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Taylor Swift to the Haters: 'If You’re Upset That I’m Just Being Myself, I’m Going to Be Myself More'
Taylor Swift named her fifth album after her birth year, 1989, but 2014 is the year of her rebirth. After wooing the mainstream with four albums of her pop-flavored brand of country, Swift waves goodbye to Nashville with 1989, ditching guitars for new wave-y synths, courtesy of hitmakers including Max Martin, Shellback, Ryan Tedder and Fun's Jack Antonoff, who she met through his girlfriend and her "best friend" Lena Dunham.
Album Review: Taylor Swift's Pop Curveball Pays Off With '1989'
But the LP also marks a personal transition for the 24-year-old: She has a new cropped haircut, debuted a more sophisticated street style and, perhaps most symbolically, moved from Nashville to New York in March. In the past, Swift often seemed to use her music to call out a string of ex-boyfriends. Some already have pointed to One Direction's Harry Styles as the inspiration for new single "Out of the Woods." She is, however, currently single -- " in the past two years [boyfriends] have not been a priority," she says.
Swift's mature metamorphosis is going swimmingly so far: "Shake It Off" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the album is arguably the best of her career, and industry forecasters expect it to sell 800,000 to 900,000 first-week copies -- the best sales week for an album in 2014. As 1989 arrives Oct. 27 on Big Machine Records, Swift reveals the reasons behind her professional and personal transformations. "I've gone through so many phases and I've had to learn so much in front of the entire world," she says. "I feel much more equipped to deal with things now."
album review: 1989 | rolling stone
When Taylor Swift decides to do something, the girl really knows how to overdo it. So on her fifth album, when she indulges her crush on Eighties synth-pop, she goes full blast, spending most of the album trying to turn herself into the Pet Shop Boys. 1989 is a drastic departure – only a couple of tracks feature her trademark tear-stained guitar. But she’s still Taylor Swift, which means she’s dreaming bigger and oversharing louder than anyone else in the game. And she still has way too many feelings for the kind of dudes who probably can’t even spell “feelings.”
Swift has already written enough great songs for two or three careers. Red, from 2012, was her Purple Rain, a sprawling I-am-the-cosmos epic with disco banjos and piano ballads and dubstep drops. But as every Eighties pop star knew, you don’t follow one epic with another – instead, you surprise everybody with a quick-change experiment. So rather than trying to duplicate the wide reach of Red, she focuses on one aspect of her sound for a whole album – a very Prince thing to do.
Max Martin produced seven of these 13 songs, and his beats provide the Saturday-night-whatever soundtrack as Swift sings about the single life in the big old city she always dreamed about. In “Welcome to New York,” she finds herself in a place where “you can want who you want/Boys and boys, and girls and girls.” She hits cruise mode on the floor in “Blank Space” (“I can make the bad guys good for the weekend”) and the hilariously titled “Style,” where she swoons, “You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye.”
The best moments come toward the end, when Swift shakes up the concept. “How You Get the Girl” mixes up the best of her old and new tricks, as she strums an acoustic guitar aggressively over Martin’s expert disco surge. “This Love” brings back her most simpatico producer, Nathan Chapman, for the kind of tune that they were just starting to call a “power ballad” in 1989. (The precise equivalent would be Bon Jovi’s “I’ll Be There for You.”) On the killer finale, “Clean,” English singer Imogen Heap adds ethereal backup sighs to Swift’s electro melancholy (“You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore”).
If there’s nothing as grandiose as “All Too Well” or “Dear John” or “Enchanted,” that’s because there wasn’t meant to be. 1989 sets the record for fewest adjectives (and lowest romantic body count) on a Swift album. Most of the songs hover above the three-minute mark, which is a challenge for Tay – she’s always been a songwriter who can spend five minutes singing about a freaking scarf and still make every line hit like a haymaker. But if you’re into math, note that the three best songs here – “How You Get the Girl,” “This Love,” “Clean” – are the three that crash past four minutes. This is still an artist who likes to let it rip. Deeply weird, feverishly emotional, wildly enthusiastic, 1989 sounds exactly like Taylor Swift, even when it sounds like nothing she’s ever tried before. And yes, she takes it to extremes. Are you surprised? This is Taylor Swift, remember? Extremes are where she starts out.
*4 stars out of 5
Taylor Swift's new album, '1989,' leaked
Things were a little easier to control in 1989.
On the heels of stellar reviews for her new, '80s-infused pop album, 1989, Taylor Swift and her label, Big Machine Records, spent much of Friday waging a modern war over widespread leaks as tracks hit a variety of music-sharing sites.
The reviews are in! Do critics like Taylor Swift's new pop album?
With Swift's new, heavily promoted album set for release Monday, Friday launched with a scramble: The first song to hit YouTube was Blank Space, which was yanked by Big Machine within hours.
New Yorkmagazine reports the leak could have stemmed from Target because hackers nabbed not only the 13 main tracks off 1989, but the 19 songs specially crafted for the Target edition.
(USA TODAY has reached out to Target, Big Machine Records and Swift for comment.)
This is hardly new ground: Swift's last album, Red, leaked in full in 2012. Back then, it had little impact: Red went on to sell 1.23 million copies in its first week.
Music experts don't think the leak will affect sales this time, either.
"Taylor Swift's fans are uncommonly loyal," says Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor at Rolling Stone. "I doubt that anyone who wanted to buy the album would be dissuaded by the leak."
Kelly Clarkson Wows Taylor Swift and Fans With Amazing Cover of "Shake it Off"—Watch Now!