New City, New Music, New Taylor: 1989

by Catherine Arjet

by Catherine Arjet
arts & life editor

1989 album artTaylor Swift’s newest album, 1989 (named for her birth year), came out Oct. 27. The 24-year-old’s fifth studio album features heavy late ‘80s influences. Swift started in country and slowly moved to pop, dabbling in emotional, subdued songwriting in her fourth album, but 1989 is heavily synthesized, 100 percent pop.

While the album features the singer’s trademark poetic lyrics, they take a backseat to the melody and beat. 1989 feels very much like a new iteration of Swift and her music. It’s new and exciting. It’s fast. It’s intense, and it’s adventurous.

This album represents the blossoming of a new and more mature Swift. She’s clearly not the 16-year-old who released her first self-titled album eight years ago. While her earlier albums (especially Taylor Swift and Fearless, which Swift wrote while still in high school) have the boyfriend-focused, overly emotional themes Swift is often criticized  for, 1989 shifts away from these. While much of the album does focus on her last relationship, with One Direction member Harry Styles, the relationship does not seem to be the most important part of either Swift’s personal or artistic life. Her song “Blank Space” talks about beginning a relationship with a guy, a relationship she figures won’t end well but decides to have fun while it lasts: “It’s gonna be forever/or it’s gonna go down in flames/you can tell me when it’s over/if the high was worth the pain/got a long list of ex-lovers/they’ll tell you I’m insane.”

Swift focuses on her new home, New York, in this album. She opens the album with “Welcome to New York,” an ode of discovery and wonder to the city that never sleeps. Swift moved to New York in early 2014 and says that the change has been intimidating yet welcome. “I thought I would never be able to make it here,” Swift told the Rolling Stones. “Because I wasn’t something enough—bold enough, brave enough to take on this huge city in all of its blaring honesty. And then at a certain point I just thought, ‘I’m ready’”. In 1989, Swift has channeled the fast-pace of the city—its intensity—its adventure into her album.

While 1989 is very much a Taylor Swift album, it’s Swift like we’ve never seen her before: a grown woman from the biggest city in the U.S., experimenting with a new style of music. It’s far removed from the teenage girl from a small town singing about Tim McGraw, pick-up trucks and her first boyfriend. 

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