Taylor Swift Leaves Her Country Identity Behind Like Another Bad Ex In 1989

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 8 mins read

If you’ve read my Narrative about Taylor Swift’s 2012 album Red, you’ll know I was wholeheartedly impressed with not only how compelling it was as a formative work of music in her career but how astonishingly-impactful it was on an emotionally-abusive relationship I was in around the time of its release, convincing me I had nothing to be ashamed about in ravenously consuming the record as it was a genuinely solid collection of tunes that put others in her demographic to shame; I found joy in its endearing lyrical content & plenty of material to jam to on long car rides from my now home of Los Angeles to my old stomping-grounds of San Francisco, believing this was the start of a beautiful relationship with mainstream media the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since the late-nineties wave of Alternative Rock & Electronica that informed my adolescence, but – regrettably – this period of acceptance would be short-lived when her follow-up record 1989 dropped, relegating her back to radio-only-listening for me as her sound fell into generic obscurity along with the rest of the industry – To dial things back a few steps, Swift had shown audiences with her last record that she was ready to grow up as an individual & as an artist, generating much more expressive compositions with a real sense of identity you could latch on to in some truly jam-worthy tracks you’d easily find yourself blasting on a weekly or even daily basis, proving she had what it took to making a lasting impression on the music industry as a whole in the years to come; She was no longer the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed youngster with a penchant for naiveté who couldn’t help but sing about her horrible celebrity dating track record, opening things up for a more engaging sonic experience for a wider audience than she ever could’ve achieved with a strictly-Country aesthetic, but the fame unfortunately went to her head like a silver bullet in a werewolf film, corrupting her aesthetic irrevocably with what is easily my least-favourite Swift record 1989, tainting her image moving forward & making me sad that my birth-year was associated with such derivative dribble – You may think I’m being a tad harsh seeing as this was easily Swift’s most critically-appreciated album, but if you search your heart on deeper analysis, you’ll find my words are nothing if not the truth.

Synth You Been Gone

Let’s set the scene, shall we? It’s late-2014. The entire music industry – be it Rock, EDM, Dance Pop or otherwise – is being bombarded by Tropical Pop aesthetics & eighties-inspired New Wave Synth Pop productions, the latter of which is finding a particularly firm hold on modern listeners as its bright Synth tones, typically-female-voiced melodies & ethereal soundscapes present modern audiences with a touch of electronic romanticism that had been sorely missing from the industry since the mid-noughties; Everyone & their mother is quick to cash-in on this sonic trend, homogenizing the market with virtually-identical interpretations of the neon teal & magenta lifestyle in an attempt to shake up the market after the dirge of Reggae Fusion music which plagued the previous three years, resulting in an overwhelming stagnation of talent that failed to live up to the dream until Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion dropped the following year – Taylor Swift took a sharp left turn after Red straight into this sonic trend with 1989, looking to gain mainstream relevance with a collection of songs that embraced this anachronistic splendor, tunes like “Style” producing energetic side-chained synth-bass sequences with wholesome lyrics & others like “I Wish You Would” evoking the sort of anthemic feminine charm that HAIM, Hailee Steinfeld & even Little Mix would popularize in the years to come, but she’d never quite capture the authenticity of instrumentation or emotional spirit required to really sell this sonic profile, always resting a step beneath sincerity with each consecutive track on the album; Numbers like “Clean” feel like a weak knock-off of Hilary Duff’s cheery Bubblegum Pop tune “Wake Up” from a decade earlier with its unenthusiastic vocal elements & “You Are In Love” tries so desperately to deliver the airy Tumblr-girl sincerity of singers like Lorde but drops the ball entirely, demolishing the confidence we heard on Red & replacing it with a half-hearted arrangement of close-but-not-quite-accurate whimsy that fails to incite enthusiasm in listeners – It’s genuinely disheartening to see such melodic talent squandered just to appease studio execs who likely pushed repeatedly for this sort of sound, but it’s only the top of the iceberg as to how unimaginative the rest of this record would inevitably reveal itself to be.

What Hath We Wrought?!?

In retrospect, I can’t blame all of Red’s faults on Taylor Swift alone, as the voracious mainstream consumption of New Wave-ish music obviously informed how she approached the songwriting process throughout, convincing her this was a worthwhile endeavour to endure despite being so wildly dissimilar to the productions she’d given us before – Perhaps the most aggressive nail in the coffin for Swift’s lingering Country persona is the song “Bad Blood,” a song that’s about as far from the singer’s prior narrative charms as possible, what with its aggressive electronic production, repetitive melodic structures & absolute absence of integrity from all involved. This song was critically-panned by pretty much everyone thanks to its half-hearted attempt at adopting Alternative R&B themes Swift lacked the attitude or understanding to perform appropriately, even bringing modern-legend Kendrick Lamar down a peg or two just by proxy thanks to the duo’s uninspired vocal melodies, a Club-inspired percussion rhythm as undanceable as Katy Perry’s unbearable “E.T.,” off-kilter sound mixing that refused to give the lower bass tones the presence they deserved & a laughably-bad music video which – as I alluded to before – feigned feministic ideals without actually saying anything of value whatsoever; Yes, the accompanying visual aid for this track is by far the worst element of the whole affair, expressing in painstaking detail just how absent Swift’s self-awareness is at this juncture, going against her own long-standing ideals with an overly-photoshopped production of beautiful women being gorgeous for the sake of vanity, nonsensical story developments meant to satirize mainstream Pop productions but without the tongue-in-cheek commentary it needed to make a statement & the most blatant display of ‘don’t call me wholesome’ acting since Christina Aguilera’s edgy video for “Dirrty” – If you were to try & locate the exact moment Swift went full shaved-head Britney Spears mode on us, it would be this song & its atrocious video, giving audiences a fair warning of the shitshow that would continue on Reputation, one they’d usher into existence by wantonly streaming it & the rest of 1989 into the stratosphere.

Leaving No Hope To Hold On To

While the more generic compositions on this album like the above are certainly cause for alarm, totally warranting the negative criticism directed at 1989 both then & now, the knife in my & so many other listener’s hearts is the fact that a good handful of these tracks were actually pretty fantastic, giving a false sense of hope that the future might turn out brighter than it actually did for Taylor Swift; Delightful numbers like “All You Had To Do Was Stay” showed she was capable of adapting to modern trends whilst maintaining the dreamy sheen of romanticism that kept her going in the past & others like crowd-pleaser “Shake It Off” assured audiences the goofy marching-band geek of her younger years was still alive somewhere deep down inside, frolicking along on a cloud of ignorance & literally dancing away the negativity like all good outcasts inevitably learn to do in their high school years, but these hits would be few & far between as you progressed along the track-list, revealing to the world that the Swift we’d grown to love over the years was already too far-gone to recover, fully-engrossed in the Pop machine with no intention of ever returning to the fun, endearing teen heartthrob she once was ever again – Am I being melodramatic? Probably. Am I wrong, though? Not in the slightest. Hindsight is twenty-twenty & we can all admit we jammed the shit out of 1989 when it came out, seeing as your alternatives were boring Club Hit cash-ins from David Guetta or yet-another weak Hip Hop track from Nicki Minaj – go ahead, fight me – at the height of her popularity, but considering the damage Swift caused her own career in the interim, 1989 is nothing but a half-assed, garbage Pop record with no redeeming qualities whatsoever that set us up for the disappointment that would be Reputation.

2. Track List (13)

3. Official (13)

4. Live (6)

5. Featuring Remixes (5)

7. Similar Albums (1)

8. Similar Artists (27)

9. Album Info

About

1989 is the fifth studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, released on October 27, 2014 through Big Machine Records. Swift began composing the album following the release of her previous studio effort, Red (2012). Over the course of the two-year songwriting period, she collaborated with producers Max Martin and Shellback—Martin served as the album's executive producer alongside Swift. The album's title was named after the singer's birth year and its music was inspired by the pop music of the 1980s.
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Songwriter

  • Taylor Swift

Label

  • Big Machine

Producer

  • Max Martin (also exec.)
  • Taylor Swift (also exec.)
  • Jack Antonoff
  • Nathan Chapman
  • Imogen Heap
  • Greg Kurstin
  • Mattman & Robin
  • Ali Payami
  • Shellback
  • Ryan Tedder
  • Noel Zancanella