Pop & Circumstance: Coming full circle with Taylor SwiftBy Allison Berger | October 26th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
Almost exactly two years ago, in the very first edition of this column, I wrote about getting over my crush on Taylor Swift. Swift had just released “Speak Now,” and I was debating the authenticity of her demeanor. Was she real? Was she a pop music marketing hoax? How often could the girl get away with looking that surprised? And how dumb are the boys who date her? For Swift, it’s like third date automatically equals catchy single. This grand plan worked again and again and no one complained (I bet she’s a great kisser). Despite harboring a long-time-best-friend-crush on the girl, I can only say one thing after Tuesday’s release of “Red”: Taylor Swift may be the smartest woman in music.
“Red” caters to both sides of Tay’s fandom. First, there are the country girls who swear they’ve been there since the very beginning. The ones there since the curly hair and the longing lyrics of “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops On My Guitar;” the fans who likely commented “I miss THIS Taylor ” on said Vevo videos 22 minutes ago. Then there’s the second set — the radio fans who became groupies after “Love Story.” You know, the Top 40 crowd. Neither clique would ever acknowledge the other. And Taylor realizes that. Which is why the 16 tracks on “Red” embody both musical personas.
Sleeper song “State of Grace” opens the record, sounding like filler from 2008′s “Fearless,” followed by “Red,” a solid track that bridges that sliver of a pop-country gap. Swift has traded in trucks for sports cars on this one, this song the name of a color, which is conveniently in her Target commercial: “Love was like driving a new Maserati down a dead end street.” County ballads are smattered across the record: “All Too Well” is a stand out which almost made me cry (no shame). The song, which Swift said was the hardest for her to write, is reportedly about her whirlwind romance with older man Jake Gyllenhaal and the Thanksgiving they shared at his sister Maggie’s house in 2010.
But let’s talk about what really matters here: Swift’s poppier-than-thou radio singles, starting with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a track that’s been on the charts since August. Then there’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” which has a massive bass drop and tons of reverb in the vocals (Katy? Avril? Who are you, Tay?).
And then there’s “22.”
Are we living in the best time for pop music since the early ’00s? Yes. And I’m not alone in soaking up every single about being young. Fun.’s “We Are Young,” One Direction’s “Live While We’re Young” and Ke$ha’s “Die Young” are all great, but there’s something about Swift’s “22″ that’s a little more specific, a little more honest. You know Swift’s youngest fans are suddenly pining for their early-20s (babes, hold onto your youth!). And if you’re older than 22? Like way older? It’s okay, you can be 22, too. Just listen to this:
“I don’t know about you but im feeling 22 / Everything will be alright if you keep me next to you / You don’t know about me but I bet you want to / Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22.”
You know why I’ll never get over my love for Taylor Swift? She may be singing about Maseratis and dating men way out of her age range on both sides of the spectrum (see ya later, Conor Kennedy) but some girls, most girls, all girls — they don’t change. Sixteen, 19, 22. It doesn’t matter. Taylor Swift will always be the same girl she always was at heart. You know how I know? She’s still ending her songs with their opening lines.
And now this column can end where it started. Thanks for two solid years, Reverb. I’ve loved living out my pop culture obsession with you.
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a former pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.