Review: The Evolution of Taylor Swift

Claire Krugler and Jeanette Wong

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Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and fellow friend and musician Ed Sheeran sing “Everything Has Changed” to a crowd of 17,000 in Sacramento, California during the 2013 Red Tour. Sheeran, an opening act on the North American leg of Swift’s tour, makes a guest appearance during Swift’s set at every show to perform their duet. “We [Sheeran and I] became pals right away,” Swift said in an interview with Capital FM. “We write songs the same way and we have a similar sense of humor.” Photo by Jeanette Wong.

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and fellow friend and musician Ed Sheeran sing “Everything Has Changed” to a crowd of 17,000 in Sacramento during the 2013 Red Tour. Sheeran, an opening act on the North American leg of Swift’s tour, made a guest appearance during Swift’s set to perform the duet. “I’m a fan of Taylor’s, not just her work but her ethics and that she writes her hits herself,” Sheeran said in an interview with Billboard. “It’s a very cool thing.” Photo by Jeanette Wong.

Taylor Swift is confronting the haters with her latest album titled “1989.” Laced with synthpop songs touching on a variety of topics,“1989” showcases her growth both lyrically and musically. With this album, Swift is breaking free from her past image and is unveiling yet another layer of her talent, proving to the world that she is more than just a country girl in love with the idea of being in love.

The release of “1989” on Oct. 27 raised controversy due to her change in sound and appearance. Since entering the music industry at age 16, Swift has captivated her audiences with her charming and hopeful lyrics. In her first couple albums, she based her love songs largely on the ecstasy and heartbreak of puppy love. She channeled such emotions to create songs like “Love Story,” a track capturing the famous Romeo-and-Juliet story but with a happy ending, and “Teardrops on My Guitar,” in which she addresses the sorrow of unrequited love. As she grew older and matured, so did the scope of her songwriting. Her more recent love songs resemble thoughtful reflections of her relationships rather than diary-esque ballads.

Swift’s fifth studio album cover features a solemn, seagull sweater-wearing, half-covered Taylor Swift. “Every single element of this album has been called into question [by my label and management team],” Swift said last week in an interview with TIME Magazine. “I’ve had to say “No, this is how we’re doing it.” … You have no idea how relieved I was [when the album sales numbers came out], because it was all on me if this didn’t work.” Photo by George Lu.

Swift’s fifth studio album cover features a solemn, seagull sweater-wearing, half-covered Taylor Swift. “Every single element of this album has been called into question,” Swift said last week in an interview with TIME Magazine. “I’ve had to say “No, this is how we’re doing it.” … You have no idea how relieved I was [when the album sales numbers came out], because it was all on me if this didn’t work.” Photo by George Lu.

 “In the past, I’ve written mostly about heartbreak or pain that was caused by someone else and felt by me,” Swift said in an interview with NPR. “On this album [“1989″], I’m writing about more complex relationships, where the blame is kind of split 50-50. I’m writing about falling in love with a city, falling in love with a feeling rather than a person. [I’ve learned that] lots of things are gray areas and complicated situations.”

Her song “Wildest Dreams” on “1989,” for example, describes her new approach towards love: Instead of throwing everything she has into a relationship, she acknowledges how it is likely that the relationship will eventually end and that when it does, she hopes he’ll remember her well. She notes that this mindset is “not anything close to the way I used to think about relationships.”

Musically, Swift has undergone a complete transition from country to pop. The country twang once evident in her older songs is nowhere to be found on the new album. Her change didn’t come as a complete surprise. Songs like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” from her last album foreshadowed her eventual departure from country music. This is a significant transformation for her, in what she regards as her “first documented official pop album.”

At first, we were unsure of her change in genres — Swift has done so well for so long within the country/country-pop scene. Indeed, we still get nostalgic hearing her beautifully crafted songs about her past loves like “Back to December” or sweet tones like “Our Song,” but after hearing “Shake it Off” the first time on the radio we realized that she is doing something greater. Although her country tunes will remain forever in our hearts — and trust us, they will never leave — we believe she has made the best possible choice for herself and for her listeners. Her sound has always been something genuine, something that comes straight from her (there isn’t a single Taylor Swift song that she hasn’t written or co-written). By staying true to herself and the direction she wants for her own music, Swift maintains the connection she’s always had with her fans and opens the door for new fans.

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“Our Song,” the third single from Swift’s eponymous debut album “Taylor Swift,” displays her country style of music.

Her classic country-pop songs have won her many Country Music Awards, including Entertainer of the Year (for both 2009 and 2011) and the prestigious Pinnacle Award. But now, as she matures and continues to succeed, her choice to escape the pigeonhole and expand her work beyond country music is appropriate and understandable.

With this information as a backdrop, our favorite songs featured on the “1989” album include the album’s second single titled “Blank Space” and “Wildest Dreams.” Her satirical approach to the media’s perception of her in “Blank Space” serves as an emblem of this new era — one that is self-confident, liberating and fearless. She blatantly embraces her ‘reputation’ of being a serial dater and transforms it into her ninth No. 1 single, according to Billboard’s Digital Songs chart. In the song and its music video, she assumes the role of her perceived persona and amplifies it with lyrics like “Got a long list of ex-lovers/They’ll tell you I’m insane.” Lyrically, her songs are edgier, bolder, deeper, and arguably, better than ever.

Taylor Swift plays the role of a psychotic, boy-crazy person in the music video for her latest single “Blank Space.” “I try to stay pretty self-aware about who I actually am and also what the media’s depiction of me is,” Swift said in the behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot. “I was thinking a lot about that and I just thought ‘You know what? What if I was that girl, what song would I write? And so I wrote “Blank Space.””

In direct contrast, “Wildest Dreams” shows a more vulnerable side of her new sound. Its Lana Del Rey-esque vibe and mesmerizingly bewitching vocals entice listeners and may appeal to music lovers of many genres; It’s a perfect hybrid of Lorde’s “Royals,” John Legend’s “All of Me” and Calvin Harris’s “Summer.” Despite Swift’s grand entrance into the pop music scene, she still manages to distinguish herself from mainstream trends, creating not only a sound of her own but also reviving elements of ’80s music. This unique spin catapulted her songs to the top of the charts once again.

The physical copy of deluxe version of Swift’s “1989”, sold exclusively at Target, comes with 13 polaroids. There are five different sets, for a total of 65 different polaroids in all. Photo by George Lu.

The physical copy of deluxe version of Swift’s “1989”, sold exclusively at Target, comes with 13 polaroids. There are five different sets, for a total of 65 different polaroids in all. Photo by George Lu.

Any doubt or hesitation of her new direction of music should be wiped away. With that, we leave you with this final word, the last lines of the foreword in the “1989” booklet.

“From the girl who said she would never cut her hair or move to New York or find happiness in a world where she is not in love….

love,
taylor”