'Red' Is Still Heartbroken, But Feistier
Innocent as her appearance may be, Taylor Swift seems to stir up controversial feelings among music fans. She is often either loved or hated with passion, with very little room for in-between. Her third album, Speak Now, left some pretty big shoes for the just-released Red to fill, if the thousands of screaming preteens who filled stadiums during her last tour are any indication.
With Red, Swift moves in a slightly different direction toward a more pop-dominated sound. Many of her songs still have a country sound to them, but they are far from the majority of the album. The title song stands out as Swift paints a perfect picture of a high-stakes romance, and perhaps begins to reveal herself as more jaded by love than the young girl she used to be — though she quickly slips back into her typical self as the album goes on. “Red" has a catchy, radio-geared feel without the slight obnoxiousness of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Swift also delivers some of her signature tear-jerker material with “All Too Well” and “I Almost Do,” among others.
One thing that hasn’t changed much is the maturity level of the content. Swift has grown older and has reflected as much in her personal style, but her music’s emotional tone remains the same. This is especially true in the song “22,” which sounds like it’s being sung by, well, a sixteen-year-old. It’s as if by ending the album with the song “Begin Again,” she is confirming the popular belief that her serial bad breakups are an endless, unhealthy cycle from which she is learning nothing, and she is ready to throw herself full-force into yet another immature, high-intensity romance that will leave her with more writing material.
Though it’s impossible to know what’s going in Swift’s head, the girl deserves some credit for putting it all out there and representing the idealistic, lovesick teenager in all of us. Red is no exception in that regard, so she does manage to stay true to herself. It seems that many people feel they are somewhat above her simple sounds, but as much as they’d like to deny it, some part of them has felt every feeling the singer represents. Disliking Swift is a very fine line to walk. All it takes is one song that starts out innocently on the radio as a sweet pop hit and ends up painfully resonating with your own personal melodrama, and all of a sudden you are a (closet) Taylor fan.
Yes, she can be petty. Yes, some of the songs on Red lack musical depth. Her lyrics are simplistic and sometimes sound like an after-school special. And yet, nobody can tell a love story like Taylor Swift. It just might be that her lyrics’ simplicity is the very reason for that — Swift presents raw, basic feelings without trying to dress them up as “deeper” than they are. As anybody whose heart has been broken can attest, such feelings speak for themselves and require few words to instantly become universal. She strips her listeners of the pretenses that surround them and brings them back to the simple broken heart at their core. And, of course, there’s always the fact that her music is simply fun to listen to. On Red, Swift retains her joyful optimism mixed in with her perpetual wounded heart — but there’s a bit more feistiness this time around.