Photo courtesy of Deb Del Valle | Taylor Swift released her new album to much anticipation from fans and critics alike. Swift has been releasing little teasers during the past months— promising fans a shade-filled album with references to past feuds.
Someone call the charmer because the snakes are loose.
I have a love/hate relationship with Taylor Swift. I love her music but hate her as a person. Regardless, I’m jumping headfirst into the high school drama of Hollywoo d and seeing just how petty one woman could possibly be within the span of a 46-minute album.
We all know the two most important singles, “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Ready for It?” As expected, the former still sounds like it needs to be sent back for post-production, and the latter is a chorus-less James Bond-esque love song whose bass went very unloved by my headphones. But those hardly scratch the surface of the album that promises to dig up the dirt on the graves of old Swift-related problems that people stopped caring about in 2011.
The most recent singles, “Gorgeous” and “Call It What You Want,” are slightly more manageable. I like “Gorgeous” for its mid-2000s melody and airy beat. It’s a lot of fun and contains some of Swift’s classic ad-libbing, which is forced belting on notes that the average music major could reach after two vocal lessons. “Call It What You Want,” despite appearing to be a Panic! at the Disco song, is also pretty good despite not being a Panic! at the Disco song and despite having some unusual lyrics. “My baby’s bit like a daydream, / walking with his head down, / I’m the one he’s walking to.” Really? Come on, Taylor, do edgy right or don’t do it at all.
Swift really shines on some of these songs and horribly flops on others. “I Did Something Bad” hits hard right from the gate and escalates perfectly into a bass drop and pounding chorus. I honestly think that this should have been the first single introduced instead of the underwhelming zombie of a song that she chose. It would have been a much better lead-in and hits the theme of the album so much harder. The only part of it that disappointed me was the final chorus. I was expecting a major explosion of vocals and even a key change, which I felt would have elevated the song’s power even higher.
“End Game,” which features Ed Sheeran and Future, is severely underwhelming in the beginning and doesn’t really escalate. I sometimes like songs that primarily feature rappers with a pop artist singing the hook, but I loathe it entirely on Taylor Swift songs. I don’t listen to Taylor Swift to listen to other people, I listen for Taylor Swift. The structure of “End Game” is pretty much the same as “Bad Blood” despite the different tones: Taylor sings, then the rapper raps, then Taylor sings, then Sheeran sings, then Taylor takes us out. The difference is that “Bad Blood” had an amazing solo version that “End Game” seems to lack (for now). I was also severely disappointed to hear yet another love song. For an album that promised to tackle so many of Swift’s personal quibbles with celebrities, it seems that she’s released a ton of love songs, which was a major letdown on the first listen.
I was extremely shocked when I listened to “Don’t Blame Me.” The song itself sounds standard for the album (her producer was really obsessed with wavy synths and heavy basses it seems), but what shocked me was just how much the chorus’ instrumental sounded like “Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé. As anyone knows, copying Beyoncé is a cardinal sin against all elemental realities in the world, so to hear this coming from Taylor Swift is too shady even for me (and I’m so shady that I take Vitamin D supplements).
The album only shines in a few places after that. “Dress” takes a spotlight as throwback to the style of her collaboration with Zayn Malik, utilizing good breathy vocals and seductive beats. “Getaway Car” has a very catchy bridge, an appropriate key change and not much else. “King of My Heart” effectively utilizes electronic vocals and scattered drum parts to catch the listener off-guard following the copious slow love songs. “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” is… an attempt. It saves itself by being catchy during the chorus regardless of how cringe-y the lyrics are. “Dancing With Our Hands Tied” brings it home with the last chorus in which Swift shows off a fairly-decent high belt and “New Year’s Day” will probably make a good acoustic track for me to day drink to in December.
Overall, I found myself disappointed with the album. Swift put forth the impression that this album was going to really target the people who have been hurting her (which is literally her entire schtick), but it seems like the songs are generalized toward one ambiguous “enemy” entity. I was also disappointed by the lack of any songs explicitly targeting the Katy Perry or Kim Kardashian/Kanye West feuds, which were very central moments in Taylor’s career that she hinted at addressing in the video for “Look What You Made Me Do.” What the album does well is indulge in that side of us that likes to be naughty, mischievous or downright evil. There are definitely a few standout tracks, but if you’re thinking about getting the album, just save your money and wait for her to put the songs you like on Spotify. Hopefully her sales won’t start dropping or she’ll have enough beef with Spotify to write another album.
By: Trever McKenzie ~Online Editor~