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Review: 1989 by Taylor Swift

“I WAS BORN IN READING, PENNSYLVANIA ON DECEMBER 13, 1989” Taylor Swift writes in the liner notes of her fourth full length release, 1989, in a rare nod to her hometown of Wyomissing. If you didn’t know (looking at you, Berks freshmen), she was born and raised on a Christmas tree farm in this place we all have learned to love, some easier than others. She moved to Nashville to pursue her music career at such a young age that many assume she was born there. And these days she’s walking the streets of New York as the city’s unofficial ambassador, as she reveals in the 1989’s first track. While listening to “Welcome to New York,” my first thought is: Are these even real instruments? Is that Taylor’s voice under all the autotune? I can’t see how she will perform these computerized tones live without, well, a computer. What a far cry from the acoustic days of “Teardrops on My Guitar.”

Swift’s 1989 album cover

It’s like she pulled a Hannah Montana: her inner country sweetheart didn’t want all the fame, so she pulled on a safe pop disguise. News flash: New York doesn’t want your autotuned face, Taylor. Come back to your country roots in Tennessee (and good ‘ol Pennsyltucky)!

Maybe this seems a bit harsh– don’t get me wrong, 1989 is pure pop genius! But that’s the problem. It’s not Taylor Swift genius. Is she being true to herself? I understand people evolve. Taylor believes it. She wrote in her liner notes, “I KNOW PEOPLE CAN CHANGE BECAUSE IT HAPPENS TO ME LITTLE BY LITTLE EVERY DAY. EVERY DAY I WAKE UP AS SOMEONE SLIGHTLY NEW.” Maybe she woke up one day and became manufactured bubblegum pop?

Swift looking like cookie cutter pop

But then I shift to a song like “Blank Space,” which may possibly be the most brutally honest song she’s ever written. This song makes me understand. I understand her questionable dating history. I understand she doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. I understand she’s young, fun, and reckless. This song is so true to herself that I don’t even care about genre anymore.

I wish I could say that the rest of the songs were just as honest. Besides “Shake It Off,” the lyrics take a fairly generic direction compared to previous albums. We don’t see nearly as many personal references that usually send the gossip mags spinning and even  the liner note clues are lacking. We’re so used to Taylor Swift’s lyrics being so incredibly specific you feel like you’re reading her diary. She’s even called people out by name in her songs! Maybe she’s looking to keep her dating history a little more private this time around.

Polaroids of Swift

She took risks with this album, and I can certainly appreciate that at least. The record sales speak from themselves– 1.2 million copies sold it’s first week, more than any other record’s debut this year. Over a million fans worldwide have heard Taylor’s message loud and clear: This is who I am now. I’m not a country sweetheart. I’m the ultimate pop princess. As for my harsh words? You’ve got to understand, I’ve been a fan of Taylor since “Picture to Burn.” I’ve grown with her as she’s grown with me. It’s like meeting up with your best childhood friend to realize she’s a completely different person. But it’s about time I get over it, because this new Taylor isn’t going anywhere.

Swift when she was more connected to her country roots