By Rikki Schneiderman
As you start to read this, think about someone you know who dislikes Taylor Swift. Don’t count yourself, obviously, if you fit into that category. Takes a second to think of someone, alright? Let’s be honest, though. It’s a whole lot easier to think of someone who loves Taylor Swift.
Now multiply the number of people you know who love Taylor Swift by several tens of millions, and you have the pillar of Swift’s monumental success. With over 20 million album sales, 50 million song downloads and six Grammy awards under her belt, Taylor Swift is one of the few smash superstars keeping the music industry afloat with her impressive sales. Her immense fan base is drawn in around her lyrics chronicling teenage love, blues and every note in between. The foundation of her success lies in her uncanny ability to relate to adolescent girls, playing the role as country’s girl-next-door for nearly six years. Her eponymous debut album broke onto the scene when she was just fourteen and Swift celebrates her twenty-third birthday in December.
While Swift hasn’t stopped writing lovelorn songs about boys, dizzyingly sweet songs about boys, heartbroken songs about boys, or angry acoustic-guitar-weilding songs about boys (notice a trend?), she’s decided to grow as an artist by extending herself into new genres.
On her newest album, Red, Swift sometimes ditches her country roots completely, like on the LP’s lead single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Oozing in bubblegum, this track opens with a misleading acoustic guitar twang before delving into an R&B-toned percussion beat, accompanying Swift’s nearly-rapped verses and obnoxiously high-pitched chorus, complete with a squealing “whee!”
What’s worse is that “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” isn’t even the farthest stretch from country. Nothing on the record is farther from classic Swift as “I Knew You Were Trouble,” another mistake for a single. Again, Swift plays up the acoustic guitar, as if trying to mask the deliberately dance-pop rhythm of the song. The most cringe-worthy moment (besides the opening verse, which is comprised of maybe fifteen extremely drawn out words) follows the chorus, where the words collapse into an Auto-tuned heap of disfigured Swift vocals and dubstep.
Yeah — dubstep.
Despite these and a couple of other mishaps, Red shines brightly at other points. Both “The Last Time,” a haunting duet with Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody, and the Ed Sheeran-assisted “Everything Has Changed” are two standout tracks. “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” echoing Swift’s reigning power ballad “Back to December,” best showcases Swift’s talent for vocal acrobatics.
And rightfully so, because at moments during Red, listeners might forget that Taylor can actually sing. However, when one listens to the title track, the classic Taylor Swift sound fans know and love shines through.
Some final words of advice to Taylor: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.