Thursday, May 9, 2013

Album Review: Red by Taylor Swift

I want to start this review out by talking about what is bad. The production is what's bad with the album. The sound is all too often overly generic and uninteresting. Take my album of the year from 2010 Body Talk by Robyn. That was a straight up dance, pop album but it was much more than just a simple pop album because of the superb production. I also think there are too many tracks. Sixteen full tracks is a bit much for the kind of album this is. OK that's enough about what's bad, now onto what is good and interesting about the album.

First thing to note is that Taylor Swift has completely thrown off country music on this album. There are tiny hints of country here and there, but no more than you might find on any pop album. I like the fact that she simply went all in. I think if you are going to make a pop album that's the way to go.

Most musical artist hit their musical peak at 24. Taylor Swift turns 24 this year so if she takes a few years off, it could be that Red is the album released closest to what is everyone's normal peak. As a singer I think this is probably her best work. As a writer she shows real growth and maturity and that's good. She writes good melodies. The probably for Swift is that she really needs a Ben Watt or a Michael Buck or a Johan Agebjörn to bring her music to that next place. I have hopes that she can still get better because I think she is still growing and developing as an artist, but I do think she needs a serious collaborative partner.

Most of the tracks are love songs, and that's fine though I would like to see her expand her horizons a bit more. She also has a tendency too often to personalize songs and it would be nice to see her move away from that. Take a song like "The Lucky One" which is about escaping from the glam and glitz of Hollywood for a better life and you find something that is hard for her fan base to really relate to. As she expands her world to look beyond love and romance, it also has to look beyond her own life. Good writers like Swift I believe can learn this and so again I have hopes for her going forward that she will get better.

All of this being said, what Swift has done with this album is quite incredible. It is in many ways a boilerplate pop album. Too many tracks, too much variety, it's all over the place. But with the right producer and collaborator I think this could have easily been the best album I hear this year. The songs, even the goofy songs like "22" are interesting. "22" is her take on the whole Ke$ha club track. But here is what makes Swift so interesting. First, she doesn't go vulgar or glamorous. This song is quite simply about a group of 22 year old women going out after work to relax. Second she has this great pre-chorus lyric "Yeah we're happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It's miserable and magical." For someone who was writing this song while at the age of 22 it shows smart insight into her own age, and all of this is being thrown in on top of what is essentially a generic sounding club track.

There are a few very strong tracks, but all in all where the album repeatedly falls down is in the boring presentation. Swift does her part with very good vocals. This is the most I've heard her push her own abilities, but that can't make up for the lackluster production. Following the Rhapsody rating method I give it 2 out of 5 stars for Not Bad.

Just a note about this video. It really bugs me when people blow a video. This song could so easily translate into a video, but they don't follow the plot of the song. It's obviously about a girl who is going out on a date, probably a blind date, after recently being out a bad relationship. She's getting dressed she gets there, he's early, he's a gentleman, he's funny, he's smart, and she finds herself once again being drawn in even though part of her feels like she shouldn't so easily be drawn in. There is a great line in this song where she sings
"And I almost brought him up
But you start to talk about the movies
That your family watches
Every single Christmas
And I want to talk about that"

The video just doesn't capture any of that.


  1. I think she's a remarkable talent, and she's also extremely ambitious. That's a good combination.

    Having said that, I have heard very little of this album because Smart Girl is still listening to country music instead of pop.

    1. This album is definitely aimed at her own age group. Now whether they listen to Taylor Swift or not I don't know. But I could see a lot of her younger fans dropping her.