November 4, 2010

Test Spins: Taylor Swift

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Taylor Swift is one of mainstream music’s saving graces. At a time when three chords and an underdeveloped chorus can score you a Top 10 hit, Swift offers something different to the masses. Her lyrics are sincere and her melodies are consolatory.

Taylor has long been praised for her ability to craft songs that transcend the country genre. But, on Speak Now, she seems more willing to experiment than she did on her sophomore album.

“Haunted” has all the trappings of a Paramore record, including an anthemic chorus that highlights the tremendous strides Swift has made as a singer over the last year. The same can be said of “Speak Now,” which finds Swift playing with her falsetto in order to elicit a sense of whimsy.

Taylor is acutely aware of the public’s perception of her voice, in fact she devotes an entire track to the subject. “Mean” could have very easily come off childish, but the blue-grass number is actually one of the album’s standouts. It serves as both a reminder of Swift’s roots and the transparency of her music.

That transparency has become fodder for the press, all of whom want to know the muse for each of this album’s tracks. The inspiration for certain songs is evident. “Back to December” is an apology letter to actor Taylor Lautner. “Innocent” is Swift’s way of scolding Kanye West. And “Dear John” is a diary entry about her affair with John Mayer. Unfortunately, many seem to have neglected how thoughtfully constructed each of these songs are.

“Dear John” is effective because it toys with preconceived notions of Mayer, while simultaneously employing a guitar riff that is reminiscent of the lothario’s recent work. “Back to December” offers up pure regret, an emotion not often enkindled by Swift.

The most frequent criticism of Speak Now has been displeasure with Swift’s youthful enthusiasm, as well as her tendency to romanticize the ordinary. But, those two qualities are precisely why Swift is so endearing. Speak Now is a charming album from an enchanting young lady.


Original Author: Wesley Ambrecht