The new voice of Taylor Swift
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“1989,” Taylor Swift’s new album is about her experimentation with new sonic approaches. It’s about Swift finding a new voice.
Moving from Nashville to New York City, Swift has officially shed every last country gene she has. Her transition from teen star to young adult powerhouse has been mostly a musical one. Moving from country-based balladry to more complex, electronically oriented productions, Swift shows an eagerness to challenge herself.
As a singer, Swift has always been limited-- and often criticized-- for her wobbly pitch and tight, nasally delivery. But her gift for inflection, such as the subtle adjustment of words and phrases to suggest moods like anger, excitement, and hope, make her songs feel personal and relatable.
Swift has a captivating ability to take her listeners on a journey through her memories with lyrics that sound like she’s saying just what comes to mind. She uses her voice like a bullet, rattling off syllables and landing lines like “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
Though her strengths have never been in virtuosic sweeps across her range, she excels in hard, clipped diction, which fits the new wave of synthpop where she now sets her dramas.
The melodies on “1989” come fast, hard, and heavy against the hip-hop beats and bulging ’80s bass lines. These are the tightest turns Swift has ever cut, and they allow her to slice out her words with real anger, not just passive regret.
“The kinda wounds, they last and they last,” she sings through gritted teeth on “Bad Blood”.
Swift in an interview with Fusion compares “Red” to “1989” saying, “‘Red’ was a very devastated record. It was about dealing with a break-up. ‘1989’ is about the phase after that where you brush yourself off and you’re ok, and you write about what your life was like then.”
In “Clean,” Swift sings about the lover she’s quickly forgetting. It’s all her; no city lights or pretty boys to be found. The song exudes a strength that she has found not in her romances, but in her friends. She sings, “I punched a hole in the roof/ Let the flood carry away all my pictures of you … I think I am finally clean.”
Elsewhere on the album, Swift reels over past mistakes, scouts out new ones, and tries to figure out whether she’s caught in a love that’s about to go south or one that could last for life. “Out of the Woods” tells a story about a woman telling herself a story, not believing it, throwing it away, and coming back.
This is the very essence of Taylor Swift and her love affair with creating. Her creativity throughout the album is worthy of credit and praise.