Taylor Swift is one of the brightest stars in music today, which begs the question: Who are her biggest influences? Swift has referenced her grandmother, a former opera singer, as being a prevailing force in her writing. Hearing her sing is one of Swift’s earliest musical memories. “I can remember her singing, the thrill of it,” she said, at one point posting a picture of her grandmother on Twitter. The likeness is uncanny. Like many children of the ‘90s, Disney films also played a pivotal role in her musical upbringing. Swift stated she would fill in her own words to memorable Disney compositions, a practice that honed her lyrical abilities. These early memories were essential in forming Swift as a songwriter and performer today, but as she became older more serious influences in the country music arena began to arise.
In regard to her fascination with country music, Swift references the narrative aspects as being important, likely a result of her admiration for both opera and Disney films in her childhood. “I was infatuated with the sound, with the storytelling. I could relate to it,” she said in an interview. “I can’t really tell you why. With me, it was just instinctual.” The interest can also be attributed to her parents; her dad introduced her to Simon & Garfunkel, and her mom named her after James Taylor. And while both those artists specialize in more folk than country, the emphasis on narrative emotions and a similar instrumental repertoire makes her love for country not too surprising.
Country music was on an upswing in the ’90s, explaining why it was so easy for the young Swift to become infatuated with the sound. “I was influenced early on by all of the great female country artists of the ’90s and all of the cool music they were putting out,” she told CMT, namedropping Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks specifically. Twain is one she has referenced several times as her “biggest” influence. “She came out, and she was just so strong and so independent and wrote all her own songs,” Swift told TIME, saying she respects any woman who injects a bold and genuine personality into their songwriting. “That meant so much to me, even as a 10-year-old.” But female country artists aren’t the only type that Swift is infatuated with.
As the title of her breakthrough hit, “Tim McGraw”, may suggest, Swift has a soft spot for the Louisiana native. The track was not an ode to McGraw as a person though, rather focusing on the high school break-up between her and ex-boyfriend Brandon Borello. But instead of taking a conventional path like most love songs, “Tim McGraw” emphasized relationship nostalgia, or certain things that reminded one of an ex-lover. Swift loved McGraw’s music, and was reminded of Borello when hearing it. Even with Borello far from her mind now, you can bet her love for McGraw’s music is still housed deep in her heart, as well as several other male country performers like Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney. She even discovered the music of The White Stripes and Jack White through her brother, Austin. Her influences clearly have no bounds, one reason why audiences find her music consistently stimulating and diverse.
Though her love for country music is the strongest, Swift’s admiration for a variety of musical genres is one reason she appeals to such a broad audience. Her mom loved Def Leppard, and passed that love to her daughter. Swift had the chance to play with them on CMT’s Crossroads, where they swapped songs. “I was singing Def Leppard songs, and they were singing my songs. It was just a complete out-of-body experience,” she said. Although Swift has a multitude of influences and has had famous artists cover her songs, she still seems intent on making her own original albums, as opposed to adding a cover song here or there. She has no opposition to singing them live, though. “I usually try to cycle them [covers] through every couple of months, because if I didn’t write it, it’s easier for me to get tired singing it live.” When you write songs with as many fragmented influences as Swift, it’s easy to see why she prefers her own songs to cover versions of past greats. Her bold songwriting implies her progressiveness, so that self-dependent ideology is hardly surprising.
Not to call Taylor Swift’s wholesome reputation into dispute, but ever since she burst onto the country-pop scene back in 2006, she’s been linked with more celebrity boyfriends than most people have hot dinners. With a list of exes that reads like a who’s who of showbiz, her confessional tales of past relationships have understandably become a huge source of gossip, with each song raked over for clues as to which unfortunate ex she’s spilling the beans about. In the wake of yet another split, this time with One Direction’s Harry Styles, here’s a look at six of her most high-profile victims and the songs they supposedly inspired.
The relationship where it all started, Swift dated the middle Jonas brother for four months back in 2008 but despite his squeaky clean reputation, the former Disney star reportedly ended their brief romance over the phone. Proving that she isn’t a woman to be messed with, Swift then addressed the break-up on “Forever and Always,” a last-minute addition to 2008’s Fearless. But she wasn’t done there. 2010’s Speak Now featured a bitter riposte to the 10,000 BC actress, Camilla Belle, who Jonas allegedly dumped her for (“she’s an actress/but she’s better known for the things she does on the mattress”). Miaow.
Despite only dating for three months, Swift still found enough mileage out of her relationship with her Valentine’s Day co-star Taylor Lautner to write the track, “Back From December.” However, in a rare case of pride-swallowing, Swift actually confesses that she was the one to blame for their split whilst also apologising to the Twilight star for taking him for granted. Lautner can consider himself lucky that he’s possibly the only ex not to be painted as the villain of the piece.
By far her most high-profile boyfriend, Hollywood A-lister Jake Gyllenhaal was the other half of yet another three-month relationship. But unlike Lautner, the Brokeback Mountain star was reportedly less chivalrous, calling quits on their fling via the heartless method of a text. Little wonder then that the Oscar nominee is widely rumoured to be at the centre of Swift’s most venomous and most successful kiss-off, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
Eyebrows were raised when Swift was linked with the renowned womaniser, twelve years her senior, in early 2010. So unlike most of her musical acts of revenge, there was little ambiguity about the target of Speak Now album track “Dear John.” Indeed, it’s fair to say that the soft-rocker doesn’t come off too well on the acoustic ballad as Swift accuses him of constantly betraying her, even if the temptation is to think ‘I told you so.’ She also sticks the knife in on the polite dubstep of Red single “I Knew You Were Trouble,” claiming that she was only ever a new notch in his belt whilst also arguing that he’s incapable of truly loving anyone.
After dating a string of actors and musicians, Swift then decided to change tact by dating Conor Kennedy, the son of politician Bobby and most notably, a high-school student four years her junior. The coming together of political and pop royalty didn’t last long, but once again, she still managed to get a song out of it, although Kennedy can be thankful that Red opener “State Of Grace,” a slice of windswept U2-esque stadium rock about the thrilling ‘life in the fast lane’ nature of their relationship was recorded before she moved onto Harry Styles.
Proof that no-one is safe when it comes to being the subject of a Taylor Swift song, Glee star Cory Monteith never even dated the 21st Century answer to Carly Simon. But a mere cuddle next to a lake was apparently enough for Swift to pen the hit single “Mine” about the infatuation she felt for him and equally her tendency to run from true love. It appears as though Monteith may have had a lucky escape.
Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves look to be top performers of the year if the Country Music Association Award nominations are a decent benchmark.
The pair have a hefty six nominations each, as was announced yesterday. They’re pitted against each other for Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year (Swift’s Red and Musgraves’ Same Trailer Different Park), and Single of the Year (Musgrave’s “Merry Go ‘Round” and Swift’s collaboration with Tim McGraw and Keith Urban, “Highway Don’t Care”). Swift may also leave with her third Entertainer of the Year award, for which she’ll be competing with Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and George Strait (who now holds a record-breaking/setting/smashing 82 CMA nominations. Woah.)
We also expect Musgraves to be pretty peeved if she doesn’t pick up some form of win for the Song of the Year category, since she holds two nominations for her solo song “Merry Go ‘Round”, as well as her writing contributions to Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
The newcomer is also set to fight (to the death, we imagine) with Brett Eldredge, Florida Georgia Line, Kip Moore and Lee Brice for the New Artist of the Year award.
Last year’s Entertainer of the Year winner, Blake Shelton, takes a very respectable second place for five nominations, including Male Vocalist of the Year, and Video and Vocal Event for his single “Boys ‘Round Here” with the Pistol Annies.
Honorable mentions should also go to Keith Urban, who tallied up four nominations, and Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town, who all compiled three each.
The full list of nominees can be found at the CMA’s site and Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley are set to host the whole shebang (for the sixth straight year) on Wednesday November 6th, broadcast live exclusively on ABC.
When I was assembling the title for this article, I had the unenviable task of figuring out which artists to leave out. Country sensation Luke Bryan and Tracy Lawrence drew the short straws. From top to bottom, this was the strongest one day festival bill I’ve ever seen, and that’s not counting all the surprise special guests who magically popped up out of nowhere. All this excitement and we are still on day one of the CMA Music Festival. Wow.
You could call this country music week in Nashville. Last night, the industry came together to celebrate the year that was through one of country music’s biggest nights — the CMT Awards. Over the next four day strech, country’s best and brightest all synch up their schedules to come together in a celebration of the fans. Nashville is just brimming with cowboy hats and rodeo rowdiness this time of year. The CMA Festival dates back to 1972 when it was simply known as Fan Fair. 5000 people attended the original Fan Fair and that populous has swelled to over 250,000 in the decades since.
There was a host of activities to keep the fans occupied this afternoon from a Q&A session with Lady Antebellum to Sara Evans entertaining the crowd in the midday heat. You could say this was the SXSW for the country music community except for the fact that South By seems to loathe the fans while CMA embraces them like a long lost teddy bear.
LP Field, home to the Tennessee Titans, hosted the nightly concert slate. The gates opened at 6:30 with the music of Thomas Rhett on the promenade, welcoming the fans to the party. To underline how ridiculous this line-up is, the Oak Ridge Boys came out on stage at 7:30 to sing the national anthem. That’s it. They were done for the night. The festival organizers had stacked the bands in 30 minute blocks. That’s not 30 minute to perform then another 30 to ready the stage for the next band – 30 minutes total. Again what other festival could convince a marquee artist to sign on for this? “I know you are used to selling out arenas and playing two hour sets, but we’ve only got 30 minutes for you – oh and you’ll be playing in the four spot.” That is the power of CMA.
Tracy Lawrence opened the evening as the sold out crowd found their seats along the Nashville skyline. He said he’d been playing the CMA in some form or fashion for twenty-two years. Lawrence added the history largely absent from the evening’s crop of new generation country artists.
Luke Bryan is a meteor on the rise in the country scene. He’s piling up the awards at breakneck pace and selling out arenas as if his name were Kenny Chesney. It’s easy to see why. He’s got a manic energy on stage, darting around like he just chugged a case of Red Bull. He played tracks like “Drunk on You” and “I Don’t Want This Night to End.” On the later, he even channeled his inner-Taio Cruz with a mashup of “Dynamite.”
The three story video board couldn’t help but stare at his giant gyrating pelvis. It was the type of grind that would have made Elvis proud and the ladies weak in the knees. Giving his love to the ladies seemed the constant cord running through his set as he pulled ten lucky young women onto the stage ready to shower him with lovin’ and for gobs of cell phone photos in return. He may have been the evening’s opener, but Luke Bryan is putting the country world on notice that he’ll be headlining this event soon; very soon.
Ah, country’s favorite sweetheart that shares the dubious distinction of not really being country anymore. Taylor Swift is churning out pop hits like they are rolling off a factory line. She may have gotten her start as a country darling, but the cross over artist has officially crossed. She brought to CMA her catalog of hits from “Mean” and “Red” to “We Are Never (Ever Ever) Getting Back Together” and “Tim Mcgraw.” Did I happen to mention Tim McGraw because one of country music’s modern fixtures just happened to show up to give Taylor the assist on his namesake song. If that weren’t enough to spark excitement in the feverous crowd, Saturday’s headliner Keith Urban showed up to wail away on the guitar alongside Swift and McGraw.
In her sexy short shorts (think tasteful hot, not Britney Spears slutty), Taylor preened like she was posing for a Revlon commercial when she manned the microphone. She dug into the chords when the electric guitar was strapped in and even plucked her way through “Mean” on the banjo. In her live show, Swift wants you to know she is more than just a pretty face and the girl next door on steroids. She is a joy to watch live. She’s cultivated a magnetic stage presence over the years, infusing it with her considerable talent. While I’d never want to be one of her ex-boyfriends, she can sing me to sleep any night.
Eric Church followed Taylor with his Solo cup of Jack Daniels in hand as this sudden beach ball bonanza broke out in the crowd. While the inflated rainbows launched from hand to hand, Church unwrapped tracks like “Smoke a Little Smoke” and “Homeboy.” During one of his swigs of Jack, he mused that sometimes he kicked the drink’s ass and sometimes it kicked his. A song later, as he removed his boot to hold it up during “These Boots,” I wondered if one of those nights that Jack did the kicking, did he drinking from his boot? While Church is a fine performer, I wish he would be a bit more energized on stage. He largely sits transfixed at the microphone, doing the occasional erratic kick or whips out a Rocky fist punch from time to time. For the other end of the spectrum, see Luke Bryan.
Since she followed him on stage, I can’t help but wonder if Eric Church ever made nice with Miranda Lambert after his “reality TV musicians are hacks” comment to Rolling Stone this time last year. I certainly hope so since its sad to think about fractures splitting the country music fraternity.
Fresh off bringing down the house at the Oklahoma tornado benefit concert, Miranda Lambert hit the stage with a rhinestone guitar strap and pink capo. Don’t let that fishing honeymoon fool you into thinking that she isn’t a girly girl through and through. She further reinforced her femininity with black bustier and leather pants.
Lambert played tracks like “All Kinds of Kinds” and “Over You.” She thanked the CMA faithful for making “White Liar” her first number one single and even got a bit nostalgic when she looked out over the crowd saying, “that used to be me in the twelfth row not that long ago.” Hopefully, country music’s next budding sensation took this comment to heart. Anything is possibly in music’s magical city.
It was hard to know if the Zac Brown Band was here to cap off Thursday’s CMA festivities or plug their upcoming Southern Grounds Festival, taking place in Nashville in September. It was mentioned a few times, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt instead of branding them as hucksters.
Zac Brown and company kicked things off with “Chicken Fried.” The crowd squealed in delight at the down home favorite. Zac Brown Band are the adoptive sons of Nashville by way of Atlanta. They continued to thrill the crowd, playing hits like “Keep Me In Mind,” but ultimately their time on stage was overshadowed by those who shared it with them. There had been a not-so-secret rumor spreading around that Zac Brown would have a special guest joining them for their set. About midway through, they called on Kenny Rogers to come out for a duet of the “Gambler.” Rogers sounded great belting out the country classic. As soon as the last note had faded, he shook a few hands and gave his love to the crowd before exiting stage right.
If you thought Zac Brown Band were content to play out the rest of their songs without ensuing fanfare, you would be wrong. They closed the evening with a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” with none other than Kid Rock. That is the great thing about Nashville. Since its such a Mecca for music artists, you can call up any number of stars and just say “hey we’re playing CMA tonight. Want to stop by and play a few?” As long as they aren’t catching up on Game of Thrones, they’ll probably respond by saying, “why not.” Half of me kind of expected John Mayer to be the surprise guest or somebody completely unexpected like Jack White.
Day one of the CMA Fest surpassed expectations in every possible way. I knew the top echelon of country’s fireworks would be on display, but I didn’t know they throw some gasoline on the thing for good measure. The bands truly got the purpose of this event – to give back to the fans who made them the success they have become. Over and over again, you heard these stars thanking the fans for buying the albums, calling the radio stations and coming out to the concerts. This event is for the fans, and it’s a refreshing thing to witness in this fame and fortune driven music industry.
Well we don’t know if anything can top what we saw today, but we are excited to see what CMA has up its sleeve for the remainder of the long weekend. Tomorrow, we bring you Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and much more as the CMA Music Festival marches on. Check in with us all weekend as we report live from Nashville.
Just to prove to any doubters that she is in fact one of the biggest artists in the world, Taylor Swift will play a handful of stadium dates in Australia at the end of this year. If that doesn’t seem like such a big deal to you, consider this: no solo female artist has set out on a stadium tour of Australia since Madonna did so 20 years ago.
The dates will begin at the end of November, with the first show held at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand on November 29. Then she will begin the stadium trek at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney on December 4, followed by the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane (December 7), the NIB Stadium in Perth (December 11) and the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne (December 14). All these dates will continue to support her Red album, which was released late last year.
Frontier Touring Company is promoting the show, and that company’s Michael Gudinski attempts to put the tour in perspective in a statement.
“Swift is a superstar globally and has repeatedly sold out multiple arenas in both Australia and New Zealand,” Gudinski said. “She has proven herself to be one of the most significant female artists of our time and it is a natural progression to see her take her touring to the next level here, with the confirmation that she will play four massive stadium shows across Australia this summer.”
He went on to say that he feels there are only a small handful of artists of either gender from around the world that could pack stadiums in the country. Michael Coppel, of Live Nation in Australia, points out that during Swift’s last tour in the country in March of last year, she sold more tickets than had previously been sold by Beyonce, Katy Perry, Rihanna or Lady Gaga.
Relationships are like a double-sided coin for Taylor Swift. As with anyone who is not currently married, all of Swift’s relationships have resulted in a break-up thus far – inspiring plenty of heartache, but also creativity. There are many talented songwriters who channel tumultuous emotions into effective songwriting, or at least in Taylor Swift’s case – massive hits. Relationships are ripe for the picking in terms of song content, whether it’s about love at first sight or finding out your boyfriend has been cheating on you. After all, Swift’s debut single – “Tim McGraw” – revolved around Swift getting over one of her first boyfriends, who broke up with her when he graduated from high school. That boyfriend in question, Brandon Borello, would be the first of several exes that Swift would go on to write a hit about. This list would end up rangng from no-names like Borello and Drew Hardwick to big stars like John Mayer and One Direction’s Harry Styles.
Swift’s dating habits have drawn comparisons to one of her many exes, John Mayer. Mayer also has a reputation for dating frequently, with high-profile relationships previously with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Katy Perry, Jessica Simpson, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. And like Swift, Mayer is not afraid of culling material from deceased relationships for his songwriting practices. Last year, Mayer released the track “Shadow Days” as a “farewell letter” to Aniston. Shortly afterward, Mayer declared that he would no longer date celebrities. This retreat almost seems to be in reverse order of Swift’s dating style; she started with non-celebs, but has recently been nothing but the rich and/or famous.
Even the non-celebs that Swift dates – like Conor Kennedy – have some ties to the elite (hint: Conor’s last name). Dating in these high-profile circles is sensitive territory for several reasons. Perhaps the most prominent is that, upon a break-up, a celeb-on-celeb relationship tends to result in vicious rumors. When Styles and Swift broke up, there were rumors from Style’s camp that he broke up with Swift because she was not sexually adventurous enough. Now, regardless of whether or not that’s true, is that something anyone would want the tabloids to get a hold of? Of course not. But with dating a celebrity, one must always be aware of PR-minded riffs. It is something that John Mayer should have been aware of several years ago; perhaps it may have helped him elude several relationship spats that compare to Swift’s tumultuous roster of exes.
Just as John Mayer wrote a song for Jennifer Aniston upon breaking up, Taylor Swift penned a song for John Mayer. “Dear John” was the fifth track on Swift’s third studio album, Speak Now. The track’s chorus is an apt summary of Swift’s feelings toward their ill-fated relationship: “Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone / Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?” Mayer didn’t take too kindly to the chorus’ question or the song in general. “I will say as a songwriter that I think it’s kind of cheap songwriting,” Mayer told Rolling Stone. “I didn’t deserve it. I’m pretty good at taking accountability now, and I never did anything to deserve that. It was a really lousy thing for her to do.” While some may feel Mayer has a point, it’s easy to forget how similarly high-profile and seemingly bitter his antics were when he broke up with Jessica Simpson. He referred to Simpson as “sexual napalm” in 2010, and although he apologized several years later it did not come before the release of “Dear John”. To be fair, what Swift did to Mayer at least was rooted in artistic merit. Swift doesn’t exactly go around to the press slandering Harry Styles or Jake Gyllenhaal, who allegedly ended his and Swift’s short relationship via text message. And if she does have something to say about them, it’s done very subtly and via a hit-making song. From both a financial and PR perspective, her wisdom seems beyond that of Mayer, who is over a decade older but quite a bit more immature.
Nashville’s annual CMA Music Festival is known for drawing the top acts in country music each year, and this year looks to be no different as Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood highlight the packed lineup.
This year’s festival will take place June 6-9 in downtown Nashville, with the headlining acts playing at the city’s LP Field, which is otherwise home to the Tennessee Titans.
As if those names weren’t enough, the lineup also includes Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Gary Allen, Kelly Clarkson, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Jake Owen, Zac Brown Band and more.
“We have an amazing lineup of talent for this year’s festival,” said Country Music Association CEO Steve Moore in a statement. “I know our fans will be entertained and enthralled to see our family reunion of the best and brightest performers in the industry.”
The festival first debuted in 1972 and was then known as Fan Fair. It is now one of the biggest country festivals in the U.S., and in 2011 set a record with 65,000 attendees.
The festival also will feature Fan Fair X, where fans can experience autograph signings, concerts, lifestyle exhibits, live broadcasts and a marketplace. The events will be held at Nashville’s new Music City Center, a huge new convention center in the heart of the city.
“The relationship between our artists and the fans is at the very heart of what this event was founded on, and we continue to embrace that legacy with Fan Fair X,” said Moore. “By moving to the Music City Center, we are able to provide more opportunities and activities to enhance this treasured experience for the fans.”
In addition to two stages, the building also will display a gallery of music memorabilia, such as Elvis Presley’s custom 1975 Cadillac Coupe De Ville.
Well, really the reports just say that the two spent “most of the evening” together in a hotel room before the Brit Awards recently. But the Sun quotes an anonymous source saying the two are more than good friends.
“Taylor’s always loved Ed to bits, he’s just an adorably sweet guy who makes her laugh and feel really confident whenever they’re together,” said the source. “Yes, Harry [Styles] had that irresistible bad boy thing, but Taylor’s realized she’d rather give it a go with a guy who makes her laugh. She made it very clear that when they go off on their tour she wants him to be her boyfriend. He’s thrilled because he’s always thought she’s amazing.”
So really, who knows. What we do know is that the two are heading out on a massive North American tour together in less than two weeks. So they’ll likely be spending a good bit of time together whether they want to or not.
The tour kicks off with a two-night stand in Omaha on March 13-14, and Swift will stay on the road through the end of September, when she will play a three-night stint at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
The tour will support her most recent album, Red, which came out last year. Sheeran and Swift duet on the song “Everything Has Changed” from the album, and the two singer-songwriters co-wrote the song together, as well.
Red sold 1.2 million copies during its first week of release, becoming the fastest-selling album in a decade. The record also marked her third consecutive album to spend six weeks at the number one spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Taylor Swift has added additional Toronto, Boston and Los Angeles shows to her already extensive tour as the previously announced concert dates in those three cities sold out almost immediately after going on sale.
The first new show will be in Toronto on June 14, and new Foxborough, Massachusetts date will held be July 26. Foxborough is a suburb of Boston. Finally, two new Los Angeles shows are now scheduled for August 23 and 24, meaning the pop star will perform a total of four dates in the city during “The Red Tour.”
The tour itself will begin with a two-night stand in Omaha March 13-14, and will run through a three-night, hometown Nashville engagement September 19-21. Ed Sheeran has been announced as the special guest throughout the tour. The two co-wrote and performed the song “Everything Has Changed,” which appears on Swift’s new album Red, released last month.
When announcing the tour, Swift talked in a statement about how excited she was for the upcoming tour.
“I didn’t think I could be any more excited about my Red album, but then I started thinking about how I’m going to put the new show together for ‘The Red Tour,’” she said. “I have so many ideas about how to really bring this music to life, and I can’t wait to share the new show with all my fans.”
In other Swift news, she took home the American Music Award last night for Country female artist, and performed the Red song “I Knew You Were Trouble” during the ceremony. After the Los Angeles’ awards show, she reportedly went directly to a video shoot for the same song. There’s no word yet on when the video will be released, but it will be the third video from Red, following “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Begin Again.”
Taylor Swift is a bit anomalous in her ability to come off as charming and intelligent while focusing her creative efforts on types of music more closely associated with people who can neither write, nor sing, nor play an instrument. Genre, though, does not define an artist, and nobody is too cool for straight pop music when the right song comes around, so people like Taylor Swift have a whole lot to prove. If they fail they are forgotten entirely, but if they succeed they stand the chance of shaping an entire generation and defining their era. Yeah, pop music matters.
Her sound has matured somewhat, but that certainly doesn’t mean that she is becoming a more traditional country singer or heading into the graveyard of adult-contemporary. Rather, her pop sensibility has grown and expanded to now allow her greater flexibility in how she plays around with each track and motif, and she does so with great confidence.
“I Knew You Were Trouble” is an example of a great current pop song, because it sounds simultaneously identical to every other song out there right now and totally unique. The dubstep elements on this track come across perfectly, without being too direct or boastful, and the result is a virtual guarantee of a #1 single once the significantly less interesting “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” has run its course.
“State of Grace” creates a dreamlike, melancholy feeling. Its use to open the record seems like a statement, and the track is objectively a cut above her previous attempts, but subtlety in emotional string-pulling does not for long remain a strength of Red, which is a shame.
The bulk of Red’s songs are emotionally deep, but maybe too pandering for some dispositions. For most of the target demographic they will be highly effective, and many songs will hit close to home, but this can also be accomplished with at least a mote of restraint and delicacy to even greater effect and without causing an audible, pretentious scoff from more discerning ears. Lyrics like “So casually cruel in the name of being honest” are strong enough though that those who do relate will make these songs their anthems for the semester.
“22″ is a song about her current age, but she sings as if looking back on her prime years. It’s an age at which most of us are smart enough (we hope) to take care of ourselves, but dumb enough to have fun with it and make all of the mistakes we have yet to experience, and that message is clearly defined in this song through clever, even mocking lines. The fact that she understands this either makes her the most fortunate person to ever be 22, or it means somebody else wrote the song.
There is not much country influence here at all. I mentioned in my review of The Hunger Games OST that Taylor Swift sounds more like Katy Perry with each release, at least to my ear, and I think that’s probably a good thing. On some songs there are hints of Avril Lavine as well, or even Ke$ha, and all of these influences at times stand as tall as her country roots. The steady infusion of greater style and character into the way she sings is what makes Taylor Swift slightly more interesting than her peers, and the difference is becoming less slight.
There are at least as many boring, sappy love and breakup songs here as there are branches outward, and all of those branches are very, very short. One tentative step in six different musical directions may be almost unnoticed on the whole, but it shows the great potential of Taylor Swift to be more than just a pop singer. Her reluctance to really go down these paths should keep a certain type of fan happy and comfortable, but it keeps Red from being the special record that it wants to be.
Release Date: October 22, 2012
Image Courtesy of Big Machine Records