, you live with ghosts / If you love like that, blood runs cold”

9. Wildest Dreams

People have been saying this is a rip-off of Lana Del Rey, but I don’t even care. I am IN. LOVE. WITH. THIS. TRACK. It’s so gorgeous and breathy and it gets stuck in my head all the time. It strikes me as very Great Gatsby-esque… as in, I can imagine Taylor staring at a sunset in a nice dress by the ocean. With some dapper young gentleman who’s one mistake from losing her and then not caring about it after the fact.

This song really hit me hard in the heart. This is one of those songs that just drudges up some memories for me and I’m happy to have found a song on this album that resonates with me on a bit of a personal level. Liking this song makes me think that maybe I should’ve gotten into Lana Del Rey some more. After listening to this a billion times, I want to go wander around a shoreline. So beautiful. This song also makes me very thankful that I got out of the point in my life where I was in relationships with guys who this song could’ve been written about. I’d say, without a doubt, that my current relationship status could be more easily found in the bonus track – “You R In Love”… (but Taylor, why the “R”? Why not just write “ARE”???)

Sweetest Lyrics:

“I said ‘No one has to know what we do’ / His hands are in my hair / His clothes are in my room / And his voice is a familiar sound / Nothing lasts forever”

10. How You Get the Girl

Bleh. This strikes me as very middle-school-esque. She’s talking about how to win back a girl that you wronged. This song is a little too sugary-sweet to me. This kind of reminds me of her old stuff, like REALLY old. I could’ve seen her writing this when she was 16. Maybe not with all the beats and voice-work… but the sentiment strikes a little young to me.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“I want you for worse or for better / I would wait forever and ever”

11. This Love

What a gorgeous track. When I found out she was writing with Imogen Heap on a song, I thought for sure that it was this one. But color me shocked that it isn’t. This was all Taylor, which is great. The sound of this is SO DIFFERENT than everything else on this album and I love it for being so unique. Her voice sounds a little underwater. It’s a rich track, full of echoey vocals and a very simple beat behind her.

This is another contender for a top favorite for me. This may not be a popular song to fall in love with for everyone else listening to this album, but this one really resonates with me for some reason. Just gorgeous stuff going on here. She keeps it simple, she keeps it straight-forward. This is classic Taylor writing, but with a new Taylor sound. All the sea imagery, the lantern burning for one person only… ugh. I can’t get enough of it.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“Clear blue water / High tide came and brought you in / and I could go on and on, on and on and I will….”

12. I Know Places

Is this the paparazzi song? I imagine TMZ running her and Harry Styles down all over the place in this one. This is a pretty song that kicks into a bit of a manic chant, lots of sweeping vocals, and Taylor drops a swear word. GASP. She has a lot of intensity behind her voice on this track which is welcomed. This isn’t one of my favorites off the album but I can respect it, nonetheless.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“Love’s a fragile little flame / It could burn out, it could burn out”

13. Clean

So this is the closer, written with Imogen Heap. On first listens, this one didn’t impress me. It’s not bad, I just wasn’t overwhelmed by it as a closing song. Even now, I just don’t feel this is a super strong song. And I normally love Imogen Heap. This song gets a little repetitive but I think the lyrics are pretty great. This caps the album and it ends on an okay note. I think the effect of this was supposed be to help wash away all the crap in Taylor’s life so she can now focus on her bestie girlfriends, like Karlie Kloss – who has her own guest room in Taylor’s penthouse loft in NYC.

Sweetest Lyrics:

“I let the flood carry away / All my pictures of you”

So there you have it, readers. My take on Taylor’s newest album. I haven’t heard the bonus tracks yet from Target (though I have a means to listen online – at least until the copyright God’s decide to pull that too – I just haven’t had a chance to yet). I’ll add to this review once I hear those!


One thought on “SWEET ON: The Year ‘1989’

  1. Hi Amber!
    My name is Olivia and I am the Chief Writer at FDRMX (http://fdrmx.com), an online music publication. I came across your blog and really enjoyed reading your writing. We were wondering if you would be interested in writing for our website? We are looking to expand our team and we think you would be a great fit. You can contact me at o@fdrmx.com if you would like to get involved.
    Looking forward to hearing from you!


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