Taylor Swift takes on pop and comes out on top

TAYLOR Swift’s new album, 1989, is here and it’s bursting with bombastic colour and electric love and flickering shadows.

For years now, Swift has been recognized as a master of clever songwriting and catchy hooks, and especially of distilling emotions into precise and dazzling images, but with her first full-on pop album, she seizes the chance to try a different kind of songwriting.

tswiftReleased into the pop genre, she takes charge, writing songs that are quippy and barbed just as much as they are wide-eyed and sexually-charged. Never is this more clear than in ‘Blank Space,’ a song in which she parodies the serial-dater, man-eater starlet the press has often made her out to be. And owns it. This tough, steely core to the lyrics and to Taylor’s voice ensure that you know she is bigger and better than ever before, and it’s such a joy to hear it left me cackling as I listened through the album for the first time.

The album as a whole is heavily influenced by the vibrancy of late 80’s pop, so prepare yourself for synthesizers, but Taylor also experiments with a variety of sounds that echo Lorde (the sparse sound of ‘Blank Space’), Lana del Ray (the dreamy melancholy of ‘Wildest Dreams’), and even ‘Girlfriend’-era Avril Lavigne (see the bridge in ‘Shake it Off’). That said, it never feels like Taylor is leaning on these styles, but rather, in command and so excited to see just how far she can expand. (The answer: keep going, Tay. You haven’t reached your limits yet.) The album is both more sonically cohesive and more inventive than anything she’s released before, and it is a delight just to hear what she does with each song.

Where the songs often excel at capturing specific feelings (anxiety in ‘Out of the Woods’, her collaboration with Fun.’s Jack Antonoff; and a dark thrill in ‘I Know Places’), their lyrics are also extremely pared back and often very repetitive. The album could do with a few more of those scintillating details at which Taylor excels, but it’s catchy enough that I almost don’t care.

Still unsure where to start? For when you’re feeling Young-and-Alive-and-Also-Kind-of-Bored and all around very millennial, listen to ‘New Romantics’ (this song is only available on the deluxe edition of the album, so make sure you don’t miss it—it’s magic). For when you just want to be reborn and take a cleansing walk in the rain, her track with Imogen Heap, ‘Clean’ is all you need. On repeat. For an hour. ‘I Know Places’ for when you’re feeling a broody sense of doom and overpowering adrenaline rush to escape. ‘This Love’ for staring out at the sea and feeling feelings. Also you’re going to need ‘Style.’ Don’t even question it, just listen.

All in all, the album is best listened to outside in the half-dark, dancing wildly by yourself, or anywhere you can shout the words at passing cars… or maybe out of one. It’s about to be the biggest pop album of the year, so get on it now before it becomes so overplayed that you don’t even give it a chance (although I’ve been listening to it for four straight days now and I’m still loving it). As Taylor herself sings in the ‘Welcome to New York,’ the opening track, “It’s a new soundtrack/I could dance to this beat forevermore.” I have a feeling we will indeed be dancing to 1989, if not (in Taylor’s adorably old-school wording) forevermore, at least for a very long time.