1989 is the fifth studio album from singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Over the past few years, Swift went from one of the biggest names in country to the biggest name in music. This isn’t just another Taylor Swift album, though. This album is pretty noteworthy not just for being the first album released in 2014 to go platinum, in one week nonetheless, its noteworthy as Swift has made the complete transition from country to pop. This isn’t a country album, or a country album with pop influences, it is a bonafide pop album. It was a predictable progression, and it was a progression I have been waiting on for a while because I’ve always found Taylor to be talented, but I just wish that she didn’t choose country to display those talents (as that somewhat limited her), until now of course.
Now, not only is this a pop album, it’s a synth pop album. With the title of the album being 1989 and the Polaroid picture used as the cover, it’s obvious where the influences in the album lie, in the 1980’s. This inspiration includes extensive use of the synthesizer along with some drum machines and guitars. Which, by the way, is really good use of these instruments, thanks to pop mega-producers Max Martin and Shellback, who put out some of their best work yet with this album.
Martin and Shellback also wrote a majority of the album with Swift, with some outside help from artists like OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder and Imogen Heap. With the addition of the bombastic pop production and some extra writers, Swift is able to cut out some of the bad ends of her songwriting and generally produce some fun, catchy pop that still keeps the subject matter of previous albums, but makes them more mature. The songwriting isn’t exactly perfect and doesn’t entirely stray from being immature, though.
For example, the lead single ‘Shake It Off’ is one of her weakest lyrically, due to some of the cringeworthy lyrics and an awful bridge where she… raps? However, the song is still undeniably catchy and enjoyable. That’s what people need to realize about pop music, it’s dumb, fun, and catchy. It’s okay to dislike it, but just because Nirvana had a hit on the Billboard 100 doesn’t mean their music is instantly comparable to Taylor Swift’s.
I think the best thing Taylor Swift does on 1989 is sound like herself. With some of the biggest songs on her last album (’22’, ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’) that ended up becoming huge hits, she didn’t really sound like herself. She sounded like Taylor Swift trying to impersonate Katy Perry, and not doing a great job of it, but on this album she seems to have finally mastered her transition into pop, without losing her personality in the move.
The album is definitely a surprise and I’m glad that Taylor was able to make the successful transition without losing or excluding her original country fanbase. It’s an album that has no right to be as good as it is.