‘1989’ expands and delivers on Swift’s new pop prowess

Within 48 hours of the release of Taylor Swift’s new album, “1989,” it was expected to sell over one million copies. The last album to do this was “Red,” Swift’s last release.  This woman has star power, and her latest album doesn’t disappoint.

Swift released three songs from “1989” early—“Shake It Off” was her single of the summer, followed by a pre-release of the songs “Out of the Woods” and “Welcome to New York.” As popular as “Shake It Off” was, and how excited fans were to speculate about the relationship behind “Out of the Woods,” these three songs are actually a letdown compared to the rest of the album.

“Welcome to New York” opens the album in a flurry of ’80s synth beats and repetition that continues through every track, but it’s the next two songs, “Blank Space” and “Style,” which are the highlights of the album. “Blank Space” pokes fun at the rumors that have followed Swift her whole life: that she is a man-eater who writes songs to get revenge for being wronged. She calls out the rumors with the oh-so-clever lines, “got a long list of ex-lovers / they’ll tell you I’m insane / but I’ve got a blank space, baby / and I’ll write your name,” and reminds us that she’s well aware of what people think of her.

In “Style,” Swift relays a relationship between her and someone that never seems to end, because they “never go out of style.” The whole track has an undercurrent of anxiety and secrecy that inherently feels like a tense, difficult relationship that never comes to an end. Swift paints an image of illicit romance and film noir with descriptions of “slicked back hair” and “red lip classic thing that you like.”

“Blank Space” and “Style” perfectly compliment each other and truly set the tone for the whole album.

The next few songs are a bit forgettable, though. “Out of the Woods,” on its own, is both heavy and delicate, making me think of the fear that can make or break a relationship, but when it plays right after “Style,” I get a little disappointed. On its own, it’s a brilliant track, but it’s not a standout on the album. “All You Had to Do Was Stay” is classic TSwift. She’s got a formula for songs, and it works, but it also gets a little boring. “Shake It Off” is possibly my favorite song of the summer, and it was absolutely the perfect first single, but after months of listening to it non-stop, I’ve moved on (a little).

Next comes “I Wish You Would,” which, upon first listen, sounds like a typical Taylor song—there’s more guitar sound in this one than in the previous six songs, along with romantic pining and sadness—but when you sit back and listen, the track is much more dynamic. She writes from the perspective of the ex-boyfriend, which is new for her. It’s also full of regret and self-blame, which, until recently, she shied away from. Swift’s old songs were always about being wronged and getting hurt, but a prevalent theme in “1989” is taking on the blame herself and realizing that relationships are a two-way street. This realization is most obvious in “I Wish You Would,” when she sings, “I wish we could go back / And remember what we were fighting for / Wish you knew that I miss you too much to be mad anymore.”

I always get the next two songs mixed up. They sound nothing alike but for some reason “Bad Blood” and “Wildest Dreams” are interchangeable in my mind. Swift likes to refer to herself as a feminist, and while I’m super proud of the steps she’s taken to learn more and to take back problematic things she’s said in the past, “Bad Blood” shows that she clearly hasn’t learned or fixed everything yet. The song is a beat-heavy, angry track about a friend stabbing her in the back, and definitely doesn’t promote the girl-loving world she says she wants.

“Wildest Dreams” sounds like Lana Del Rey. It’s pretty forgettable on this album and sounds like the old TSwift has been hanging out with Lana a little too long and lost what makes herself  so great. It’s my least favorite song on the album.

“How You Get the Girl” is a breath of fresh air after the last two songs. It’s cute, sounds like it could be from a Disney movie, and feels like the TSwift from “Red” but happier! It’s a simple song about getting a girl, a tried and true formula for her. It’s fun and makes me think about spinning around in my room while getting dressed for a date. Plus, it’s in an adorable new Diet Coke commercial, which makes it even better.

“This Love,” “I Know Places” and “Clean” close out the album and perfectly sum up how she’s changed in the past two years and how her approach to life is different.“This Love” is quiet and unassuming. She’s reminiscing on a relationship that had to be let go so it could breathe and both parties could mature. “These hands had to let it go free / and this love came back to me,” she proclaims in a low, breathless voice, letting us know that her breakup was sad and difficult, but ultimately was for the best.

“I Know Places” is a standout on the album. The song points out how the media focus on her life ruins so many of her relationships and makes it impossible for her to have a normal life. Swift proclaims that “they are the hunters / we are the foxes,” obviously referencing the stalker-like focus the media has on her at all times.

Swift co-wrote “Clean” with Imogen Heap, and it is the perfect closing track for this album. “Clean” ties together the themes of the album—letting love go, moving on and loving yourself—and presents it in a clean little package. Swift makes it obvious that the past two years have been about getting over the heartbreak of her album “Red” and this song sums up how difficult that was. “Ten months sober I must admit / just because you’re clean doesn’t mean you don’t miss it,” she sings, summarizing how difficult it can be to move on from a relationship that doesn’t really feel over.

Now, if you bought the Target deluxe version or downloaded the album illegally, you most likely have heard the bonus tracks, “Wonderland,” “You Are in Love” and “New Romantics.” These are extra songs, so they don’t fit as well with the overall theme of the album, but they are definitely still great. In “Wonderland,” she sings about jumping straight into a relationship, despite what her friends and the media say, a typical subject for Swift.

“You Are in Love” is a beautiful, fragile song about what it means to fall in love. My favorite line in the whole album is in this song: “You understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars / And why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words.” “New Romantics” is fun and full of ’80s synth that just makes you want to dance. I would recommend getting the deluxe version just for these songs.

Overall, “1989” is Taylor Swift’s best record to date. It’s a complete break from her country roots, but it feels carefully planned and constructed (which it was). Swift finds her home here, bringing her impeccable songwriting to well-made beats to make a new, innovative sound. Swift isn’t borrowing styles from the pop greats, she’s making her own and doing it so well. This album is pure pop goodness and I’d recommend anyone who just wants to shake off the haters to check it out (but not on Spotify).

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