At one point this fall, the media seemed collectively abuzz about Taylor Swift’s latest album, 1989. Having abandoned country altogether, she embraced pop completely, without leaning on urban-music crutches, as many aspiring crossover artists do. The icing on the cake was the fact that the duration of her tour de force was exactly the same as that of (younger prodigy) Lorde’s debut album, with the same amount of songs.
Sleeping in the devil’s bed, or just possessing one of the most effective production teams in the history of music, her bets paid off so well that not many seemed to mind the small flaws in the finish. “Welcome to New York” opens the album with nothing but a kick drum, snare and ’80s synthesizer chords, but the arrangement builds so invincibly that any objective naysayer is forced to acknowledge her victory. “Blank Space” continues in the same vein, while bringing in a tease of her old country guitar playing in the background and a chorus worthy of a hit the size of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
The middle of the album elaborates on updated versions of various styles of ’80s pop (hence the album’s title, 1989) with the slowly pulsating bass of tracks like “Out of the Woods” and the cheerleader-flavored smash hit, “Shake it Off.”
Only the last few tracks, “This Love,” “I Know Places,” and “Clean” make you wonder if they would have been B-sides in the era that inspired them. However, having been written by someone who got her first development deal at the age of 14, even these weaker songs hold their own against many of the singles released by her peers.
As she sings on this album’s biggest single, despite the fact that “haters gonna hate,” Ms. Swift will probably just continue to “shake it off.”