Review: Taylor Swift conquers pop with 1989


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Whether you love her, hate her, or can’t be bothered to form an opinion, I’m pretty sure you knew Taylor Swift’s new album, 1989, was coming out this week. The top-selling artist has been everywhere — late-night shows, early morning talk shows, plugging herself all over Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, and filling TV screens with commercials.

Many expect 1989 to sell more than 1 million copies before the end of the week, the first album of 2014 to do so. Her first single, “Shake It Off,” reached No. 1 on iTunes the day it was released, and there it has stayed, soon joined by “Out of the Woods” and “Welcome to New York.” The best part? Those early singles aren’t even the best songs on the album, which the world has noticed; right now, Swift owns six of the 10 top-selling singles on iTunes and the coveted top-album spot.

Despite the criticism she has received for abandoning her country roots, Swift has fiercely contended she was ready for her first official pop album. Don’t worry, Taylor fans — you can still hear her signature heart-rending lyrics and angelic voice, it’s just paired with a lot more synthesizer and bass. It’s a different Taylor than we’re used to, but I, for one, respect her decision to try something she’s clearly been heading toward since her last album. (How country is “I Knew You Were Trouble” from Red, really?)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Album Highlights

Just to be clear, every song on this album is wonderful, so don’t think my list of highlights means you should skip over the other songs. You shouldn’t. That would just be cruel to your ears. I feel my favorite song changes each time I listen to the album (which has been several times–1989 hasn’t come off repeat since I bought it), but here are my top picks as of the very moment I am typing this.

• “Blank Space,” track 2. Taylor’s had quite a few songs about being the overlooked girl – “You Belong With Me,” “Teardrops on My Guitar,” “Hey Stephen,” to name a few – but now that she’s the biggest artist in the world, she’s not likely to be pushed aside. “Blank Space” acknowledges that, finally. With lyrics like “I know you heard about me,” and “You look like my next mistake,” Taylor allows everyone to breathe a sigh of relief as she finally lets us all know that, yes, we’re all aware of her dating history and yes, so is she.

• “I Know Places,” track 12. When I see a song cowritten by OneRepublic headman and pop aficionado Ryan Tedder and Taylor Swift, I have high expectations; “I Know Places” didn’t disappoint me. If that’s not enough to persuade you to listen to it, I don’t know what will.

• “This Love,” track 11. I’m not going to lie; part of the reason I’m giving this song a shout-out is because it’s the only song on the album Swift wrote solo. (She cowrote every other song.) It’s quite a change from Speak Now, on which she wrote and composed every song. It’s nice to see she’s branching out and working with others to create a new sound but can still fall back on her own talent.

Honorable mention: If you’re sick of the Taylor hating and can’t just shake it off, “Bad Blood” is waiting for you on track 8.

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