Red (Album Review) – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, is her most eclectic offering so far. As she puts it, it is made up of 16 songs that contain emotions in shades of fiery red. Nothing is beige about them. And that’s why she named her album Red. I wish I could say the same about the contents.

The two opening tracks “State of Grace” and “Red” are at odds musically and serve as a template for the album. The former is a U2 and Coldplay-inspired alternative track while the latter is a mix between country and pop, with reverb on the chorus: “r-r-r-red.”

She is her most sultry on “Treacherous,” where she whispers “And I’d do anything you say if you say it with your hands.”

I Knew You Were Trouble.” is a bonafide pop track, down to the dubstep beat dropping, before introducing the best song on the album.

All Too Well,” co-written with Liz Rose, is Taylor Swift in her element: writing a great country strong with brilliant lyrics. It is where she excels without it sounding unlike her to deliver such a thing. She reminisces about a love she lost, about the magic that’s not there anymore and about being there, remembering every moment of it all too well.

22” is definitely one of the most disappointing songs on the album. Instead of being an introspective song, à la Fearless’ Fifteen, it is a track for a girls’ night out to dance like you’re 22. It is definitely a missed opportunity about a coming of age reflection that would have sounded very in place after “All Too Well.” Sure, she is 22 – I am 22 too – but the song could have easily been called “12” and it wouldn’t have made any difference. Similarly, “Stay Stay Stay” is another song that shouldn’t have been on the album. It is an odd attempt at incorporating way too many country elements in a song with very poor lyrics. If Taylor Swift had written forty songs for the album and chose sixteen, I have to wonder: couldn’t she have found something much better than this to include it on the album?

I Almost Do” is another of the album’s highlights – a very Colbie Caillat sounding song where Taylor wants to tell him “that it takes everything in me not to call you. And I wishes I could run to you. And every time I don’t, I almost do.”

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the catchy lead single is already a huge hit on pop radio and despite the step back thematically compared to the song before it, it serves its purpose well: provide a song that would be a success on the airwaves in order to stay forever in the face of the man who berated Swift with his “indie records that’s so much cooler than [hers]”.

The Last Time,” a duet with Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody features a dark and haunting melody. “Holy Ground,” produced by Jeff Bhasker who has done songs for Fun. and Alicia Keys, is another new sound for Swift with a very fast driving drumbeat and guitar.

On “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” Swift exposes her songwriting chops yet again as she paints a setting where the protagonist is waiting for a train that’s taking her away from the sad beautiful tragic relationship she was in. “The Lucky One” is about dealing with fame, while “Everything Has Changed,” a duet with British artist Ed Sheeran, is a guitar, acoustic-driven ballad where both artists throw notes off of each other as they sing about the changes due to a growing love.

Starlight” pays homage to the Kennedy’s by telling a love story set in 1945 but with a very current musical backdrop. “Begin Again” is the song’s second single on country radio after We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together failed to gain traction and became Swift’s first single on the format to miss the top 10 entirely. It serves as a great conclusion to the album where Swift, despite all the hardships that love has thrown at her, is always eager to begin again. “But on a Wednesday, in a cafe, I watched it begin again.”

As you listen to Red, you can’t help but feel that, with the exception of a few songs, it is a definite missed opportunity for Swift at evolving in the right direction musically. The music she does best is not the pop “22” or “I Knew You Were Trouble.” but the ballads and the country stories which she writes so eloquently. Her songwriting on her country songs is what you might call “the impossible easy.” She makes her songs sound very approachable and simple but no one can write them the way she does. And that is her forte – not a song on a bridge where she fakes a phonecall with a girlfriend.

You also cannot but wonder while listening to Red if Swift seeks out the men she writes about solely for the purpose of coming up with album material. On the horrid track “22,” she sings: “You look like trouble. I gotta have you.” And it’s precisely what has fueled most of the songs on this album – her seeking out danger in men that she knows will break her. But does she do that on purpose or has she not learned yet from the previous three albums she offered that she has to have her guard up more often?

I guess when the formula works, why change it? Swift is the storyteller of so many teenagers who can relate to what she does and her record-selling singles off of Red so far prove so. But as she grows up, shouldn’t her music also grow with her? That is the main question posed with Red, an album that shows a regression thematically compared to Speak Now on many of its tracks, albeit it going more into more mature realms with others (Treacherous, All Too Well, I Almost Do). While Red boasts a handful of strong tracks, it is not the coherent album that her previous offerings were. It’s not a collection of all standout tracks that are the creme of the creme of what Swift came up with during the album cycle.

However, what can be said about Swift is that she is in her own element – a genre where she alone thrives. Taylor Swift fans who happen to like country music won’t have a problem with this album. Country fans who happen to listen to Swift may have a problem taking in the dubstep, the reverb, the alternative. Is she risking alienating some fans with this? Perhaps so. But she is trying something new. And I hope her experimentation is limited to this album only because what she needs to know is that her best is when she goes back to basics, sits down with a pen and a paper and writes down her thoughts into beautiful prose that put down her memories forever out there, as is evident by this album’s best songs: the gut-wrenching country ballads that could tug at the heartstrings of the most insensitive people out there. But she seems too busy chasing success nowadays with shaming guys who may have done very little wrong. She may be compromising her artistic integrity with some songs. But one thing is sure: we will never ever – like ever – hear their side of the story.

On the track “22,” Swift mumbles in the background: “Who’s that Taylor Swift anyway?.” That’s precisely the question many will be asking after Red.

B. Out October 22nd.

Download: All Too Well, I Always Do, Red, Begin Again.   

 

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State of Grace (Lyrics) – Taylor Swift

These are the lyrics of the final countdown single by Taylor Swift before the release of her new album, Red, next week. State of Grace is an alternative song about, yes you guessed it, falling in love.

I’m walking fast through the traffic lights
Busy streets and busy lives
And all we know is touch and go
We are alone with our changing minds
We fall in love till it hurts or bleeds or fades in time 

And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same

You come around and the armor falls
Pierce the room like a cannonball
Now all we know... is don't let go
We are alone just you and me
Up in your room, and our slates are clean 
Just twin fire signs, four blue eyes
So you were never a saint
And I’ve loved in shades of wrong
We learn to live with the pain
Mosaic broken hearts
But this love is brave and wild

And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same

This is a state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game
Unless you play it good and right
These are the hands of fate
You're my Achilles heel
This is the golden age of something good and right and real

And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same
And I never saw you coming
And I’ll never be the same

This is a state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game
Unless you play it good and right

Red (Lyrics) – Taylor Swift

These are the lyrics for the second song in Taylor Swift’s iTunes countdown to her album, Red, the title track: Red. I find these very creative.

Loving him is like driving in a new Maserati down a dead-end street,

Faster than the wind, passionate as sin, ending so suddenly,

Loving him is like trying to change your mind once you’ve already flying through the free-fall,

Like the colors in Autumn, so bright just before they lose it all,

 

Losing him was blue like I’d known,

Missing him was dark grey, all alone,

Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’d never met,

But loving him was red.

 

Touching him was like realizing all you ever wanted was right there in front of you,

Memorizing him was as easy as knowing all the words to your old favorite song,

Fighting with him was like trying to solve a crossword and realizing there’s no right answer,

Regretting him was like wishing you never found out that love could be that strong,

 

Losing him was blue like I’d known,

Missing him was dark grey, all alone,

Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’d never met,

But loving him was red,

Oh, red… burning red.

 

Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes

Tell myself this time I gotta let go

But moving on from him is impossible 

And I should see it all in my head

Burning red 

 

Loving him was red

Losing him was blue like I’d known

Missing him was dark grey, all alone

Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’d never met

Cause loving him was red, yeah red

Burning red

 

And that’s why he’s spinning round my head

Comes back to me burning red

This love is like driving in a new Maserati down a dead-end street

Begin Again – Taylor Swift [Single Review]

As a follow up to her pop release, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (my review), a song that underperformed on country radio, Taylor Swift is back to cater to her core audience with a bonafide country release in the form of Begin Again, a single about that first date you go on after a bad breakup as you watch love “begin again.”

The song boasts an acoustic, mellow but engaging melody. It is a country song that is story driven and lyrically great. Taylor Swift is back with Begin Again to do what she does best: conjure up great lyrics and a catchy melody. Begin Again is the song that her country audience wished she had released to introduce her new project: Red.

The song starts with the character standing in front of her mirror, getting ready for that date, and comparing what she’s doing with what her ex would have thought. Wearing heels, listening to a song were all things he frowned upon even though she liked doing them.

“Took a deep breath in the mirror. He didn’t like it when I wore high heels, but I do. Turned the lock and put my headphones on. He always said he didn’t get this song but I do, I do.”

As she goes to the cafe, she’s surprised that her date is already waiting for there. And as he does those little gestures of pulling the chair for her or waving at her, she slowly sinks into him during the chorus as he laughs at her jokes, her ex never thinking she’s funny and how she’s finally seeing something begin again.

“And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid. I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did. I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end. But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again.”

The second verse holds no reference to her ex again, interestingly, to show that whatever’s starting across that table in the cafe is helping her get over him. The talk is about the music that her ex may not approve of and her guard starts coming down.

“You said you never met one girl who has as many James Taylor records as you. But I do. We tell stories and you don’t know why I’m coming off a little shy. But I do”

And they continue knowing each other with Christmas tradition discussions at the song’s bridge, which sounds rather chunky compared to the previously smooth lyrics.

“And we walk down the block to my car and I almost brought him up. But you start to talk about the movies that your family watches every single Christmas. And I wanna talk about that. For the first time, what’s past is past.”

The song overall is Taylor Swift in her element. She sounds much more comfortable singing this than she does on “Never Ever.” Her vocal delivery of the song is quite interesting as well and suits her vocal range. Begin Again may not be ground breaking like some of her other offerings but it a song that is excellent in itself and good enough to bring her back to country radio.

Begin Again shows maturity in the way Taylor Swift can craft her sentences. It’s no longer the teenage love she inundated airwaves with but a rather more grown up approach that would resonate with anyone of any age who is getting over an abusive relationship. It also forebodes what will be an eclectic album. But more of this and less of Never Ever, please.

8/10

Begin Again (Lyrics) – Taylor Swift

As part of the promotion leading up to the release of her new album RED, Taylor Swift will be releasing a new song weekly to iTunes. This is the first of them and it’s called “Begin Again.”

It’s about the first date you go to after a messy break up.

Took a deep breath in the mirror
He didn’t like it when I wore high heels, but I do
Turned the lock and put my headphones on
He always said he didn’t get this song but I do, I do

Walked in expecting you’d be late
But you got here early
And you stand and wave
And I walk to you
You pulled my chair out and helped me
And you don’t know how nice that is
But I do

And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does
Is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again

You said you never met one girl
Who has as many James Taylor records as you
But I do
We tell stories and you don’t know why I’m coming off a little shy
But I do

But you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does
Is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again

And we walk down the block to my car
And I almost brought him up
But you start to talk about the movies
That your family watches every single Christmas
And I wanna talk about that
For the first time, what’s past is past

‘Cause you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny ‘cause he never did
I’ve been spending the last 8 months thinking all love ever does
Is break and burn and end
Then on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again
Then on a Wednesday in a cafe I watched it begin again

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift [Single Review]

Welcome back the mega-successful Taylor Swift and her catchy tunes and lyrics.

That Taylor Swift was also 18.

If you expect some more maturity with Taylor Swift’s newest offering, you are vastly mistaken. If you expect a darker tone, such as her Hunger Games offerings (Safe & Sound, Eyes Open), you are immensely mistaken as well.

If you expect some country too, then you’re way off the mark. If you’re expecting some deep lyrics, you’re in the wrong place. Taylor Swift’s new single is about yet another relationship gone sour and it’s custom-made for the leagues of teenagers who will swallow the song up with its catchy chorus and radio-friendly status.

Simply put, there’s no way the song won’t get stuck in people’s heads, à la Call Me Maybe.

Going straight to the point with an overly long title, there’s no room for second-guessing and analysis on the song. Taylor is telling one of the many, many guys she has dated that they are, well, never – ever – getting back together. I have to ask though – why would anyone date her if they know they’d end up in song? Or is it because they know they’ll be immortalized in song that they date her?

But I digress.

“We are never ever ever getting back together,” she sings on the chorus. As if the title wasn’t evident enough. To the backdrop of “Woo-oh-oh,” she sings “You go talk to your friends, talk to my friends, talk to me. But we are never ever ever ever getting back together.”

Yes, those “ever”s are very numerous.

At the song’s bridge, she goes into typical teenage girl phone talk: “Then he calls me up and he’s like “I still love you,” and I’m like this is exhausting, we are never getting back together – like ever.”

No, I’m not making this up.

As I said, the song is insanely catchy – her catchiest offering so far in fact. As I type this and after hearing it only a couple of times, I have the melody stuck in my head. And that’s what Taylor Swift is really good at: making a very catchy hook that does what a hook is supposed to do: hook you.

However, what’s demanded of an artist like Taylor Swift is less “OMG, it’s like OMG” in her songs and more seriousness. What’s demanded of her is less teenager-ish attitude and more soon-to-be 23 year old who shouldn’t be going all gaga over someone on the phone.

Moreover, the least that can be expected from one of country music’s leading artists is to have a country element in the lead single. Some artists keep the twang if they decide to drop the country elements of the music. Others choose to tell a story even if the melody isn’t country. With “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor does neither.

Even the fact that pop hit-maker Max Martin produced the song isn’t an excuse because he has dipped his toes in country music before. The result was Carrie Underwood’s Quitter. How will country radio react to this? It will eat up the song. The fans will rush to buy this – watch it break sales records. But I, for one, really hope this isn’t indicative of the material quality on Red, her fourth album which she will release on October 22nd. Because after songs such as Enchanted and Back To December, this is definitely a let-down. Even Love Story was more mature than this. Go figure.

5/10 – just for managing to get stuck in my head after one listen.