You may or may not have heard, but Taylor Swift released her new album, 1989, yesterday. And it’s amazing.
In mid-August when Swift announced that she would be releasing a new album, she talked about how she was inspired by the '80s pop and “the idea of endless possibility” which she said was “kind of a theme in the last year of my life.” While writing about her life is just business as usual for TSwift, I was a little worried that this album would feature a lot of songs about cats, baking and Lena Dunham. I didn't know if Swift could make her experiences in a fancy New York apartment relatable to her college-age fans.
Instead, Swift produced what some critics have called her best album yet – the New York Observer even called it “perfect sorcery.” While I’m a little offended that she didn’t invite me to any of her secret sessions, there’s no denying that 1989 is Swift at her finest.
One of the (many) reasons this album is so great is that Tay has finally lost the martyr act. She moves away from playing the victim in the upbeat “Shake it Off” and does the same in a more subtle manner in “Blank Space.” Swift satirizes the girl the media has portrayed her as – a clingy, scheming and overall crazy girl who’s always on the hunt for the subject of her next self-pitying breakup song, or, as she puts it, “my next mistake.” She refuses to be a wounded, “crumpled up piece of paper” in 1989 (with the exception of “All You Had to Do Was Stay”). Instead of victimizing herself in the face of her critics, she pushes back.
This points to an overall more mature album. Without losing classic Taylor-isms like hidden messages and the personal-yet-relatable lyrics, she developed her tone into a much more realistic version of her old self. Gone are the kisses in the rain and the “Romeo save me” storylines – now she’s moved onto singing about how “nothing lasts forever” and her realization that, sometimes, people can be jerks for no reason. “Bad Blood” allegedly targets Katy Perry, referencing how some of Swift’s back-up dancers left the Red tour last summer for Katy Perry’s Prism tour. Swift accused Perry of “basically [trying] to sabotage an entire arena tour” in her interview with Rolling Stone. Of course, this more grown-up perspective doesn’t mean Swift has stopped singing about love and relationships – she’s just a little more jaded now.
Another reason 1989 answers all my prayers is that she caters perfectly to her fans. The album is an anthem of being young, which is perfect for the 18-24 year-old audience that drives most of the traffic on her website. Songs like “Out of the Woods,” which focuses on relationship insecurity, and “Welcome to New York” convey the uncertainty and excitement of being in your early twenties (similar to “22” from her 2012's Red). How many Northwestern students have dreamt of moving to a big city to start a career? While some criticized “Welcome to New York” for being painting an excessively idealistic portrait of the city (not all of us can live in penthouses), she sings from the perspective of a young girl moving to a new city on her own for the first time – the time “we first dropped our bags on apartment floors.” When you look at the song through that lens, her bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enthusiasm seems only appropriate.
All in all, Swift really killed it this time around. Let's just hope she keeps making great music, even though she could top the charts with an entire album of white noise.