A Dad's Review of Taylor Swift's '1989'

First of all, I know that I’m probably not Taylor Swift’s target demographic. She can’t possibly sell too many albums to married thirty-six-year-old dudes. Not counting those dudes who are buying the albums for their daughters, of course. So Taytay probably isn’t going to shed too many tears or pump too many fists over what I have to say.

Also, I don’t think it’s fair to judge her music from my point-of-view. Every work has an audience, and I’m not her audience. So for me to listen with my ears is missing the point. Instead I’ll pretend I’m one of the roughly sixty trillion girls who go crazy for her and her music. (I’m not really going to pretend that I’m a teenage girl. That’s just creepy.)

T-Swizzle’s latest release is called 1989. She should send an apology to the year 1989, and anything else that happened in 1989, because she’ll automatically dominate any Google search containing that number for the rest of eternity.

And even though 1989 the year was a quarter of a century ago, 1989 the album brings a brand new Taylor Swift. Gone is the girl strumming along on her guitar and belting out songs that she wrote by herself. Her full-on transition to pop music is aided by two of the most prolific music producers in the business, and their influence is irrefutable. The New Taylor sounds more pop princess than young musician.

Still, there’s plenty here that Taylorites will enjoy. And when an artist has been as deft in creating a relationship with her fans as Taylor has been, those fans will probably go anywhere she takes them.

Now just a few general observations:

She’s got some sort of red lips fetish or something. In one song she talks about “the red lip classic thing” that some boys like, and then in another song she’s talking about “cherry lips, crystal skies” and in yet another she sings about “red lips and rosy cheeks.” Looks like Chuck Berry’s not the only musician who owes a debt of gratitude to Maybelline.

She’s a skank. No, not really. I’m kidding, pipe down. But checkout some of her lyrics. “Got a long list of ex lovers,” “I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt,” “we were lying on your couch,” “his hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room.” And it goes on from there. Damn, Taylor, you’re not a teeny-bopper anymore, we get it!

She’s worldly. The first song is called "Welcome to New York" and she talks about “searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before” and “you can want who you want, boys and boys and girls and girls” and maybe my favorite line on the entire record: “everybody here was someone else before.”

On one of her previous albums she told mean people that one day she was going to be living in a big old city, and now she is. Don’t worry though, she can handle it: “The lights are so bright, but they never blind me.”

There’s no virtue in criticizing Ms. Swift. She’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but she’s also not trying to be. She knows her audience, she knows they trust her, and she’s betting that they’ll like the new side of her and her music.

If not for my seventeen-year-old daughter, I’d probably never listen to Taylor Swift, and probably never miss her either.

But my daughter likes her. And last night we got 1989 and went to the basement and listened to it together. My daughter’s excitement over that album reminded me of my own excitement over a new Pearl Jam album. She swore she’d listen to it a dozen times this week. She declared it awesome. She slept with it next to her in bed.

As part of the deluxe version of the CD, Swift included some mock Polaroids with hand-written lyrics at the bottom as a little bonus for her fans. I showed my daughter Pearl Jam’s 1996 album No Code, which also came with an assortment of Polaroids. We shared enthusiasm.

So in the end, 1989 actually reminds me of an old Pearl Jam song called "Not For You" in a couple of ways. First, the title of the song, since 1989 obviously isn’t for me. And second, in one of the lines of the song: “All that’s sacred, comes from youth.”

I told my daughter I wanted to listen to the album so I could write a blog post about it. But really I just thought it’d be fun to spend some time with her, just the two of us, enjoying something she was excited about.

I was right.

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Filed under: Music, Parenting

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