Taylor Swift has taken a turn toward popular music on her new album “Speak Now.” This doesn’t come as a surprise after her last album, “Fearless,” was the best-selling album of 2009. What might come as a surprise is Swift’s approach to popular music.
Swift was never exactly a country artist to begin with. Her association with Nashville and her affinity for the acoustic guitar led her to fall in with the country scene, but tracks such as her 2008 hit “Love Song” revealed someone on a different wavelength from the twang of Tim McGraw.
On the new album, Swift all but ditches the country demeanor. “The Story of Us” ditches the guitar altogether to make room for a dance beat. “Haunted” brings in orchestral strings to accompany Swift. In fact, only “Sparks Fly” sounds remotely like a country song.
The most noticeable feature of the album is not the music, however. The album is overwhelmingly sad. The tears continuously leak from the poorly stitched seams of Swift’s broken heart.
“The Story of Us” has a happy beat but not a happy ending. The strings added to “Haunted” are there to increase the mournful feeling behind the song. “Better than Revenge” is a fun song, but it’s about getting vengeance on the girl that stole her man. The title track is one of the few instances of happiness on the album. But Swift has to interrupt the wedding of the man she wants to get said happiness.
In track eight, “Never Grow Up,” the listener can sympathize with Swift’s longing to return to her childhood. But by track 13, “Last Kiss,” Swift’s approach has gotten so slow and sad that it mirrors the film “A Walk to Remember.” It’s sad but so overdone that it inspires eye-rolls.
The sadness isn’t all that bad. “Dear John” spins a great ballad out of the emotion. The songwriting is good on the whole, but Swift needs to get out and enjoy herself before her pop albums can be considered great.