It genuinely feels like eons since Taylor Swift rocked our worlds with the release of ‘Shake It Off’ and the announcement of a brand new album called ‘1989’ way back in August. Now that the singer songwriter has finally made the transition from country superstar to a full fledged member of the pop brigade, we’ve been dying to hear what she’s had in store for us all this time. Much has been made of Tay’s new found 80s influences (not to mention her numerous lyrical references to a certain, long haired member of One Direction) but how does it all come together in the album as a whole? Well, why not put the kettle on, stick your feet up and check out our track by track review to see what we made of it all…
P.S. We may have cried. A lot.
Welcome to New York
A perfect opener, ‘Welcome to New York’ kicks the album off in style with twinkling, 80s style synths and a commanding beat. Co-written by One Republic’s Ryan Tedder, the song details Tay’s recent real life move to New York with Glee levels of naivety and silliness (of COURSE New York is fabulous for a multimillionaire singer songwriter) but just about gets away with it. Plus: SO CATCHY.
Playing on Tay Tay’s reputation as one of music’s most notorious serial daters, ‘Blank Space’ is dreamy, bubblegum pop with a dark centre at the heart of it. It’s a song absolutely stuffed with amazing one liners too as Taylor declares “I can make the bad guys good for a weekend” and riffs on her ‘unlucky in love’ schtick (“Oh my god, look at that face / you look like my next mistake”), proving that Swiz is not only self aware, but she knows how to write about it in a fun and clever way too.
Style or ‘The One That’s Supposedly About Hazza Styles’ is a supercool, laidback jam of a song that simultaneously bemoans the pitfalls of dating a bad boy, and celebrates just how darn fun it can be all the same. Once that sugar rush of a chorus hits you, you will be powerless to resist.
Out Of The Woods
AKA ‘The Other One That’s Supposedly About Hazza Styles’ (don’t shoot the messenger, Directioners!) The closest thing to a power ballad on the track list , ‘Out of the Woods’ builds on pounding drums and reverb soaked vocals while T Swiz reminisces on the fragile nature of her fledgling relationship. All jokes about Harry aside though, anyone can relate to this song and its depiction of that awkward in between-y stage of a relationship where you have absolutely no idea where you stand.
All You Had To Do Was Stay
The title says it all, really. No one does yearning, teen drama break up songs like Taylor and this one is no exception. “People like you always back, the love they gave away / and people like me wanna believe you, when you say you’ve changed”. OH TAYLOR. The wonderful, desperate “STAY!” bits at the end of each chorus are also completely irresistible and may be one of the greatest pop hooks of the year.
Shake It Off
Obviously we still absolutely LOVE shake it off (only a fool wouldn’t) but in the context of the album it sticks out a mile. Amongst the perfectly nuanced love and break up songs on offer here, ‘Shake It Off’ is a shamelessly hook driven, loud, brash 3 minute party of a song designed to get you dancing – not that we’re complaining of course. It’s a welcome respite from all the break up songs though, and still one of THE best pop singles of 2014.
I Wish You Would
Probably the most overtly 80s sounding song on the album, ‘I Wish You Would’ is an energetic, driving pop rock number with a brilliantly cheesy, half time chorus at the heart of it all. The fantastic middle eight really seals the deal though, with the devastating couplet “You always knew how to push my buttons / You give me everything and nothing”. It’s basically like Taylor has been surveilling our love lives for inspiration.
Ooh er. We’ve been waiting to hear this one. Supposedly about the alleged beef with Katy Perry, ‘Bad Blood’ is a chant heavy number over a marching drum beat that simply demands to be sung by thousands of voices in stadium. “Baby now we got problems / and I don’t think we solve ’em / You made a really deep cut / and baby now we got bad blood”. Whether it’s about K Pezza or not, it serves very well as a one size fits all anthem for anyone who’s been screwed over or double crossed. Who knew Tay could do anger so well?
One of the prettiest weepy ballads we’ve heard this year, the gorgeous ‘Wildest Dreams’ is a delicate goodbye to a lover that’s not quite right for you, but you want to remember them being perfect anyway. On one of our favourite choruses on the album, Taylor sings the breathless, tender refrain “Say you’ll remember me /
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sun set babe /
Red lips and rosy cheeks / Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams.” Disclaimer: We may or may not have cried listening to this on the bus. Ahem.
How You Get The Girl
Ok, we’ve had a pretty stellar run on the album so far so it’s inevitable we’ll come across one or two duffers on the album and sadly ‘How You Get The Girl’ falls into this dubious category. Not a bad song, but not particularly memorable either, the sugary sweet confection simply doesn’t pack the same lyrical and emotional punch of the rest of the tracks.
By this stage of the album, country Taylor is but a distant memory. However ‘This Love’ harks back to it briefly by slowing things down a bit and bringing some twanging guitars into the proceedings. Luckily Taylor’s new found 80s-isms also make the cut and the whole thing swells into a hazy, stirring mix of booming snares and arpeggiated synth bass. We imagine this would be the perfect addition to the soundtrack of a romantic, teen drama. *sigh*
I Know Places
Helmed once again by one man hit machine Ryan Tedder (seriously, is there anything he CAN’T do?), ‘I Know Places’ starts off with a single piano and haunting, eerie verses describing a relationship played out in front of the cameras (“They are the hunters/ we are the foxes”) before exploding into a glorious chorus where Taylor promises her lover “I know places we won’t be found”. It’s the perfect mix of light and dark in one song.
“The drought was the very worst” Taylor quivers in the opening of what could be her most heartbreaking song to date. Running with a slightly overused but no less effective addiction metaphor (Tay is ALL about the metaphors on this album), Swift describes the heartbreak of leaving a toxic relationship but how ultimately it was the best thing for her in the end. By the final, trembling “I think I’m finally clean”, we were basically in a heaping mess on the floor here at the MP! office. DAMN YOU, TAYLOR.
The first of three surprisingly good bonus tracks, ‘Wonderland’ fizzes along in the verses before a fairly epic chorus (inspired by ‘Alice In Wonderland’) about getting lost in the throws of a relationship kicks into gear. Taylor’s obviously been taking some cues from Rihanna’s 2007 hit ‘Umbrella’ with those nagging ‘Eh eh eh’ parts as well. We approve.
You R In Love
We’ll ignore Taylor’s unfortunate ‘text speak’ song title because ‘You R In Love’ is actually an achingly pretty ballad floating over warm synths about the inability to express exactly how you feel about someone. Lovely stuff.
Relegated to bonus track status, ‘New Romance’ is actually a brilliantly realised electro pop number that could’ve easily sat very comfortably in the main track list. Playing like a moodier, cooler sequel to ’22’, the song is filled with clever, pithy lyrics about the growing pains of the being a young person in the spotlight, something Taylor knows only too well. “Cos baby I could build a castle / out of all the bricks they threw at me” Taylor cries defiantly, before turning it on it’s head by declaring “heartbreak is our national anthem / we sing it proudly”, managing to create the ultimate call to arms for her fans.
We always knew Taylor was one of the best songwriters of her generation (not to mention one of the best pop stars EVER) but she’s truly surpassed herself with ‘1989’. The production is polished to perfection but never feels sterile. The lyrics are both intensely personal yet totally universal at the same time and, despite being one of the most beautiful, talented women in the world, she still knows exactly how to relate to everyone else and pin point exactly what it’s like to fall in love, fall out of love and grow up in the big bad world. We tip our imaginary hats to you Taylor. Now if you’ll excuse us, it’s time to move the furniture so we can dance and shake, shake, shake it off, baby.
MP! Rating 5/5