Taylor Swift: 1989 (Big Machine, 2014)
Now Miss Swift is not a fan of the streaming services so she’s not on my Beats service so I had to resort to a download site to grab the deluxe version of the record.
The odds that I will make it through this entire record are extremely slim, but I’m gonna give props where I can and I’m gonna denounce the cheese when necessary.
The first tune, Welcome to New York, is a sugary synth biscuit — epic echoes on her vocals, handclaps, a little chainsaw synth action. Cynical me thinks she wrote this to be played over the public address system at Yankee Stadium so she can pad her bank account.
The second tune begs the question who the fuck dug up the 1980’s drum machines? Oh, she’s starting in on the orgasm breathing and regular readers know I denounce that manipulative come on vocal styling in the most Stalinist manner possible. My first props: she writes really good lyrics for 14 year olds. That may not sound like praise but somebody has to write shit for 14 year olds.
The third tune, Style, sounds like a Williamsburg indie electronic band dry humping Nile Rodger’s leg. I’m going to ding Miss Swift here as she can’t even carry a watered down funk vibe — she’s about as funky as old ginger ale. Sweet and flat as fuck. If she could swing this it wouldn’t be that bad, but she’s woofin’ on this one.
The fourth tune, Out of the Woods, is a nostalgic slower electronic tune. She’s trying to carry the relatively heavier vibe of this tune and she’s power floundering. I’m starting to get a feeling that she can sing the notes but she lacks any dimension to her singing. So she’s a step above Miley Cyrus who can barely carry a tune in a bucket but her inability to really sing makes this a hollow chocolate Easter bunny. Sweet but with big air pockets.
The fifth tune, All You Had to Do is Stay, has a very annoying repetition of the word ‘stay’. And on this tune, like other tunes, it is the deployment of multiple vocal tracks that builds the vibe, she’s a surprisingly cold singer. It goes with the rumor that she’s bad in bed. Oh, poor kid.
The sixth tune, Shake it Off, is the one tune where she’s singing more than the other tunes. She’s not killing it, but she’s doing a better job. Unfortunately, the tune is almost a carbon copy of Andre 3000’s class tune, Hey Ya! I guess most music writers wouldn’t call her out on this very blatant bite because Taylor is doing big business and nobody in America wants to point out the rip.
Okay, we’re at the seventh tune, I Wish You Would, and it’s a suburban shopping mall dance club banger. She’s cumming on the mic again, the synths are plastic fantastic, and I’m really feeling like this record does not belong on any best of 2014 music lists. This one is like one of those greasy cheese stuffed pizzas where the crusts just droops when you pick it up. I’m thinking she’s had about six tracks of passable material and this tune signals our descent into the toilet. Big dog woofin’ on this one.
This could be one of my last tunes, I’m starting to feel bad. Second grade crunk beat and she’s trying to get her black girl on.
Okay, it’s the next day and maybe I war really grumpy and hating on something that’s truly awesome. Nope. I’m checking out the tune Bad Blood, and they’ve concocted some very sophisticated Pro Tools vocal trick-nology to cover up her inability to pass emotion. The last word of the phrase repeated and exploded with a gigantic, spacious reverb. Let’s be honest, a real singer doesn’t need these crutches.
Last tune I can manage to get through, How You Get Girl. Poppy strummed acoustic guitar, a straight shopping/popping mall beat, and just a dump truck full of vocal tracks garnished with club music flourishes.
Let’s wrap up this review as I’ve flogged the dead horse pretty thoroughly. Decent voice, modern sounds, but a shocking lack of soul, very flat singing delivery that’s covered up by production tricks. The songs are not awful, but they’re far from transcendent. The idea that this record is on critics’ best of year lists is fairly shocking to me. There is nothing original going on here, there is very little expression here, this is an absolute triumph of a corrupt, corporate marketing system.
I can’t picture anyone listening to this in the future — after the marketing and the Spotify fight fades away there are just these average, pretty hollow tunes.
I guess that’s America in 2014 — hollowed out, flat, not much soul.