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Album Review: Taylor Swift's 'Red' is Experimental and Daring

by Photo of Jennifer Markert

Taylor’s newest album incorporates new and exciting elements while still keeping the country singer’s signature style.

Album Review: Taylor Swift's 'Red' is Experimental and Daring

For the last two years, Taylor Swift has been hard at work on her newest album, Red, the highly anticipated record that was released yesterday to an automatic #1 spot on the iTunes album chart. Red displays Swift's growth as an artist over the last eight years, featuring songs with new influences in genre, taking her out of her safe “country love song” musical zone. Though she sticks to her theme of relationships, new love, breakups, and drama, each song masterfully stands on its own in terms of what it accomplishes musically and emotionally. 

The goal, according to Swift, was for each song to be “its own approach to what that particular emotion sounds like,” calling it “a really, really different record from anything else I've ever done before.” Red proves itself to be exactly what Swift hoped for, and though this kind of change tends to evoke mixed reviews in devout country fans, I think the variation is a sign of maturation on the singer's behalf.

Now I'll admit, when Red's first single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was released, I couldn't help but think the 22 year old was perpetually stuck in a 17-year-old mindset, highlighting the fairly juvenile aspects of what seem like high-school relationships, and the adolescent attitude that goes with them. Though some songs in Red embody this attitude, probably in part due to the younger fan-base of Swift's music, there proves to be a larger range in style and even lyrics than I've seen from her yet. We get to see both new and familiar, and sometimes even surprising sides to Taylor. Surprising enough that my dad might stop saying all of her songs sound the same when she comes on the radio (though probably not.)

I was personally impressed by a good amount of the songs on this album. Here are some more notable songs in Red and what makes them so interesting:

I Knew You Were Trouble

Can anyone say dubstep? Though the song starts normally (another song about heartbreak, with a predictable narrative: the boy is trouble, she should have known, shame on her), musically, there's some very interesting stuff happening. The beat drops mid-chorus, adding a dubstep vibe to the already pop-driven hook. This genre-crossing flair is both bold and catchy, and though definitely risky given her definable country singing voice, works very much in her favor, creating a totally new and experimental array of sound.

22

The most surprising thing abut “22” is that it is not (for the most part) a love song at all, in fact, it may be the only song on Red that doesn't focus explicitly on a relationship. Taylor and I are both 22, so I was very ready to jump up and condemn her, stating “You've got it all wrong! This is not what it's like to be 22 at all!” But I'm going to take a step back. Sure, Taylor's 22 is drastically different from mine – in fact, her 22 feels a lot like my 19, and Ke$ha's at all ages – but she's got a lot right, too. “It's miserable and magical” and “happy free confused and lonely at the same time,” she sings. As confusing as that juxtaposition of words might seem on first listen, I think that's the point. 22 is a confusing and yet really fun age – just old enough to be done with school, yet not old enough to assume complete responsibility. What's more, Taylor totally takes some playful jabs at our generation at the same time as she is celebrating it - singing “it feels like a perfect night to dress up as hipsters” and inserting the dialog: “who is Taylor Swift anyway? Ew.” Well played, Taylor. I'm glad you know and are proud of your mainstream self.

All Too Well

This one sounds a little bit more like the Taylor we're all familiar with. It's actually one of my favorites on the album, and not only because it's almost definitely about Jake Gyllenhaal. It's the lyrics that get me with this one – they are put together with such detail, specificity, and care that you can't help but getting emotionally involved. It was also, according to Taylor, the most difficult to write, though it comes together effortlessly in song. While other songs on the album prove that Taylor has a lot of pop relevancy in terms of writing catchy tunes, “All Too Well” proves she has writing skills and depth that reaches past cliché love into complex emotions such as nostalgia and regret with an effectively personal impact.

Everything Has Changed

One of the most exciting things for Taylor upon album release was waiting to see which songs resonated most with fans, and iTunes song chart proved that this song, a duet with singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, rose to the top at #1. The song itself is refreshing and light, clearly evoking the emotional dizziness of new love, utilizing airy harmony in the chorus with Sheeran that lends the already soft and beautiful song a delightful and melodic sweetness. The raw acoustics and vocals present simple feeling, and the duo's voices blend together in compliment. I'm already a fan of Sheeran (who, hailing from England, is quickly gaining popularity in America), so it was nice to hear him featured. His smooth honest voice was perfect in conjunction with Taylor's. I feel like, just from listening to this song, I know what it feels like to fall in love with Conor Kennedy, Taylor's current boyfriend. 

On a larger scale, though most of Taylor Swift's songs stick to what she knows, subject-wise, Red proves to me that the still young artist has a lot of range and potential to work with different genres to create wholly original music. While some might look at the changes she has made as negative and against her roots, I see it as growth, keeping the spirit of her material the same while expanding the styling in all sorts of directions. 

Here is the full track-list for Red, for both standard and deluxe editions:

Standard Edition

1. State of Grace

2. Red

3. Treacherous

4. I Knew You Were Trouble

5. All Too Well

6. 22

7. I Almost Do

8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

9. Stay Stay Stay

10. The Last Time

11. Holy Ground

12. Sad Beautiful Tragic

13. The Lucky One

14. Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)

15. Starlight

16. Begin Again

Deluxe Edition:

1. The Moment I Knew

2. Come Back Be There

3. Girl At Home

4. Treacherous (Original Demo)

5. Red (Original Demo)

6. State of Grace (Acoustic Version)

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