Recently dumped girls, rejoice: Taylor Swift has returned with “Red”

Daniel Barbour, Asst. Arts & Leisure Editor

 

I’ve got to admit something to you, readers. I am not a teenage girl – a fact I’m sure will be surprising and distressing to many of you. As such, I may be doomed to never truly “get” what is so compelling and insightful about the music of Taylor Swift. The outspoken music snob I am, I’ve made jabs at Swift’s particular brand of cutesy country-pop. Such criticisms have often been met with some variation on the claim that while seemingly objectively mediocre, her songs are incredibly accurate depictions of what it’s like to be a teen girl.

This is a hard point to argue with as a Y-chromosome-owning member of society. While there’s something to be said for specific music appealing to specific types of people, artists like Brokencyde and LMFAO have taught us there’s definitely objectively bad music. The real question is – with the release of her new album, “Red” – where does Swift fall on that spectrum?

The album starts out benignly enough. When listening to the opening track, “State of Grace,” I could hardly register it as Taylor Swift, instead getting a strong Coldplay/U2 vibe. I was almost worried that Swift’s patented country/pop sound and lackluster lyricism, complete with dopey metaphors, wouldn’t be making an appearance.

Luckily (although perhaps not for my sanity), with the second track “Red,” any chances of this immediately went away. “Losing him was blue like I’d never known/Missing him was dark grey all alone” sings Swift, simply overflowing with tween emotion. I’ve often heard people praise Swift for her earnest heartfelt lyrics, but my God, do they come out hammy. You really do get the sense that these are lyrics a 13-year-old girl wrote after her first break-up, which, considering Swift is 22, can add an unintended element of hilarity to her work.

Track four, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” digs the grave even deeper for this album. While getting increasingly poppy would have been bad enough (and trust me, on this track, it is), my old nemesis, dubstep, also rears its ugly head, resulting in audible screaming on my part. I’m fairly certain that this current pop trend was created entirely to torment me as some part huge cosmic prank, but I digress.

From that point forward, the album goes back and forth between regular, boring Taylor Swift and actively aggravating, horrible Taylor Swift. While there’s certainly a redeeming sense of sincerity to the tracks written solely by her, the co-written singles feel plastic and artificial enough to give the listener auditory whiplash.

Aside from “I Knew You Were Trouble,” the songs “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (which were also co-written by Max Martin and Shellback) could easily have been performed by any other cutesy blond pop star and, like most of these paint-by-number pop hits, have the effect of feeling like you had a disgusting pink vat of cute poured all over you. I think I’m going to need a shower once this is over.

That said, while I went in wholeheartedly expecting to hate every last track on the album, there were, in fact, some redeeming features. “State of Grace” is a nice enough song if you’re looking for something chill (in the general vicinity of Coldplay or other soft rockers), and the instrumentation (primarily made up of guitar, violin and banjo) ranges from being decent to actually quite good. Also, “Begin Again” is admittedly kind of a beautiful song. At least, I think so. After an hour of listening to this girl, the odds are pretty good that I’m just developing musical Stockholm syndrome.

On the whole, while I wouldn’t call this a good album and it’s certainly not my kettle of fish, there’s far worse music out there. Small praise, perhaps, but probably the best Ms. Swift can expect from me. Cut out the moment of dubstep, take some writing classes and stop with the radio-baiting pop schlock, and then maybe we’ll talk.

 

Tracks to purchase: “State of Grace,” “Begin Again”

Tracks to avoid: “22,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Red”

 

2 out of 5 Dolphins