Taylor Swift is back with her new album, “Red,” and she’s coming for you.
Upon entering a Walgreens last night, I was confronted by a towering life-size cut out of Taylor Swift staring at me in an aggressively smug manner, and she had brought some goodies with her. Her name and likeness were slapped on anything and everything; from notebooks to cup holders to a wall-dominating tapestry. Judging from the grab bag approach to branding, she’d put her face on a Tampax box if it meant there was an extra thousand in it for her. It was then that it occurred to me: Taylor plans to take over the world whether we like it or not. Swiftly and surely.
“Red” is Taylor at her most calculated and ready for attack, with her sights set squarely on the Hot 100. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” foreshadowed this with its sing-a-long chorus, endlessly quotable lyrics, and take no prisoners beat. The rest of “Red” follows suit. Similar to her branding, T Swizzle is game for anything that might up her stardom and cement her as an unstoppable force in music; no genres are safe!
As many feared from the quiet whispers leading up to the album’s release, Tay Tay tries her hand at dubstep on “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Luckily for those that hate the tired genre, it’s as light on the bass drops as possible. Country purists will be relieved to know they can un-bunch their panties and remove the copies of “Speak Now” from their bonfire pits. She also puts on mopey Mazzy Star vagueness on “Sad Beautiful Tragic.” With Tay’s penchant for wallowing, one would assume she would excel in this genre, but instead we get the kind of post-breakup public blood-letting that would make you unsubscribe from a friend’s Facebook feed. And then there’s the Ke$ha-lite desperation of “22” (as if Ke$ha’s own output isn’t *reductive* enough). It’s all put-on attitude and Uffie tones, and should be avoided at all cost for the sake of your sanity.
You can’t take the drama queen out of middle school though. Once the pop production flourishes begin to dissipate, it quickly becomes apparent that Taylor’s old guitar and a diary full of INTRICATE DETAILS are back and it’s business as usual. The beards are faceless. The only thing discernable from Taylor’s vague hints is that she is a woman perpetually scorned.
On the topic of love (as opposed to her one other topic: celebrity), she continues to present herself as absurdly sentimental in a way that suggests not only youthful naiveté and drama hounding, but also someone who loves the idea of being “in love.” “All Too Well” is the singer in her element, recounting DETAIL by DETAIL the dissolution of a romance she obviously invested 744 days straight of emotion in (note: that’s a full month). And on “The Last Time,” she brings in a warbling male reinforcement to really drive the emotional impact home. I can’t count how many times this girl has been left in shambles by a heartbreaker, but if this album is anything to go off of, she shows no sign of slowing down. As a long-time fan, there’s a sense of comfort I take from her consistency. Taylor never seems to learn, but she still loves anyway.
The moments where Taylor lets herself go and dives fearlessly into love are, as always with her output, the highlights. The title track and “Starlight” are both light-hearted and hopeful. The pop flourishes that have been added to her music (reserved for single mixes in the past) help to elevate the sense of fun and freedom. Taylor sounds at home in pop.
It’s nice to see a singer so shrewdly and unabashedly ready to expand her fan-base and sound, as Swizzle does on “Red,” and assuming no pretense that she’s selling “art.” Much like the pop chameleons of yesteryear, Olivia Newton-John and Sheena Easton, Taylor is down to take a stab at any sound. And for that reason alone, she’s probably not going anywhere anytime soon. The more genres you can hop the more chances you have at dodging stagnancy flops. I just hope next album era I can purchase a Taylor Swift head bust to go along with my tapestry.
UPDATE: Oh no! Taylor just got dumped again. And so it goes…