My best friend Diana fell in love for the first time at age 20. It was her first boyfriend, her first love and her first time being connected to Country music. By method, it was destiny for Diana to become attracted to the music of Taylor Swift, whose lyrics are irresistibly translatable to any romantic situation for a vulnerable young woman. The singer isn’t a half-assed (choosing either “desperately in love” or “never been more hurt” for her song’s compositions), and since Diana was so in love, theirs was a match made in heaven — almost more so than the one she was already in.
I was the Swift-hater rolling his eyes each time Taylor’s corny lyrics were pasted on my Facebook timeline, praying it was just a phase, but Diana’s infatuation persisted. I’m convinced it’ll eventually end her, too. There’s something tragically and desperately spiteful about these drowning heartwrenchers, but I digress. New album Red is ultimately another concept for fans to fawn over with an interesting personal twist for outsiders to pick apart. Not groundbreakingly powerful in sound yet transcendently excellent in written quality, the album is just a familiar voice with an artistic divergence.
Many fans already suspect that much of Red was written about the singer’s short-lived relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. “Losing him was blue like I’d never known/Missing him was dark grey all alone/Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met/…But loving him was red,” she explains on the title track. The singer continues to detail the colors of their relationship, the ones which defined her fourth studio album. The story sings hard-hitting anthem with many to follow.
To Diana, Red is a dispassionate free fall from characteristic raw expression that painted the walls of songs like “Enchanted” and “White Horse” just a few years ago. “I’m a girl who loves an empowering album title,” my friend confessed. “‘Speak Now,’ ‘Fearless’…” and now ‘Red’”? But Diana, and anyone with access to Wikipedia’s online database, knows that the album’s production team is sure to sail its music to great monetary success. Ever heard of Max Martin and Johan “Shellback” Schuster? These are some of the names behind nearly every Top 40 hit within the last decade, and they’re splattered across the credits for the latest album. For the first time, Swift shared production and songwriting credits, essentially selling her soul to ironically-named Big Machine Records for her first potential number No. 1 on the charts. That moment happened on the cookie-cutter lead single “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” Mission accomplished.
Swift’s notoriously man-hating songwriting makes an unexpectedly synergetic relationship with the scientists of the contemporary pop music machine.The blonde songstress pulled off the pop crossover, and with the right people, the transition was effortless. A dubstep infusion in later track “I Knew You Were Trouble” almost sounds right, as the effect has recently become trendy among musicians. The exciting song slaps a previous version of ourselves in the face: “I knew you were trouble when you walked in/so shame on me now.”
You can’t just stick a banjo in a few choruses and call it country-pop. Red displays an experimental Pop overhaul and not ashamed of it. It charges with a good amount of styles, ranging from alternative rock to bubblegum pop. Starter song “State Of Grace,” though gorgeously written and passionately delivered, could’ve been produced for Young The Giant for all we know. The duet with Ed Sheeran could’ve been done without the British singer-songwriter, but the song is a charming and hearty. Others, “Stay Stay Stay” and “Sad Beautiful Tragic” are either too happy or sad to be enjoyed thoroughly. Swift’s previous demographic, the pre-teen suburban girl, will inevitably love these songs.
Swift’s next record will hopefully meld the interests of artistic mastery, conceptual fulfillment and widespread success to the right degree. The singer is still young and still learning who to trust both professionally and romantically, so there’ll be plenty of trials to come. I fell victim to Red because I can’t resist admittance to a shallow pop anthem shit show, but other listeners won’t be as weak-willed. The colors of the album are expressively vibrant but desperately transparent.