Taylor Swift should probably leave the pop music of the ’80s to Madonna, Paula Abdul and Michael Jackson.
Although Swift’s new album, “1989,” is peppy and cheerful, it is a far fall from her four previous studio albums. In her new album, Swift has exchanged her cowboy boots and country roots for a synthesized pop sound. Her lyrics are repetitive and boring, while the electronic music gets old quickly.
Featured on the album is Swift’s hit single “Shake It Off,” which set Swift fans up for false expectations, as the rest of her songs lack the same vivacity and fun that “Shake It Off” has.
Widely different from “Shake It Off” is “Welcome to New York,” which opens the album with a repetitive, electronic ’80s-inspired beat. But the song soon loses any interesting features, as the lyrics are almost entirely the chorus, which Swift sings over and over again. Swift fails to capture the excitement and diversity of the Big Apple.
“Welcome to New York/ It’s been waiting for you/ Welcome to New York/ Welcome to New York,” Swift sings.
Then there is “Blank Space.” For a split second, Swift sounds like her old country self, before she reverts back to a fake ’80s-sounding electronic synthesized beat. The electronics of the song hide the soft voice that makes Swift memorable. Again Swift sings about love and hate, but so far there seems to be no reference to her own personal love life, unlike in her self-titled album, “Taylor Swift.”
“I get drunk on jealousy/ But you’ll come back each time you leave/ ‘Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream,” Swift sings.
Swift switches up the pace of the album in “Out of the Woods,” successfully capturing her pop vibe. Although again synthesized, a male voice in the background singing “oh oh oh” provides a nice contrast to Swift’s sweet voice. The fast-paced beat of the drums and echoes of Swift’s voice create a feeling of running through a forest, creating panic and eventual relief.
Unfortunately, the chorus of “Out of the Woods” is uncreative, since she just sings the song title repetitively, but otherwise Swift’s lyrics bring her into a new dimension of lyricism. Swift sings about monsters in the trees, and even references the month of December, which may even be an allusion to her song, “Back to December” from her album “Speak Now.”
“Last December, we were built to fall apart/ Then fall back together,” Swift sings.
In “Wonderland,” a bonus track, Swift creates a pseudo-rap as she talks quickly before beginning to sing. It seems as though this album is about being lost in the false allusions of a relationship, and “Wonderland” embraces that with references to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” It becomes easy to picture the heartbroken Swift dressed as Alice.
“Didn’t you calm my fears with the Cheshire Cat smile?/ Didn’t it all seem new and exciting?/ I felt your arms twisting around me/ It’s all fun and games, till somebody loses his mind,” Swift sings.
Swift creates a rebellious, grunge and rave-like theme in the catchy and upbeat bonus track “New Romantics.” Perhaps this is Swift’s attempt to update her 2008 hit, “Love Story,” with a reference to scarlet letters, castles and romance.
Instead of “I was a scarlet letter” in “Love Story,” Swift sings “We show off our different scarlet letters/ Trust me mine is better” in “New Romantics.”
“New Romantics” stays true to its title, as Swift breaks away from the classic “Romeo and Juliet” trope for a more modern relationship full of freedom and heartbreak. “New Romantics” marks Swift’s shift away from country pop in her complete transition to pop.
“We cry tears of mascara in the bathroom/ Honey, life is just a classroom,” Swift sings.
Swift’s new album is upbeat and catchy and makes even difficult situations sound cheerful. “1989” doesn’t reference any past relationships, but rather suggests that women don’t need men, unlike her past tracks such as “Speak Now” or “Red.”
However, the repetitive lyrics and her attempt to throw it back to the ’80s with electronic synthesized beats draw from Swift’s pop transformation. Although different than anything she has done before, “1989” is less memorable than Swift’s country pop albums.
– Alicia Sontag