Taylor Swift

Speak Now

Big Machine

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The string of celebrity boyfriends.  The swarms of adoring teenage girls.  The Kanye incident at the VMAs.  As Taylor Swift ascended to superstardom over the past two years, it has been easy to lose sight of one thing: the twenty-one-year-old is a formidable songwriter.  Swift has always had a remarkable penchant for channeling her inner emotions into country-pop songs with massive choruses; “You Belong With Me” perfectly expressed adolescent unrequited love.  Speak Now finds Swift, without any co-writers, maturely confronting her celebrity while still retaining her optimism and sincerity about love.

While Fearless approached the spectrum of high school experiences with a sense of fantasy, Speak Now tackles Swift’s ordeals amidst the realness of Hollywood.  The high heel-wearing cheer captain becomes the actress who is “better known for the things that she does on the mattress.”  Her Romeo is now a college kid “working part-time, waiting tables.”  And as Swift’s songs have become less idealized, they reflect a maturity far beyond her age.  “Back to December” features ballad-like verses before exploding into a chorus that finds her apologizing for her missteps in a relationship.  Even “Innocent,” her Kanye forgiveness song, demonstrates how all Swift has experienced has garnered her a wisdom rare among modern pop singers  (“Lost your balance on a tight rope/It’s never too late to get it back”).

Although the Taylor Swift image is still one of a glamorous country starlet, Speak Now melds pop, rock and country seamlessly.  “Mine” and “Speak Now” possess a pop sheen that guarantee their success as radio hits you will (guiltily) blast and sing along to.  In fact, the title track plays out as “You Belong With Me, Part 2” in which she “rudely [barges] in on a white veil occasion” to steal the object of her affection away from his fiancée.  Swift veers into the Kelly Clarkson brand of pop rock on the bitter “Better Than Revenge” and the orchestra-accented “Haunted”.  Meanwhile, “Mean” seems to stand as a reminder of her country roots, in which she dismisses her critics as “drunk and grumblin’ on about how I can’t sing.”

The highlight is “Dear John,” a seven-minute-long epic that reads like a page from her diary that asks an older lover, “Don’t you think nineteen’s too young to be played by your dark, twisted games/When I loved you so?” And this is where Swift succeeds: in producing music that depicts her as sage yet sanguine.  The album ends with her voice confidently stating, “And bring on all the pretenders/One day we will be remembered.”  And it’s true – Speak Now will be remembered not for the relationships and events it was inspired by, but for Swift’s strong ability to tell stories with versatility and insight.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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