Album review: Taylor Swift, 1989

Taylor Swift 1989

Music/culture websites had a field day on Friday when Taylor Swift’s fifth album, 1989, leaked, three days before its official release date. The only thing that’s surprising about that, in 2014, is that it only leaked three days before it was due out.

iTunes Top 10Many posted links and reviews to the leaked album and the reactions have been generally favourable. On Monday night, Swift sat at No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 positions on the iTunes chart, with Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” at No. 5, the only song not off 1989 in the Top 13. The album’s deluxe and regular editions are in the No. 1 and 2 spots on the albums chart.

Swift has innate likability. On her latest appearance on Ellen, she spoke about inviting 89 fans to each of her five houses (four in the United States, one in London) for an album listening party. It didn’t come off braggadocious, or cocky, or insincere, or rude. I hope the success of 1989 (and it will be a huge hit) allows her to buy sixth, seventh and eighth houses!

Pop goes Taylor

1989 is the first Taylor Swift album Taylor Swift is referring to as officially pop. But let’s be real: She’s been dabbling in pop since 2008’s Fearless, with “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story,” and Red was barely country to begin with. My theory is that she’s referring to 1989 as full pop because she doesn’t want to get invited to the CMAs any more.

Pop sounds good on Swift (it has for some time), but 1989 is her most radio-ready album, which could very well produce half a dozen No. 1s. The album’s breezy and an easy listen – there are three-ish ballads, with most songs in the mid-tempo range – and even darker subject matters like breakups, jerk exes, become anthems that dare you not to sing along, like “Bad Blood,” on which Swift quips “Now we got bad blood / You know we used to be mad love” and later “Now we got problems / And I don’t think we can solve ’em.” It’s fun, and she’s having fun throughout 1989, and it’s mostly infectious. Some of the songwriting, especially when compared to the emotional, rousing Red, is a bit too simple on 1989. She’s not really telling stories any more, but the songs are catchy as hell, and there are some memorable one-liners (off “Blank Space:” “Oh, my God, look at face / You look like my next mistake” and “I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”). But there’ll be no teardrops on your keyboard, dashboard, steering wheel, bed, or wherever else you’ll listen to 1989.

Where 1989 ranks in the Taylor Swift discography 

It’s a great pop album, but Swift’s released better collections. For my money, Red and Fearless are irreproachable, and it pains me (a bit) to rank Speak Now last, since it’s the reason we’re all blessed with “Dear John” and “Mean.”

The songs from 1989, ranked

13. Clean

12. This Love

11. How You Get the Girl

10. Welcome to New York

9. I Wish You Would

8. I Know Places

7. Blank Space

6. Out of the Woods

5. Shake It Off

4. All You Had To Do Was Stay

3. Wildest Dreams

2. Style

1. Bad Blood: Blast-in-your-car, sing-along kind of fun. This is also the angriest Swift gets on the album.

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