Album Review

Taylor Swift "Red"

Chad W. Lutz
Sometimes artists need to reinvent themselves to fully realize their potential. We’ve seen throughout the history of music, both modern and classic; singers and musicians challenging and changing the way we think about music, and in the process, the artists individually. Changing styles and genres sometimes leads to massive fallouts with fans who feel their favorite superstar had somehow “sold out” and abandoned everything that made them special, important and talented in the first place. And then, sometimes, an artist takes a plunge and comes out clean with something the world has never heard before but has been readily awaiting.

Taylor Swift began her professional career in 2006 as a 16-year old with the release of an eponymous debut album. The record received rave reviews in the Country Music circuit and a Grammy Nomination in 2008 for Best New Artist. But it didn’t stop there. The 2009 release of Fearless received even more popular praise and attracted listeners from multiple genres, culminating in the infamous “Imma let chu finish, but Beyonce had one of the best music videos of all-time” incidents featuring the ever-classy Kanye West. Looking to expand on her success, and Grammy wins, Taylor collaborated with John Mayer on Battle Studies (2009) and released her third album in 2010 in Speak Now, which also received critical acclaim and yet two more Grammys.

Enter: Red (2012). Released on October 22, Red served as the commercial follow-up to Speak Now and featured a Taylor Swift we haven’t seen before. Unlike her 2009 collaborative partner who wears snakeskin boots and ten-gallon hats, or the man who never let her finish, even though he said he would, Taylor Swift did something bold but well. Prior to Red, most music fans knew of Taylor’s more country releases. She was sweet, she was innocent, and sang about love and growing up and fun with friends. But the new album speaks to a more mature audience in dealing with the consequences of love and how to have fun without losing yourself in the process.

From beginning to end, the twelve-track Red captures essence of the lyrically and melodically gifted Swift. Songs like “I Almost Do” (4:05), “All Too Well” (5:29), “Treacherous” (4:03) and the title-track, “Red” (3:43) lend to the singer’s past as a country music star. However, listen to the album in its entirety and the average listener will find the enormously popular and catchy “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (3:13), “22” (3:52), and “I Knew You Were Trouble” (3:40) are anything but.

The album possesses edge and, at times, a gritty, visceral attitude. Here is this once sweet and timid girl singing sarcastically about Indie hipsters and dead-beat boyfriends like she’s chewing gum. Fans of the artist, as well as newcomers, will find the lyrics refreshing, entertaining and fun without the typical twang and strum of country music. The album even features a few dub step-esque drops laced within exceptionally well-produced pop formats and song structures. Yes, this is just a pop album, Chad. Try not to get too excited. But it’s hard not to when you see an artist do something daring and they do it well. It’s like watching an established 100m sprinter move to the 400m and break a world record on the first attempt. The sky’s the limit for the young Taylor Swift. In the meantime, enjoy her new album.