In 2014, Taylor Swift made the move everyone expected and released her first full-on pop album, 1989. The album opened at No. 1 with 1.287 million copies and became Swift's third set to debut with more than 1 million, a feat she owns. The record produced a handful of top 10 hits on the Hot 100 including the No. 1 "Blank Space" and "Shake It Off," the lead single. Influenced by sounds of the 80's, Swift created a pop masterpiece that only elevated her superstardom across the globe. Taking Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, an award she's won before, Swift's accolades added up as fast as the sales. Now with new album Reputation set to drop on Nov. 10, AXS is taking a look at the top 5 best Taylor Swift songs from 1989.
Written and recorded with Imogen Heap, Swift solidified her songwriting ability with one of indie's beloved artists praising her for being the real deal. The song paints a vivid imagery of metaphorically ridding herself of an addiction, a former love interest.
4. "You Are in Love"
"You Are in Love" was included on the album as a bonus track at Target stores in the U.S. and Canada as well as the international release. The song beautifully builds into a slow dance style suited for any wedding or romantic occasion guided by lyrics like, "You can hear it in the silence/ You can feel it on the way home/ You can see it with the lights out/ You're in love, true love."
3. "Style"/"All You Had to Do Was Stay"
Out of 16 songs total on the deluxe edition of 1989, it's virtually impossible to overlook any songs. "Style" and "All You Had to Do Was Stay" have only one song in between them on the album but could be listed as an action with a reaction. Both pop perfection, "Style" flirts with rekindling an old relationship, driving back to her place. "All You Had to Do Was Stay" realizes that it's not such a good idea after the past. "All I know is you drove us off the road," she sings. "Style" was released as a single in 2015 and peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100.
2. "Out of the Woods"
"Out of the Woods" was the first time that Swift had ever written over an existing track. Jack Antonoff sent Swift the song after she heard just a few seconds of it over the phone and she wrote lyrics within 30 minutes. The heavily 80's influenced track was also released as a single later in the era after being a promotional track prior to the album's release. The video was released during "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" on Dec. 31, 2015.
1. "Blank Space
While "Blank Space" may not be the most captivating song on 1989, it's the most successful on the charts. It spent seven weeks at the top of the Hot 100, her longest leader to date. The track was a direct mockery of herself and the love troubles she's had that media bashed her for.
Related:Taylor Swift returns albums plus '1989' to Spotify, other streaming services
Imogen HeapTaylor Swift
See what Ms. Swift did there? The singer most likely to sell the most copies of any album this year has written herself a narrative in which she’s still the outsider. She is the butterfingers in a group of experts, the approachable one in a sea of high post, the small-town girl learning to navigate the big city.
In that sense, the most important decision Taylor Swift made in the last couple of years had nothing to do with music: She bought a pad in New York, paying about $20 million for a TriBeCa penthouse.
It was a molting, the culmination of several years of outgrowing Nashville combined with interest in Ms. Swift that placed her in tabloid cross-hairs just like any other global star.
But it also afforded her the opportunity once again to be seen as a naïf. In Nashville, she’d learned all the rules, all the back roads. Now, with that place more or less in the rear view, she is free to make the John Hughes movie of her imagination. That’s “1989,” which opens with “Welcome to New York,” a shimmery, if slightly dim celebration of the freedom of getting lost in Gotham: “Everybody here was someone else before/And you can want who you want.” (As a gesture of tolerance, this is about 10 steps behind Kacey Musgraves’s “Follow Your Arrow.”)
Ms. Swift hasn’t been the type to ask permission in her career, but she has long seen herself as a stranger to the grand-scale fame that New York signifies. “Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city” she taunted a critic on “Mean,” from her 2010 album “Speak Now”; now here she is, making the New York spotlight her backlight.
On this new stage, Ms. Swift is thriving. And crucially, she is more or less alone, not part of any pop movement of the day. She has set herself apart and, implicitly, above.
The era of pop she channels here was a collision of sleaze and romanticism, of the human and the digital. But there’s barely any loucheness in Ms. Swift’s voice. Her take on that sound is sandpapered flat and polished to a sheen. The album, named for the year she was born, is executive produced by Ms. Swift and Max Martin, and most of the songs are written with Mr. Martin and his fellow Swede Shellback. Both men have helped shape the last decade of pop but what’s notable here is their restraint. (Mr. Martin also did almost all the vocal production on the album.) Ms. Swift’s old running buddy Nathan Chapman produced “This Love,” a mournful ballad that would have been at home of the “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack, and the only song here that could be mistaken for a concession to country.
The best country-defying songs on her last album, “Red” — especially “I Knew You Were Trouble,” another collaboration with Mr. Martin and Shellback — were also a move toward forward-sounding pop. Ms. Swift has many charms but stylistic envelope pushing has not always been among them. And yet those songs showed her to be more of a risk taker than she’d ever been, and savvy enough to know her fans would follow.
That vanguard attitude, though, isn’t to be found on “1989,” which is largely filled with upbeat, tense songs on which the singer stomps out much of whatever was left of her youthful innocence. The Taylor Swift of this album is savage, wry, and pointed. The high mark is “Style,” which recalls something from the original “Miami Vice” soundtrack, all warm synths and damp vocals. “Midnight/You come and pick me up/No headlights,” she oozes at the beginning of the song. By the chorus, she’s flirty, but back in the verses, she’s skeptical and a little bedraggled.
Ms. Swift has often sung in a talky manner, emphasizing intimacy over power and nuance, but on “1989” she uses her voice — processed more than ever — in different ways than before: the coy confidence of how she shifts gears leading up to the bridge in “Shake It Off,” slithering out the line, “But I keep cruising,” immediately changing the song from gum-snapping glee to powerful release. Or the way she sweetly drags out the long e in “beat” on “Welcome to New York”; or the bratty background chorus chants on “All You Had to Do Was Stay.”
Her most pronounced vocal tweak is on “Wildest Dreams,” a sweaty and dark tale of dangerous love. In the verses, Ms. Swift sings drowsily, as if seducing or just waking up: “I said ‘No one has to know what we do'/ His hands are in my hair/ His clothes are in my room.” Then, at the bridge, she skips up an octave, sputtering out bleats of ecstasy, before retreating back under the covers.
On this album, Ms. Swift’s songwriting isn’t as microdetailed as it has been, instead approaching heartbreak with a wider lens, as on “This Love”:
Tossing, turning, struggled through the night with someone new
And I could go on and on, on and on
Lantern, burning, flickered in my mind for only you
But you were still gone, gone, gone
And while there are certainly references to some of Ms. Swift’s high-profile relationships, the album on the whole feels less diaristic than her previous work.
But don’t be distracted by for whom the belle trolls; she trolls with glee, and that’s what matters. Take the clever “Blank Space,” a metanarrative about Ms. Swift’s reputation as a dating disaster:
Saw you there and I thought
Oh my God, look at that face
You look like my next mistake
Love’s a game, want to plaaaaaay?
This is Ms. Swift at her peak. It’s funny and knowing, and serves to assert both her power and her primness. By contrast, the songs where she sounds the least jaded — “How You Get the Girl,” “Welcome to New York” — are among the least effective.
It’s hard for Ms. Swift to still sell naïveté; she’s too well-known and too good at her job. That’s likely at least part of the reason that the bonus edition of this album includes three voice memos recorded by Ms. Swift on her telephone that showcase bits of songs in their early stages. They’re there as gifts for obsessives, but also as boasts, flaunting her expertise and also her aw-shucks demeanor. “I Wish You Would” shows her singing without any vocal manipulation, and though the lyrics to “I Know Places” and “Blank Space” changed a bunch from this stage to the final version, it’s clear that the melodies were intact, and sturdy, from the beginning.
There are a few songs in which production dominates: the two songs written and produced with Jack Antonoff (of fun and Bleachers). “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would,” which burst with erupting drums, moody synths and sizzling guitars; and “Bad Blood,” which has booming drums reminiscent of the Billy Squier ones often sampled in hip-hop.
But these are outliers. Ms. Swift has always been melody first, and if she wanted to give herself over to a producer and sound of the moment, she could have gone several different, more obvious routes, or even stayed in country, which is as hip-hop inflected as pop is these days. (For the record, there are a few sort-of-modern phrases sprinkled through the lyrics — “this sick beat,” " mad love” and the chorus of “Shake It Off,” where she squeaks “the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” — though they are mostly there to underscore just how out of place Ms. Swift sounds singing them.)
But by making pop with almost no contemporary references, Ms. Swift is aiming somewhere even higher, a mode of timelessness that few true pop stars — aside from, say, Adele, who has a vocal gift that demands such an approach — even bother aspiring to. Everyone else striving to sound like now will have to shift gears once the now sound changes. But not Ms. Swift, who’s waging, and winning, a new war, one she’d never admit to fighting.Continue reading the main story
A picture credit last Sunday with an article about the singer Taylor Swift, who has a new album out, “1989,” misspelled the photographer’s given name. The picture of Ms. Swift wearing a black outfit was taken by Sarah Barlow, not Sara.