Sounds Like: Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob meets Bleachers’ Strange Desire
Best Tracks: Shake It Off, Blank Space, Bad Blood, Wildest Dreams, Style, Clean
Worst Tracks: How to Get the Girl, Welcome to New York
Bottom Line: Taylor Swift takes on a more mature, indie-tinged pop route
1989 is famed singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s fifth studio album, and first “official” pop attempt (was Red even a thing?), breaking from the country genre altogether. Unlike Red (2012), her last studio album, Swift has made some drastic changes to tweak her sound; most notably, collaborating with artists/producers by the likes of Jack Antoff (Fun., Steel Train, Bleachers) and Imogen Heap. From the Lorde-esque, spaced-out, airy vocal delivery on “Wildest Dreams,” to the saxophone highlighted on lead single “Shake It Off,” to the minimalist, miscellaneous percussion on the album closer “Clean,” Swift delivers a very well-put together release of tracks reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s synthpop with indie undertones.
However, 1989 is far from infallible. The lyricism on a subset of tracks can be substandard, or even cringe-worthy. “Welcome to New York,” the album’s opener, is a prime example. It’s simply repetitive, dynamic lacking, flat-falling, and hollow. “How to Get the Girl,” “I Know Places,” and “This Love” all fall under the same category: bland, and frankly, unremarkable.
Like it, or not, 1989 is a rollercoaster of emotions, soundscapes, and musical planes Swift has never explored before. Yet, she has seemed to retain her voice (saturated to a crisp, yes, but it’s fitting) and release her most ambitious record to date.