Media Review: Taylor Swift’s “1989”

It’s been a while since I thought of Taylor Swift as a country artist. But if I’d had any doubt, “1989” would have erased it.

The first song, “Welcome To New York,” quickly establishes the tone of the album. There’s a synthesizer, but there are also plenty of lyrical references to the changes in Swift’s life and music: “Everybody here wanted something more/Searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before.”

If you bought the album expecting country Taylor Swift, you’d realize within 45 seconds that you weren’t going to hear that.

The track is lyrically weak at times — “Welcome to New York/It’s been waiting for you” sounds like a rejected slogan for the city — but on my first listen that took a backseat to how different it was compared even to “Red,” Swift’s previous album and her furthest foray into pop at that point.

“Welcome To New York” also includes what I can only assume is a quick pro-LGBT line: “You can want who you want/Boys and boys and girls and girls.” Yes, that’s an idea much more at home in pop than in country.

The album’s first single, “Shake It Off” is ridiculously catchy — that alone would be enough for me, and probably many others. I’m not ashamed of loving some catchy, substanceless pop songs.

But “Shake It Off” isn’t substanceless. It’s Swift directly addressing critics of her personal life.

She knows what they think of her: “I go on too many dates/But I can’t make them stay/At least that’s what people say.”

And she doesn’t care what people are saying.

Swift also references her critics in “Blank Space”: “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane.”

Swift’s dating life has been the butt of enough jokes that it’s nice to see her acknowledge the negative remarks and completely not care.

“Out of the Woods” strongly reminded me of The Lion King. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, so I took to Googling – it turns out a mash-up of “Out of the Woods” and “Circle of Life” exists. Do yourself a favor and listen to it.

When I wasn’t focusing on how Swift’s song resembles “Circle of Life,” I realized it’s about that uncertain feeling of not knowing if a relationship has gotten back on track and will be okay.

So far “Welcome To New York,” “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off” and “Out of the Woods” are the standouts, but I tend to love an album’s popular songs first and grow to love the rest just as much. None of “1989”’s songs were disappointments, and I assume with every listen I’ll enjoy them more. And I have no doubts that Swift’s move toward pop was a good one.