“Red” by Taylor Swift
By Darian Maduruh
Now, as a twenty-something African American dude from urban New Jersey, I’m sure I’m not the target demographic for Taylor Swift’s music. I mean, let’s be honest: the 22-year-old multi-Grammy winner (including an “Album of the Year” win in 2010 for her second album, “Fearless”) mainly appeals to teenage girls or women who still act like teenage girls. And let’s not forget country fans as well.
My history with Taylor Swift is this: I liked that song about her being in the bleachers, but I did in fact believe that Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. So, how would I react to “Red,” Taylor’s fourth and current album release?
It’s starts off interestingly enough, with “State of Grace,” with guitars and rhythm that remind me of a pop song from the ’90s. Not trying to put someone in a box, but isn’t Taylor country?
Anyway, we move on to the second song, the title track, “Red.” You know what strikes me about “Red”? How much it reminds me of “State of Grace.” It was like the first two songs were actually just one giant track. The fourth track, “I Knew You Were Trouble,” bothers me. Why, you obviously ask? Because it’s so damn catchy, part of me liked it and was actually ashamed to like it.
After having “I Knew You Were Trouble” stuck in my head, I had to listen to an Animal Collective album to find my views on music credible again. Further research on this album explains the reason for the ear worm-heavy track: It was co-written by Max Martin and Shellback, two Swedish pop producer/songwriters who’ve worked with the likes of Pink and Britney Spears.
The two also helped co-write the single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the bouncy, humorous track that is currently all over your radio stations. The album’s last track, “Begin Again,” feels like an appropriate closer, a nice ballad-y track, one that calls back to Taylor’s roots as a country singer.
Now, I haven’t talked much about the lyrical content of this album…because, frankly, most of you expect Taylor to talk about one kind of subject…and your expectations would be right. It is easy to see why Taylor has lasting appeal.
Like her pop-sister-in-arms Adele, Taylor sings about love (“State of Grace” seems to talk of first-time love, with lyrics like “And I never saw you coming/And I’ll never be the same”) and heartbreak (with a song title like “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” I don’t need to tell you what that entails).
Nowadays, the interest isn’t in what Taylor sings about but whom. Guys like Nick Jonas and John Mayer have been turned into songwriting material in past albums. Now, if rumors are to be believed, it’s actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Whether or not that’s true is up to you or whoever else reads People magazine.
Still, if you thought this album was only about relationships, think again. For example, “The Lucky One” paints a narrative about a character in the “Angel City.” The track impressed me just for Taylor’s ability to play against type.
I imagine that some diehard fans may not enjoy this album due to its more pop content, but I do believe that Taylor’s lyrical abilities are her saving grace. You can tell how much Taylor puts into her words, unlike most pop stars.
Ultimately, that’s what makes her successful and relatable among her fans, and it’s why a twenty -something African American dude from urban New Jersey can find some merit in an album from a country pop songstress.