Thursday, November 1, 2012

Red | Taylor Swift

Rating: ★★★★☆

I wrote a review last month when Taylor Swift dropped "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," and since then, my anticipation has been building for Red.

When details about the album started spilling out, one massive detail caught my eye right away: the name Max Martin. Max Martin has created some of the world's most iconic songs, and is the writer behind many of the songs of Britney Spears, the and Backstreet Boys. He has collaborated with many of today's popular artists such as P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Avril Lavigne. And now, he has helped Swift with Red.

Please note, I said the he helped Taylor Swift write and produce Red. Some people have been under the impression that Swift had given up with the songwriting process of her music, and let people like Martin and Shellback take over. Luckily, although Swift has shifted to writing with new personnel, each song has still had input from Swift. One thing I really appreciate is when an artist's name also appears in the credits for actually writing the songs. When an artist sits back and lets other people write their material for them, it just seems extremely lazy to me. Many basic bitches of today's music industry, (for example, Rihanna and the aforementioned Britney Spears), simply lend their voice to a song. They have no emotional connection to the work, and they're literally there for the money.

Many people also said that with Red, Taylor Swift has started to "sell out". In my mind, "selling out" is singing songs that don't have any meaning to the singer and just doing something for money. Swift is definitely not pursing her musical career for money, nor is she singing songs written solely by other people. So to all of the people saying that Taylor Swift has "sold out" and isn't talented, once the name Robyn Fenty starts showing up in songwriting credits, you all can come talk to me about Taylor Swift and her songwriting abilities and production team.

Going onto the actual album, Swift has really tried to experiment with her status as a country-crossover artist, and Red pushed a few more boundaries than I expected. In fact, a few of the boundaries Red played with have been sitting untouched since Shania Twain's Come on Over and Up!. In many different ways, Swift is easily taking the place as today's Twain, and is clearly living up to the title.

Even after listening to the entire album, my favorite song on the album is still "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." As noted at the beginning of this review, I loved it to the point that I wrote a review of the song it when it was released as a single, which you can read here. If you don't want to read that entire review, I'll paraphrase it in the next paragraph.

In "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," the lyrics and the meaning were what surprised me, not the song's style. For once, we see a Swift that isn't playing the heartbroken victim or love-struck teenage girl in high school. In the song, Swift is actually the one who is doing the heartbreaking, which is why I think I like the song so much.

Actually, this change in lyrical meaning is shown throughout the entirety of Red. Most of the songs on Swift's previous albums detail the blossoming of a relationship, having a major crush on someone, or being devastated after a break up. Many of Red's songs are vengeful, and it's almost like Taylor Swift has finally graduated high school and has stopped feeling the giant urge to be loved by someone constantly. Red shows a giant change in attitude towards love since Swift's self-entitled record that was released six years ago.

Moving on, "I Knew You Were Trouble" is definitely another one of the best tracks on the album. The song is the farthest that Swift travels from her native country music on the album. I absolutely love the dubstep bass drop in the chorus, and the overall style of the song. The guitars and drums in the verses of the song contradict the dubstep-esque chorus, which threw me off a bit, but overall the song flowed nicely. I would also like to note that Swift's voice blends just as well with dubstep beats as it does with a simple guitar.

Many longtime fans of Swift are actually listeners of country music rather than pop music. Due to this fact, I can tell that "Begin Again" was lifted from the album as a single simply to regain the eye of country music fans, many of which had revolted against "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." The song is a nice slower song,  and it does end the album well, but it isn't the appropriate material to be a single.

Another slower song on the album is a typical crossover song called "Treacherous," and it is one of my favorites from the album. The repeated bridge of the song is the most likable part of the song, where the instruments because heavier and the vocals become stronger. Overall, it's just an amazing song.

For the most part, I did enjoy Red, but I do wish that more songs like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" made their way onto the album. I find myself always skipping over a lot of the songs just to listen to the album's pop songs, and as much as I do like a good old Taylor Swift country song, I like Swift's pop songs a lot more. Sadly, Red only has a few majorly-experimental pop songs, while the rest of the songs on the album play it safe as typical crossover songs. I want to stress, those crossover songs aren't bad, but just weren't what I was expected after hearing the album's lead single. All of this aside, Red was a solid attempt from Swift, and is the best Swift record to date.

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