|By Marcin Wichary from San Francisco, U.S.A. Uploaded by MyCanon (Taylor Swift) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
We can see Taylor working to please her young fanbase and stay on top. She hired Max Martin to do some writing, and if you don't know who he is, just know that he writes songs for many pop artists, and he's the reason all music today sounds the same. It's the same guy. She even hauled in Ed Sheeran for one of the better songs, because he's the next big thing for young hipsters. He's all over tumblr. We like Ed's one song on the radio about the dying prostitute who likes cocaine.
But back to Taylor's album. This girl is addicted to the rush of the in-love feeling, but it gives her material. We like the title song, Red, for its clever comparisons of the affair with colors. It doesn't make perfect sense, but we get it. Lyrics-wise, our favorite song is "Begin Again." This album emphasizes physical activity and passion more than her last entries. It's hard to review this album. We like it, but we kind of hate it. We're getting sick of Taylor trotting out the same act all the time. It's all familiar ground. Yeah, it sells, and it would be foolish to change what generates sales. But art takes risks. It doesn't hire Max Martin.
The break-up and love songs are getting old to us, mostly because it's not where we are in life, so we're happy that she threw in a song like 22, which is yet another anthem about the fun of being young. Actually, we're not digging those songs either. It sucks to be young a lot of the time. No stability, self-doubt, loneliness, fear of not finding a good job, fear in general, not knowing yourself...it's all there. That's why we love Lena Dunham and Girls. Instead of making us feel guilty for not having a roaring time like the radio thinks we're having, Lena gets how we're really feeling.
But Taylor Swift is writing about the fairy tale. Unless it's a mean breakup song written for revenge on Jake Gyllenhaal (the immature We Are Never Getting Back Together), Taylor overstates the importance and wonder of romance several times, never actually giving her tween listeners a peek at the challenges and realities of actual relationships. In Holy Ground and State of Grace, which sounds like a U2 song, Taylor compares romance to the spiritual. Romance is society's new religion. Taylor is helping us worship (for a profit), not exactly baring her soul in this album.
We think she's gussying up dating so that it fits the fantasy, whether tragic or ideal. If she wanted to take a risk, she'd write about other aspects of life. But she won't. This album was all about being commercial, less about being an artist/poetry, and almost not at all about staying country. She's got multiple genres in there. This album should please most of her fans and keep her on the radio. We're not impressed with it, overall, but we like a few tracks and there aren't many obvious fillers. There aren't any we want to put on repeat though.
Album grade: B