Taylor Swift
Red


3.0
good

Review

by Nathan Flynn CONTRIBUTOR (69 Reviews)
October 22nd, 2012 | 111 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: At a career crossroads, Taylor Swift tries to mature while still maintaining her youth, and makes an album that highlights nothing.

In the two year interim between the release of Speak Now and Red, Taylor Swift seems to have established two distinct sides to her personality. In the media, she is a full-grown woman, wearing sleek dresses and deep red lipstick. She vamps across the red carpet in heels and even straightens her famously curly hair. The other side of the coin is the face that she continues to sell on her records, that moon-faced, aw shucks everywoman from Pennsylvania who stumbled into fame and gets her heart broken like everyone else. It’s easy to forget that she’s only 22 years old if only because she sells herself as an older woman and writes like a teen. Red seems to be a conscientious effort to reconcile the two sides of Taylor Swift while remaining the white knight of pop music.

On this front, Red is a moderate success. There are songs like “Stay Stay Stay” that recall her first album and the high energy rocker “Red” that may as well be a sequel to “Sparks Fly.” She has lost nearly all of the country flair that originally got her noticed, but she seems to have exhausted all creativity outlets that have come with her former home genre. On Red, experimentation is the name of the game. Swift incorporates dubstep elements into the choruses of “I Knew You Were Trouble”- a song guaranteed to be blasted out of windows all autumn- and “22” and finds great success with these accents. Furthermore, in a surprising shift away from the DIY ethos of Speak Now, which saw Swift split from her co-writer Liz Rose, Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody make guest vocal appearances in addition to seven songs being co-written. These guests seem to be yet another example of her two sides- Sheeran is quite popular among tweens while Lightbody’s group is a hit with the adult contemporary crowd- and how they can exist in harmony.

However, just because they can, doesn’t mean that they do. The guest appearances are both quite dull and the internal conflict has had an adverse effect on the quality of her material. Most of the strength in her previous work lied in the strength of the choruses and the transparency of the lyrics- it seemed she had nothing to hide. Red finds her more guarded; the boldness of naming names- “Dear John” anyone?- has vanished. The entire album is themed around a relationship with an unnamed antagonist, rumored to be Jake Gyllenhaal, and is told out of sequence with total disregard for order or flow. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but the placement of “Stay Stay Stay” immediately after “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” seems to show that construction was an afterthought.

However, Taylor Swift’s strength has always been in song construction. She still relies on some of her default formulae, but the new musical soundscapes keep them sounding fresh, even six years since her debut Taylor Swift hit shelves. Tragically, the songs themselves aren’t up to her usually high caliber. No song on Red, except “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “Holy Ground,” would stand out on another one of her albums. The issues with the songs are varied: ranging from awkward phrases (loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street; It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters) to absolutely unnecessary spoken word segments (the bridge of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together) to downright blandness. Straying away from country has put even more of the spotlight on Swift. Without her backing band, she is now more than ever before that girl with the guitar. The difference is that nowadays, that guitar is electric and her voice is autotuned more than ever before. It’s hard not to wish for the carefree 16-year-old, especially near the end of this 65 minute behemoth.

What keeps Red from failing as an album are the moments that Taylor Swift shows off her charisma and sticks to what she knows best. The sunny “Stay Stay Stay” is reminiscent of “Ours” from Speak Now from a delivery standpoint and title track “Red” is a pop radio jam that should get the crowd smiling. When she relates personal moments, such as throwing her phone across the room, she connects with the listener. It’s a shame that these moments are relatively few and when she describes sneaking into a yacht club on “Starlight,” one wonders how much she actually has in common with her fans anymore. The charisma is definitely still obvious, when she sings with a twang it doesn’t sound forced and many of the songs have great sing-along potential. Perhaps her biggest display of talent on Red is saving the sonically boring closer “Begin Again” from being a dud and turning it into an “Enchanted” style confessional. She’s at her best on the songs where she can combine her maturity and youthfulness into one work- like opener “State of Grace,” which showcases vocal and, to a lesser extent, lyrical maturity while remaining upbeat and engaging.

Red is basically the album that Taylor Swift had to make in order to stay relevant, but the album that no fan really wanted her to make. Try as she might, she can’t stay 16 forever and it’s a step in the right direction for the future to have made this album. By incorporating a new set of genres in place of her staple country music influences, Swift is able to keep the album fresh despite its length and her reliance on writing templates. Although some of her experiments, particularly the addition of guest stars, prove unsuccessful, it’s to be expected from someone stepping out of their comfort zone. This album is far from flawless, but it certainly could have turned out a lot worse; this is due mostly to Red’s consistency- few songs stand out in either a positive or negative way, but the songs are consistently average. Red may not have the flair of Speak Now or the refinement of Fearless, but it does have passion, which is enough to make it listenable but do very little beyond that.



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user ratings (329)
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Love you still

LifeAsAChipmunk
October 22nd 2012


4854 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you're score is a tad bit too low

also, I hated her debut and can barely stand to listen to fearless at all

I do agree with Red being like a sequel to sparks fly, that was my first thought. Love both songs.

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


9060 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Edit: rating changed to 3 for concordance

Emim
October 22nd 2012


26649 Comments


Still hot

LifeAsAChipmunk
October 22nd 2012


4854 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

agreed.

thought I would hate this because of never ever ever being an awful awful song, it reminds me of fearless

ILJ
October 22nd 2012


6720 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Good review man.

Digging: Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


50674 Comments


yeah

Digging: Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

Douglas
October 22nd 2012


9124 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Great review man, Swift has gotten hotter.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


3471 Comments


Nice work as always Nathan, doubt I'll be listening to this as "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is terrible and that one dubsteppy (?) song (which you mention in your review but I'm too damn lazy to scroll up) isn't particularly good either.

GiaNXGX
October 22nd 2012


4867 Comments


Let's see what my ex's music is all about...

Tyrael
October 22nd 2012


20928 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Well

TheSpirit
October 22nd 2012


17940 Comments


Can't say I'll ever listen to this but you have become a really great reviewer dude. Pos hard

klap
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


10510 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i wholeheartedly endorse this review

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

MalleusMaleficarum
October 22nd 2012


14362 Comments


you called this album "fresh"











neg'd

Cygnatti
October 22nd 2012


21367 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

rules agreed

controlled
October 22nd 2012


468 Comments


oh so now my papa johns pizza boxes make sense

toxin.
October 22nd 2012


12667 Comments


"the placement of “Stay Stay Stay” immediately after “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” seems to show that construction was an afterthought"
Somehow, any other artist would lead me to think this is intentional, as if highlighting the whimsical nature of teenage girls. But that's probably giving her too much credit.

Anyways We Are Never... is a guilty pleasure and I'm proud. Great review, pos'd.


SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


16571 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Whoah really good review.

Mine admittedly won't be as mature.

Digging: Taylor Swift - 1989

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


3471 Comments


Well, if you look at "We Are Never" as a critical view of girls who always say they're over a guy and then end up surrendering to his whims anyways, it's a good song...but I feel like I'm reading too deeply into a bad pop song.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
October 22nd 2012


3471 Comments


Also this review absolutely deserves a feature. And Nathan not putting this one up on MD, apparently, but why?



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