nadiakhan

Canada

An intersectional feminist who happens to love all forms of storytelling such as film, music, art, theater, writing.

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Taylor Swift's "Red" Album Review

October 22, 2019

Swift’s portrait of love lost and learned through bold, stadium-worthy epics demonstrates her shift from nostalgic country to masterful pop

Taylor Swift is no doubt a romantic, if past records are any indication of her fondness for rendez-vous in the rain or heartfelt declarations of love through teenage windows. In the thirteen years of discography, Red best represents her knack for hyper-detailed romantic storytelling, while also marking the first big evolutionary milestone in her career. It serves as a paradigm of everything pop should be — unabashedly unafraid to do something that hasn't been seen before. 

On the Neruda-inspired prologue, she visualizes moments that “aren't the mundane ones” which describes the album's sensationalism with pointed accuracy. On Red, Swift shifts in bold, new directions while diverging from (and on occasion, alluding to) her lush country roots with mastermind pop sophistication.  

The record drifts away from her previous work yes, melodically but also stylistically. Taylor redefines the parameters of her entire image, switching out Speak Now’s kaleidoscopic jewel toned aesthetics for Red’s retro-vintage flavor. Gone are the corkscrew curls and glittery dresses, now replaced with bangs and understated tees. Swift rebrands her style to be more adult and fittingly so. This shift likely inspired Sheeran’s choice to transform his folksy acoustics to beat-centered lite pop on tracks like “Don’t” and “Shape of You,” or even Grande’s decision to add Hip-Hop Pop to her R&B repertoire. She starts a revolution here, cultivating a trend of style exploration for other musical artists in her league. 

She still takes classic Swift elements familiar to longtime fans like falling in and out of love, heartbreak and calling out exes from high-profile relationships but now without being bound to any former creative adherence. The album’s opener, “State of Grace” is stadium-worthy gold which effectively melds alternative rock cymbals and drum beats — not unlike an instrumental we’d hear from The Cranberries — with Swift’s expertly-crafted lyrics such as “we learned to live with the pain / mosaic broken hearts.” It reaches its crescendo and falls at huge intervals, capturing love’s fluctuating nature while effectively sounding like nothing Swift’s ever produced before. 

Like its punchy opening, everything on Red feels notably larger in production too. She dives into seething dubstep-enforced rage on the hit Martin and Shellback collab “I Knew You Were Trouble” through each brutal enunciation of the word “trouble.” “Treacherous” jumps from pensive to plucky on the lines “two headlights shine through the sleepless night / and I will get you alone,” achieving dazzling heights with its explosion of a bridge. There are other highlights on the album, namely the raw, hard-hitting “All Too Well” (which likely remains Swift’s best song to date) whose poignancy is undeniable for Swifties and Taylor cynics alike. Just consider the lines: “time won't fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it / I’d like to be my old self again but I’m still trying to find it” as she recalls dancing with a lover in a dimly lit kitchen, awash in the glow of “refrigerator lights.” It’s Swift at her most nostalgic as she echoes her country days, but more grown up with a touch of rock-pop, bubblegum pop and more invigorating cross-genre experimentation in the mix.   

The precision of Swift’s cinematic musing “The Lucky One,” a cautionary tale on fame, sounds like a diary entry from the late Marilyn Monroe. “I Almost Do” tells the story of a past relationship she is afraid of rekindling for fear of “risking another goodbye.” If this sounds too jaded, don't worry. Swift’s romantic disposition is alive and soaring on “Starlight” where she dances as if “made of starlight,” true to the track’s title. “Holy Ground” and “Stay Stay Stay” might tie for peppiest opening instrumentals, the former meant to toast a past lover while the latter is a vibrant ode to a partner who isn't one of the “self-indulgent takers” Swift’s went out with before. 

The record isn’t without its minor fumblings; summer anthem “22” drags despite only lasting a hair over four-and-a-half minutes and the record's lackluster duets don’t do Swift or the guest singers justice with their elementary musings. But it’s a damn good effort nonetheless, each song as flawed as the messy concept it’s centered on. Even the album’s less pristine numbers elucidate the melodramatic sensation of ooey-gooey infatuation in all its rustic glory. Either way, Red is ultimately a food for thought masterpiece that serves as a celebration and examination of everything that makes Swift’s music exciting. Instead of playing it safe, Taylor stretches her horizons, sights pinned on forming an epic genre-shifting career paragon.
Red. Recorded 22 Oct. 2012. By Taylor Swift, Big Machine Records, 2012.

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15 Comments
  • nadiakhan

    @queerquotes Umm... Thank you??! Seriously, that's so nice of you to say and I'm glad you enjoyed my review. :) + All Too Well is pure poetry, it's just breathtaking.

    Also, you wrote a review for Lover? That makes me so happy because God, I love that album. It's just such a dance-worthy, celebratory record. xD


    4 months ago
  • nadiakhan

    @BurningMidnightOil That's really nice of you to say, thank you so much! :)


    4 months ago
  • queerquotes

    I love this review! I recently spent days writing an exstensive review of her album "Lover," but it is nothing compared to this. You are so articulate and obviously know your way around music. AMAZING!! PS. I agree that "All Too Well" is her best song! "You tell me 'bout your past, thinking your future was me...."


    5 months ago
  • BurningMidnightOil

    Congratulations on your win!! Keep up the excellent work:)


    5 months ago
  • nadiakhan

    Thank you so much for the kind words, Aksh! Plus, fangirling over Sleeping At Last is totally valid, Ryan's melodies and lyrics are so moving. They deserve so much more recognition! If I had to pick a favorite track, I'd probably opt for "Heart," "Turning Page", "Saturn," or their cover of "Already Gone." If you like Sleeping At Last, try Landon Pigg's "Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop" or "Stolen Moments" from The Vamps, if you haven't heard those songs already. They're both soft and heartfelt - not so different from SAL.


    5 months ago
  • nadiakhan

    Thanks, Kahte! I adore Red, it's so gorgeous and lyrical. I agree with you; it's arguably her best but it's so hard choosing a favorite from her. They're all so good.


    5 months ago
  • Aksh

    Congratulations!!!! You did a great job with the article. Read your interview and when I saw Sleeping at Last mentioned I screamed. So few people have heard of Ryan O'Neal and I cannot believe the coincidence. His songs hold a super special place in my heart. I am not a fangirl but...AHHH!!!. What your fav SAL song??


    5 months ago
  • Kahte

    Congrats!! I also love this album; I think it's arguably her best:)


    5 months ago
  • nadiakhan

    Thank you Kenneth! :)


    5 months ago
  • Kenneth Keng

    good job and congratulations!


    5 months ago
  • nadiakhan

    Thank you Tushar! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


    5 months ago
  • Tushar Mandhan

    Congrats! Hope you continue to do more .


    5 months ago
  • nadiakhan

    Thanks for the kind words! :)


    5 months ago
  • Julia ♬

    Congratulations! :)


    5 months ago
  • loquacious_lil

    Congratulations on winning the competition! You totally deserved it!


    5 months ago