By Danny McCarthy, Staff Writer
Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album “1989” on Monday, marking her first official foray into pop music and leaving country music behind. The 24-year-old’s newest album also had a marked difference in its conception, aside from the change in genre. This is — possibly — the first album that doesn’t include a snarky diss to one of her exes.
The album has a different feel to it — vibrating with nostalgic fondness, airy with musical notes that harken back to the decade the album was inspired by — the late ‘80s. There are hints to past relationships — mentions of ghosts and specters — but they aren’t snide or calculated. They seem genuine and sentimental.
The album is missing the distinctive almost name-dropping and country twang, but most of the songs are so good that Swift’s incarnations are forgotten. “Wildest Dreams” calls up a Lana Del Rey-esque heart-thrumming fervor; “Bad Blood” seems cultivated for a slow-stomp club song; “Blank Space” is cheeky and irreverent, a far cry from “You Belong With Me.” And the lead single “Shake It Off” is an anthem for the haters in a similar way to “Mean” but infinitely more “jazz-fingers and grandiose humor.”
“1989”’s classification as pop marks a shift in the career trajectory of Taylor Swift. For the first time, she is not the “hard-working country singer” or the “country gone Hollywood.” She has shed that past and is working in a new direction. The sound is only slightly different — the acoustic guitar ballads have been replaced with resonating bass beats and synth-y string strums — but a pop album has different responsibilities. In a Rolling Stone article, Swift articulated the change. She “won’t be going to country-awards shows or promoting the album on country radio.”
Swift has evolved in the last two years, from the flighty, heady relationships of “Red” and the unrequited loves of “Speak Now” to something reflective of a woman in her mid-twenties. Swift hasn’t been with anyone — no relationships, no dates, no sexy texts — for a year and a half. She moved to New York City — the opening track “Welcome to New York” is a nod to that — and focused on finding close friends instead of boyfriends.
Swift has created an album that is distinctly hers — her voice and diary couplets are instantly recognizable — but her persona has shifted. Gone is the girl who watched from the bleachers; the one whose boyfriend was stolen. “1989” presents a sexy, weird, bold, ambitious, autonomous Taylor Swift, comfortable in her skin and on the way to claiming the pop throne.