Taylor Swift
Speak Now


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
October 25th, 2010 | 954 replies | 53,080 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's not about where you're going, it's about where you've been.

Over 13 million in album sales, multiple Grammy awards, media saturation unheard of since Britney Spears’ heyday, and Taylor Swift still wants us to see her as the proverbial girl up the block. “We got bills to pay / we got nothing figured out,” Ms. Swift laments on first single “Mine,” and if there’s a few of us in the audience rolling their eyes, who am I to blame them? That’s always been the first step in accepting Swift as a legitimate artist and not a prefabricated Top 40 icon, that realization that, for all this girl’s justified success and eye-popping numbers, it’s just this down-to-earth, eerily relatable quality that makes Taylor Swift, well, Taylor Swift. Lady Gaga may have stolen the pop crown by doing everything in her power to mask herself under a veneer of shock fashion and shock statements, but Speak Now has Swift doing just what she does best: being herself, and Swift has come far enough as her own artist to make Speak Now the best pop record of the year.

On its surface, not much about Speak Now is that different from Fearless. Swift still prefers to write about her own broken love stories, the production is still a glossy pop-rock with only the faintest of country tinge to harken back to her roots, and Swift herself is still as dead-to-rights honest as she’s always been. But this isn’t the Taylor Swift of Fearless; millions of record sales and high-profile hook-ups have hardened Swift from the effervescent free spirit of “You Belong With Me” to the regret-filled apology that is “Back to December” and the raw heart and feeling behind “Last Kiss,” a song that would’ve been impossible on a record like Fearless. It’s hard to imagine that this is a girl who has yet to even turn 21, but already has the experience and self-confidence to pen a firebreather like “Dear John” and not sound utterly contrived. These aren’t the musings of an invisible Swedish svengali looking to find some choice lyrics to match to his next chart-topping hit – Swift has seen the world that comes with superstardom, and for all those who complained that Fearless was a one-dimensional teenage love affair, Speak Now takes that experience and wallops the critics with it. Swift can write, and perhaps no song signifies that more than “Dear John,” evidently directed after that man-whore of the female singer/songwriter world, John Mayer. Swift beats the heartbreaker at his own game, throwing darts like “all the girls that you’ve run dry with tired, lifeless eyes ‘cuz you burned them out / but I took your matches before fire could catch me so don’t look now / I’m shining like fireworks over your sad, empty town” while a bluesy electric guitar swells underneath in a ironic parody of Mayer’s own genre of choice.

No longer is Swift rushing blindly into love or advising other girls to look to their futures - hell, it’s hard to believe that Taylor Swift has become jaded enough to pen a song like “Never Grow Up.” It’s the antithesis to Fearless’ maturity anthem “Fifteen,” and it makes a line like “wish I’d never grown up” not the whining of a coddled pop star but the distress of any college-age kid whose realizing that yes, this is real life and they’d better find a plan for it quick before it comes to kick them in the ass. This is Swift’s truest accomplishment, finding that chord in a lyric or hook that strikes a universal note, and pairing it to some of the most gorgeous, effortless arrangements around. Arrangements that, let it be said, stretch Swift’s boundaries more than would seem to even be necessary, but nevertheless succeed in framing Swift’s voice with a punk rock vibe here (“Better Than Revenge”) or a dash of chamber pop there (“Haunted”). And that voice? It just might be the unsung hero behind everything here, showing a remarkably improved power and versatility that many thought lacking in her previous releases. I’m not sure the Taylor Swift of Fearless could pull off a slow burning blues kiss off like “Dear John;” here, she does it like she belongs, standing up in a backwoods bar telling off a dirtbag lover to a sweaty crowd. That signature lilt of hers, meanwhile, that cutesy up-and-down accompanied no doubt by a flicker of the lashes, has never been better, and it takes only perfunctory listens to songs like the title track or “Mine” to verify that this is Swift at the peak of her abilities.

This so easily could have been just more of the same. Small-town pop star makes good, follows up with a safe album to satisfy her legion of fans and critics. Indeed, Speak Now is not something out of the ordinary for Swift, not so out of her comfort zone as to applaud her as a visionary pop artist in the Gaga vein. But will I ever know what is going on behind an artist like Gaga’s façade, or what the hell she’s even thinking at any given moment? This is Swift’s trump card over any pop artist in the new decade, and it’s one that Speak Now uses like a pro. No one has been able to replicate the personal experience so well and so universally as Swift, translating her celebrity loves and fears into the everyman’s experience with the ease of a songwriter with decades of experience on her belt. Swift isn’t able to even legally buy a drink in her home country yet, but I’ll be damned if she isn’t already shaping up as the voice of her generation.



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user ratings (338)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2010



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I’ll be damned if she isn’t already shaping up as the voice of her generation.


i see what you did there

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2010



10245 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i sort of see what you're saying but sort of don't

Digging: The Bilinda Butchers - Heaven

Gyromania
October 25th 2010



15164 Comments


Great review Rudy. I can't imagine this being THAT good, but I'll approach it with an open mind.

couldwinarabbit
October 25th 2010



6996 Comments


Does she write ALL of her own songs...cause she does use auto-tune

ShadowRemains
October 25th 2010



20227 Comments


inb4 sowingseason

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2010



10245 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes, she wrote every song here without co-writers. first album she's done that in entirety though

couldwinarabbit
October 25th 2010



6996 Comments


alright thanks...I might listen to this...maybe.



Knott-
Emeritus
October 25th 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

errrm song ranking time because I'm bored

Last Kiss
Better Than Revenge
Enchanted
Haunted
Dear John
Long Live
Story Of Us
Mine
Back To December
Mean
Speak Now
Innocent
Sparks Fly
Never Grow Up

couldwinarabbit
October 25th 2010



6996 Comments


is the best one the bottom or the top?

Knott-
Emeritus
October 25th 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

the best one is top thats how these things go but theyre all at least 3.5/5 so yeah i mean

Thanntos
October 25th 2010



312 Comments


Funny how with all those record sales, awards and 'voice of the generation' labels, the girl still can't sing...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGj_UgcEPX8&feature=related

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2010



14983 Comments


idc if she cant sing as long as she makes good music

DiceMan
October 25th 2010



7068 Comments



Funny how with all those record sales, awards and 'voice of the generation' labels, the girl still can't sing...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGj_UgcEPX8&feature=related



Lol there are absolute boatloads of people who can sing so much better than that. Incredibly pitchy.


Knott-
Emeritus
October 25th 2010



10194 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Not good live =/= not good on record.

PanasonicYouth
October 25th 2010



7411 Comments


eww taylor swift

DiceMan
October 25th 2010



7068 Comments


I think she's obnoxious on her records, live she's like that kid in your chamber choir who everyone knows can't hit the notes but they insist on trying anyways.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2010



9033 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

This review bones mine, no surprise there

Sparks Fly
Better Than Revenge
Dear John
Mine
Enchanted
Last Kiss
Innocent
Long Live
Back to December
The Story of Us
Haunted
Speak Now
Mean
Never Grow Up


klap
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2010



10245 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

she sounds great on this record

Thanntos
October 25th 2010



312 Comments


Knott - That is a very ridiculous statement. If it has been proven that she is terrible live, in almost every show she has done (for the most part) then that also proves how much production has to go into making her sound good.

ziroth
October 25th 2010



1252 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

If it has been proven that she is terrible live, in almost every show she has done (for the most part) then that also proves how much production has to go into making her sound good.

Um, that doesn't mean the record isn't good, it just means he/she isn't.





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