Grammy award winning artist Taylor Swift debuted her first album at in 2006. Within six years Swift has grown to be one of the most renowned country pop artists ever known. With her fans craving for more from Swift, she released her fourth album titled “Red” on October 15, 2012. The album was an instant hit that sold over 1.2 million copies within the first week of being released. “Red” is one of the top selling albums in the past five years, coming only behind Mumford & Son’s recently released “Babel”.
The album contains 16 tracks that are a strange mix of Swift’s country roots, modern pop, and hints of lite-rock.
The highly anticipated, supposed “album of the year” turned out to be a major disappointment. At least Taylor has an easy excuse: her horrible decision to try out some new producers and song writers such as Max Martin and Shellback, who are known for creating hit radio pop songs for Maroon 5, Pink and Kelly Clarkson.
These two were mainly responsible for the most disappointing tracks: “I Knew You Were Trouble” (a song that bashes ex-boyfriend John Mayer even further than she did in her album “Speak Now”), “22” (a song about enjoyment of young adulthood), and the hit single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. On the other hand, Swift did have Nathan Chapman, her longtime producer, help her with almost half the album, which includes the most notable tracks on “Red” such as “All Too Well”, “The Lucky One”, and “Treacherous”.
Another plausible reason for Swift’s subpar performance in the production of “Red” is her obvious self-confusion with her own identity. When Taylor released her first album she was barely 16 years old. Now, she is 22 but is still trying to write songs about the same old heartaches and heartbreaks that she had when she was a teenager.
Since she was made famous and praised for the songs about first kisses, first break ups, and dumb boys, it makes sense that she would continue to write songs about the same topics and, naturally, a true transition from a hopeless romantic of a teenager to a real adult must be out of Swift’s comfort zone and a bit intimidating. But the fact is that now Swift is no longer a teenager and therefore should not be writing about teenager-like relationships. She never discloses any intimate details about her relationships in her songs unlike most 22 year-old artists. Instead, she successfully portrays the perfect role of an untouchable, chaste virgin disguised as a serial dater looking for the next guy to write a song about.
The best track on the album, that was co-produced by Nathan Chapman, is “All Too Well” which is a slower, acoustic-based ballad written all by Swift herself. The song fits Taylor’s original style perfectly, encapsulating the platonic ideal of unfair heartbreak as she also does in many songs in her previous albums such as “Cold As You” in her self titled album, “Breathe” in her second album “Fearless”, and “Dear John” in her third album “Speak Now”. “All Too Well” is about her former boyfriend, actor Jake Gyllenhaal (which of who most of the album is about), and the story of their short, but apparently serious relationship spent specifically on a weekend at his sister Maggie’s house. The song is emotional and has a powerful climax that describes how he broke up with her over a phone call, which is typical for Taylor Swift and what her fans love and expect.
Overall, the album lacks originality both lyrically and melodically. As Taylor takes steps further away from her love stricken lyrics and country roots and more towards passive aggressive pop rock tunes the worse off she gets and consequently leaves her fans disappointed. Although the album does contain a couple genuinely well written and produced tracks, the general confusion of which genre Swift tries to reflect in “Red” throws off the album as a whole. Hopefully Swift will soon learn how to use all of her potential to become a true adult artist that has evolved from her past glory as a teenage country legend.