Taylor Swift – RED – Big Machine Records
Swifty opens with her newest single, a power-anthem “State of Grace,” which she debuted live on the US version of X Factor a few weeks back (watch it here: State of Grace – X Factor ). While her performance was a little shaky, it was still one of her better live spots, but certainly not because of her stage presence. The opening drumbeat is immediately catchy, and if this isn’t the best song on the album, it’s in the top three, for sure. The lyrics are much less shallow than some of the cheap lines we’ll cover later, and she sounds mature:
“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”
Listening to this album in order is the way to go. I’m always an advocate for listening to the album the way they wanted you to, and with this album – especially the deluxe version – listen straight from Track 1 to 22. She moves away from strictly fairytale pop ballads and into a less tacky version of herself. While there are still a couple rough patches (ahem, “Sad Beautiful Tragic” is like drowning in the worst parts of T-Swift), the third track, “Treacherous” earns her another gold star. With a great beat to walk to (I’m a sucker for a good walking song), and lyrics that reflect her style of writing without sounding as cheesy or naive as past tracks, she even gets a little sexy (well, as sexy as Swift can be without causing a riot). Find an acoustic version at the bottom of this page!
“Put your lips close to mine, as long as they don’t touch
Out of focus, eye to eye ill the gravity’s too much
And I’ll do anything you say if you say it with your hands
And I’d be smart to walk away, but you’re quicksand”
“22” is a conundrum. The first 20 seconds are painfully tacky, but the bridge and the chorus are so catchy and fun that you can almost forget about the brutally awful opening and closing to the song. Dishes everywhere will be washed by girls secretly jamming to this song, and whether you’re actually 22, or just pretending to be for the night, “everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22” seems like a pretty good philosophy to me. Just try and ignore the self-indulgent “you look like bad news, I gotta have you” ending of the song, probably the worst line on the album.
She makes up for her rocky patches with “All Too Well,” a nostalgic ballad reminiscent of a past relationship – maybe not the most mind-blowing inspiration, but it tells a story you actually want to listen to (maybe partly because it could be about a certain delicious treat that rhymes with Blake Byllenhaal, maybe not). While she’s caught a lot of flak for sounding too U2-inspired, it’s a damn good song. While the sound may be reminiscent of U2, the lyrics and story are all Taylor Swift, and that’s what makes this song shine:
“And maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much
But maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up
Running scared, I was there, I remember it all too well
And you call me up again just to break me like a promise,
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here cause I remember it all, all, all too well”
“I Almost Do” is one of her better ballads on the album, “Stay Stay Stay” and “Holy Ground” self-indulge Swift in her ultra-poppy prime, and “Sad Beautiful Tragic” bores you to sleep in true Swift-ballad fashion, with an whispery whiny song that evokes no sympathy, only a lower play count than every other song on the album. While T-Swift might not ever be able to dig herself out of her tween-pop hole she’s stuck in, she can make the best of her situation, collaborating with other soft voices that work for her fuzzy ballads (Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol on “The Last Time,” and the imported ginger jesus Ed Sheeran on the enjoyable-as-a-song-on-my-sleep-playlist ballad “Everything Has Changed”). Weird infusions of dubstep filter through several songs (“I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Red” are just about as country as Swedish House Mafia), but as strange as it is, the catchiness of the songs overtake their cross-genre awkwardness.
Predict which songs you’ll like by determining which Taylor Swift songs you usually gravitate towards:
A) Tweentastic Fairytale T-Swift (you prefer her poppier, more childlike hits, like “Mean” or “You Belong With Me”):
Listen to “Stay Stay Stay” “Holy Ground” “The Lucky One” “Starlight”
B) Storytime T-Swift (you prefer her songs that tell an actual story, like “Should’ve Said No,” “Fearless,” or “Back to December”):
Listen to “State of Grace” “All Too Well” “Come Back… Be Here” “Girl At Home” ”
C) Power Ballad T-Swift (you prefer her emotional, powerful songs like “White Horse,” ” “If This Was a Movie”):
Listen to “I Almost Do” “The Last Time (feat. Gary Lightbody)” “Everything Has Changed (feat. Ed Sheeran)” “The Moment I Knew” “Begin Again” “State of Grace (Acoustic Version)”
D) Girly Anthem Guilty Pleasure T-Swift (you love the songs everyone can’t help enjoying, like “Better Than Revenge,” “The Story of Us,” or “Mean”):
Listen to “I Knew You Were Trouble” “22” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
And a final category, solely because these songs are in an entirely different league than the others, so: E) Sexy Swift (oh come on, who doesn’t love Sexy Swift?):
Listen to “Treacherous” “Red (Original Demo Recording)” “Treacherous (Original Demo Recording)”
Seriously, give this album a chance. Based on all measures of quality (voice, lyrics, final product, etc), I believe these tracks surpass all the others, and deserve a listen:
Must-Hear Tracks: “State of Grace” “All Too Well” “Red (Original Demo Recording)” “Treacherous (Original Demo Recording)”
NOW CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO:
Released today, recorded in Nashville, here are acoustic versions of “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” “22,” and “Treacherous.” Happy holidays!
And here’s another clip, an acoustic version of “I Knew You Were Trouble.”
Thanks for reading, comment below if you’ve got anything to say!