Taylor Swift transitions to pop, embraces new direction

Sophia Pizzi

Six years ago, my Taylor Swift-loving self never pictured a day when I would be jamming out to pop music produced by my country idol. Yet here I am, loving every minute of it. 

With her musical foundations grounded in the country genre, Swift will always be one to tell a story. On Monday, Oct. 27, Swift released her fifth studio album, “1989,” sharing with the world yet another chapter in her life’s story of a childhood dreamer rising to a global superstar. 

Swift’s fourth album, “Red,” told a story of heartbreak. For Swift, this last album was symbolic of a transitional period for her in both love and music. There was an overarching sense of mourning and heartbreak in many of the tracks, along with sonically diverse tunes that ranged from authentic country to electronic pop. 

Despite such changes in feel and sound, Swift’s fourth chapter was incredibly successful, selling over six million copies worldwide. Since then, for the past two years, the question was inevitable: What could possibly be next?

This question was answered in August of 2014 when Swift announced her first official pop album and released its first single, “Shake It Off.” In doing so, she gave fans a mere taste of the new era to come, one of optimistically letting go, moving on and establishing a new cohesive pop sound.

Swift co-produced “1989” with Swedish producer and songwriter Max Martin, who crafted major hits for the Backstreet Boys, Brittany Spears and N’Sync. Martin’s electronic style is heard throughout “1989” in its unique blends of drum programming, synthesizers, contracting baselines and background vocals. Swift has clearly left her acoustic guitar in Nashville and instead turned to the mix tables of recording studios in the city. 

The album’s opening track, titled “Welcome To New York” sets the scene for the record both physically and metaphorically. Two years ago, Swift moved to New York City in search of new inspirations. She expresses this with a pop-synth sound and fun, upbeat lyrics taking the listener on a journey through the city: “Walking through a crowd the village is aglow/Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats.” If this track were the opening curtain to a Broadway show, Swift would be about to give quite the performance. 

From this point on, the record is mainly relationship-based songs with catchy hooks and poetic lyrics—two aspects Swift has stayed true to throughout her entire songwriting career. “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” for example, contains those ever-so-relatable lyrics, in which Swift sings: “You were all I wanted/But not like this.” This song is like the mature, older sister to her previous track “Stay, Stay, Stay.” 

Vocally, Swift is not afraid to take risks. She twists her vocals surprisingly, mimicking sounds from current pop artists such as Lana Del Ray and Lorde while adding her own flare, ultimately creating pieces nothing short of sonic euphoria. The track “Wildest Dreams,” echoes a Lana Del Ray sound with drowsy, whimsical lyrics singing: “He’s so bad/but he does it so well.” “Bad Blood” is an upbeat anthem of a feud between celebrities that captures Lorde’s strong vocals and heavy drum lines in the background. “Blank Space” is another very Lorde-esque track with melodramatic lyrics: “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” 

As most of Swift’s love songs do, her lyrics continue to point towards romantic involvements with specific male celebrities. “1989” focuses most of this attention on One Direction singer Harry Styles, who was rumored to be dating Swift near the end of 2012. 

The track “Out of the Woods” expresses the anxiety-driven relationship between the two superstars, hinting at their time together with evocative images of polaroid cameras and a snowmobile accident resulting in a trip to the hospital: “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon/twenty stitches in a hospital room.” 

Perhaps the most obvious track about the One Direction heartthrob is the one ironically titled “Style,” in which she reflects on the timelessness of their relationship, singing: “You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye/And I got that red lip classic thing that you like.” This track is sure to have One Direction fans swooning at the knees. 

The album closes with a commendable track titled “Clean” in which Swift leans heavily on her “dream collaborator” Imogen Heap. The delicate but bubbly melody carries a dark metaphor of addiction within a relationship, singing: “10 months sober/I must admit/Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it.” It is clear here that Swift has developed into a mature artist, ready to take on the pop world by storm. 

In her popular track “Shake It Off,” Swift claims that she is “making moves up as she goes,” and this album proves that those moves are in fact the right ones. “1989’s” refreshing sounds, combined with Swift’s ability to take risks, separate her from other artists of the time.

Swift is in the music industry to stay and will clearly manage to keep up with it in all of her moves along the way. I only covered a few of the many unbelievable tracks on this album, but I won’t give her entire show away. I’ll leave that up to you to watch and love along with me. So go buy a few copies, make up your own moves and dance to this beat forevermore.