Taylor Swift - Speak Now
Record Label: Big Machine Records
Release Date: October 25th, 2010
There I am driving while blasting ”Mine” as loud as the stock speakers in my 1991 Ford F-150 can go. Of course, in an attempt to match her adorable voice, I have to sing in falsetto, pushing this jam session into a deeper pit of femininity. The chorus hits as I approach a stoplight, and naturally, this is when things get serious. I glance over to my left where two "total bros" sit in a sedan with their windows down. They look at each other and raise an eyebrow. This pretty much sums up my relationship with Taylor Swift: slightly shameful. But, I'm not going to apologize for being passionate about all kinds of music.
Speak Now opens up with her powerhouse single “Mine”, which follows suit with Swift's previous successful singles by adding perfect amounts of pop country, relatable lyrics and overall fun to really make it the perfect choice as her single. Digging deeper into the album, Taylor serves up a big bowl of sass in the song "Mean" belting, "All you are is mean/ And a liar/ And pathetic/ And alone in life and mean" proving that while it seems she's usually the victim of a romance gone awry, she can dish it out as well. The song “Haunted” opens with a mean, bombastic drum fill that made me question for a second if I was still listening to Taylor Swift. Something like that could very well be the last thing you hear before being launched into a vicious breakdown out of the hardcore/metalcore genre. Instead the track transcends into Taylor Swift doing a rock song her way, and incorporates a string section that adds an intensity and emotion to the song that makes it what it is.
You can expect the song “Dear John”, Taylor's open letter to John Mayer, whom she shared a brief fling with, to cause a bit of commotion in the world of celebrity gossip. For a pop star, a song clocking in at 6 minute and 44 second is pretty out of character. This is the kind of behemoth you might expect from a long, serious relationship that you've invested a lot of yourself into, but I think it’s safe to assume this isn’t the case. As if the lyrics weren’t direct enough, “Dear John” makes a pretty blatant musical nod to Mayer’s song “Gravity”, by using the same chord progression (in a different key), as well as mimicking a guitar lick found in “Gravity”. This is kind of a low blow if you ask me. Maybe it’s the John Mayer fan in me coming out, but having your guitar riff mimicked in an anti-love song about yourself would be like if Derek Jeter was beat up with his own baseball bat. So, for all you guys out there that planned on dating Taylor Swift, I would reconsider unless you’re in it for the long haul.
While listening to “Never Grow Up” the painfully adolescent lyrics referencing to being 14 years old, getting dropped off at the mall by your mother and dancing around in your pajamas hit me the same way that “Fifteen” did during my first listen through Fearless. The lyrics were so alienating to my masculinity that I could hardly make it through the track, but this just reiterates the fact that twenty year old male me, is not who she's making music for, which I am completely aware of. When I listen to Taylor Swift what I'm really looking for are her pop country fused hits that get me to embarrass myself at stoplights. Thankfully there is a handful of this breed of songs on Speak Now to satisfy my guilty pleasure.
It’s never crossed my mind to wear cowboy boots and swing around glow sticks before, but take a listen to “The Story of Us” and you’ll know what I mean. Taylor ventures into the world of dance rock utilizing the obligatory pounding bass drum and handclaps to keep the momentum going. She cleverly embellishes on the lyrical ‘story’ theme by including narrations such as “next chapter” after the first chorus and “the end” to conclude the track. Other notable tracks include the lively “Sparks Fly”, “Better Than Revenge” and “Superman”, as well as the less bumpin’, more sing-along oriented “Ours” and “Speak Now”. And, of course, there are a handful of ballads on the album. Even though these are the tracks that hold much less appeal to me, I completely acknowledge the fact that Taylor is probably known just as much for her pop hits as she is for her woeful slow songs. Case in point, “Back to December” could easily show up on youtube synced with footage from ‘The Notebook’, creating sniffling, Kleenex box hugging viewers everywhere.
While Speak Now exhibits some things from Taylor that we haven’t previously heard, for the most part, Taylor knows what she's good at and she sticks to it. As long as there are boys breakin' young girls hearts, Taylor Swift will always be in business.
I don't think there should be such a thing as a "guilty pleasure." The whole point of music is to enjoy it, and if you like someone like Taylor Swift, I say own it. I'm definitely interested to see what she'll do when the rush of fame is in the background and she gets to set to work crafting her own songwriting legacy. There's so much room for her to develop as a writer, and yet she's accomplished so much already.