America’s Country Girl Heads Off To The City In Taylor Swift’s First Pop-Leaning Album Red

camjameson
Written by camjameson
/ 7 mins read

If I’m being honest, to say I was a fan of Taylor Swift in her early days would be a bold-faced lie: When she first hit the scene in 2004, I was admittedly impressed with how gifted she was for a 16-year old artist in a world that had become increasingly-obsessed with prepubescent acts like Justin Bieber, my lifelong training in classical music theory – on top of having a world-class touring singer as a father – giving me the technical comprehension to acknowledge she was a truly-skilled performer, but her particular brand of songwriting was clearly designed for a different audience; She was so unbelievably naïve for someone only two months younger than I & her cheerful compositions lacked the emotional depth & inherent personality of my rather Emo Rock-leaning sensibilities, making it hard to find any value in her body of work at the time – Fast forward about seven years, I’m dating a die-hard Country girl from North Carolina who’d modeled her own musical persona around Swift’s, making it virtually impossible to ignore the blonde icon’s upbeat tunes when they were literally being played on a daily basis alongside the Jonas Brothers & Katy Perry. I’d been constantly bombarded by my then-girlfriend’s fanaticism & was aware Swift had a new album coming up called Red, but it wasn’t until that fateful performance at the 2012 VMA’s that I realized I’d fallen for the Country starlet hook, line & sinker thanks to what would become her first true Pop performance, kicking off an incredibly rocky love-hate relationship with her music – & said-girlfriend – going forward.

A Fish Out Of Water Who Learned To Breathe Air

As far as I knew back then, Taylor Swift’s VMA performance of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was the first time I or anyone had really heard the southern belle attempt anything outside of her traditional Country fare; Sure, there were still slight thematic traits of her favoured style presents throughout the track, whether it be the perpetual romantic pitfalls of her lyrics, the bouncy twang of acoustic guitars chiming off in the background or the ever-so-subtle banjo arpeggios plucking towards the latter-end of each chorus, but the general direction of the arrangement – what with its exhilarating electronic instrumentation & celebratory youthfulness – felt totally unique & far more engaging than anything she’d produced before, pulling a Miley Cyrus a la “Party In The U.S.A.” & going as far from her own stereotype as she was comfortable with – Aside from presenting a matured melodic writing style more in-line with contemporary trends, she’d grown up as a performer & a lyricist as well, playing around with a rather spunky attitude that showed signs of feminist ideals growing – though we know how badly she’ll fail with that in the future – & a confidence of self in her live VMA performance that was quite infectious to someone like me who was trapped in an emotionally-taxing relationship. I was utterly dumbfounded by how she did it, but Swift somehow connected with me on a deeper level at that moment despite the song itself being overwhelmingly Pop-py, giving me the inspiration to split from my partner & stay split later that very year, sparking my interest in her career & an unhealthy attraction to girls with straight-cut bangs; I mean, come on, she was a total babe in that striped shirt & high-waisted shorts, right?

Swift’s First Real Show Of Artistic Creativity

With my new musical love-affair blossoming as I entered bachelor status, I decided to give the rest of Red a chance to integrate itself into my listening rotation as the months went on, again finding an astonishing level of melodic ingenuity in what she had to offer throughout the record, elevating her from a simple guilty-pleasure to someone I didn’t mind admitting I enjoyed as an avid Metal & Punk fan. Songs like “State Of Grace” showed me Taylor Swift could do more than merely regurgitate the Traditional Country & Country Pop sounds of her predecessors with a bright, progressive momentum akin to the driving Soft- & Indie-Rock compositions of bands like Keane or Snow Patrol who’d fallen out of style at the time, injecting a ton of heartwarming narrative expression & adolescent whimsy into a grandiose soundscape that was simultaneously anachronistic & fresh; There’re tastes of Country here & there with the crisp, blaring guitar tones you hear & incredibly rich instrumental layering present, even leaning into Folk Rock territory with the anthemic nature of the chorus vocals & the wide-open atmosphere of the arrangement’s overall sonic fidelity, but it never feels gimmicky or trendy in the least, totally unique amongst contemporary acts who were all beginning to transition to a heavier Synth Pop & EDM sound – Even so, there were still a few moments where I just couldn’t get myself to hold a straight face whilst listening through Red, tracks like “The Lucky One” falling short of the Sixpence None The Richer garden-girl quirkiness it was trying to achieve & others like “Stay Stay Stay” embodying everything I hated about the mainstream Folk movement of the early-teens, its embarrassing ding-dong happiness feeling so commercial & corny I’d deem it worthy of being sent to the very pits of hell along with Of Monsters And Men’s bubbly “Little Talks” & The Lumineer’s painfully-generic “Ho Hey.”

The First & Possibly Last Time Swift Would Know Who She Was

With the Country Pop machine having driven itself into a deep, dark corner of artistic stagnation in the last few years, it’s actually quite refreshing looking back at Red to see how far Taylor Swift has come in a little under a decade, both for better & for worse; This album represented a paradigm shift in her critical reception, not just as a Country artist but as a performer who’d soon rival the prolific Pop talents who came before her, tracks like the very Dashboard Confessional-leaning “All Too Well” & the edgy EDM-infused earworm “I Knew You Were Trouble” taking her from niche teen act with an ear for melody to someone even an old codger like I could enjoy in-between sessions of The Black Dahlia Murder & The Dear Hunter. Sadly, this introduction to the ‘new’ Swift is also where the novelty of her matured sonic persona would wear off, as the years that follow would produce generic hit after generic hit, lacking the heart & soul that made Red so compelling to begin with in addition to birthing the terribly out-of-touch adult character of Swift we know today who’d do anything to erase the wholesome image she spent so many years cultivating, following the same reckless lifestyle path every Disney-affiliated child star has traveled down for the last thirty or forty years in a misguided attempt to be taken seriously among her peers – While I might not be as gung-ho about Red or Swift as I was back when the album was released, having obviously found much more inventive compositions in the subgenres I truly cherish, I’ve got to give it the credit it rightfully deserves for opening my cold heart to Country music altogether, as I would’ve never started researching acts like Brooks & Dunn, Josh Turner, Chris Stapleton or Midland without it, awarding me the right to say I genuinely enjoy every genre available on the market.

2. Track List (16)

3. Official (16)

4. Live (4)

5. Featuring Remixes (9)

7. Similar Albums (2)

8. Similar Artists (27)

9. Album Info

About

Red is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. It was released on October 22, 2012, by Big Machine Records, as the follow-up to her third studio album, Speak Now. The album title was inspired by the "semi-toxic relationships" that Swift experienced during the process of conceiving this album, with Swift describing the emotions she felt as "red emotions" due to their intense and tumultuous nature. Red touches on Swift's signature themes of love and heartbreak, however, from a more mature perspective while exploring other themes such as fame and the pressure of being in the limelight. The album features collaborations with producers and guest artists such as Gary Lightbody of the band Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeran, and is noted for Swift's experimentation with new musical genres. Swift completed The Red Tour in support of the album on June 12, 2014; the tour became the highest-grossing tour of all time by a country artist, grossing over $150 million.
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Songwriter

  • Taylor Swift

Label

  • Big Machine

Producer

  • Scott Borchetta (exec.)
  • Taylor Swift
  • Nathan Chapman
  • Jeff Bhasker
  • Dann Huff
  • Jacknife Lee
  • Max Martin
  • Shellback
  • Butch Walker
  • Dan Wilson