You can say what you like about Taylor Swift, but you can't deny that she is an exquisite lyricist. However bizarre you might find her way of writing lyrics - honest confessions about her life and the lives of those around her, with the antagonists often clearly identifiable - you have to concede that it works. Her most recent album, Speak Now, released earlier this month, has to be her best work yet.
Taylor Swift, in this album, has most definitely grown up. All of these songs were written by her and her alone, and I think that you can hear it, reflected in the vocal and in the fact that she's taken a step away from her usual "country-centric" style. It is also evident in the fact that a few of the songs seem almost like follow-ups to previous songs. In the 'hidden message' in Last Kiss for example, a reference to Forever and Always, Swift's song about Joe Jonas, is clear; and in If This Was A Move, references made to doors slamming, fights and rain are clearly reminiscent of The Other Side of The Door.
Although these songs could be seen as a challenge put in place for fans, they work equally well as stand-alone pieces.
There is undoubtedly a song on this album which everyone will be able to relate to. There are three which touch me especially, and so I'm going to focus my attentions in this review on them.
The first of these is Never Grow Up, which is presumably written about the fact that Swift has recently moved from her family home to an apartment of her own. Quiet, melodic and gentle, the song shifts between the prespective of a mother and that of Swift herself. From the very first time I listened to this song, I teared up. Having recently moved away to university, and being in the process of planning to move to anotehr continent for a year from July, the lyrics really get to me. "
Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room / Memorize what is sounded like what your dad gets home / Remember the footsteps, remember the words said / And all your little brother's favorite songs / I just realized everything I had is someday gonna be gone"
I've talked about this with friends recently, and we all agree: before we moved here, we'd probably not have felt the weight of this song, but now, in a "big city, they just dropped me off", we do. We understand her pain, and I think that it is clearly audible in the vocalisation, which shows a great deal more vulnerablility than any Swift song I've heard before.
Enchanted, too, rings especially true - although I think that this is a song that everyone can relate too. The melody is floating; the character is floating. Catchy without being irritating, this is more like the Swift songs I recognise from previous albums: it is the narrative which catches me. Describing an initially mundane night in which she is "forcing laughter, faking smiles", the song goes on to describe the moment she catches the eye of someone "enchanting", and the dynamic of the night changes... and experience which, surely, everyone has felt at some point. The way she tells it, though, is more like a story than a song. There are few gaps left to fill in: you feel as though you are in her shoes. It is your night.
The third song I am focussing on is another one to add to the canon of "Amy and Sarah songs"; Long Live was written for Swift's band, and describes a wonderful friendship, and the feeling that you are on top of the world. A genuine feel-good song, the slow start lulls you in to the story, and the beautifully crafted metaphors create a whole other story, if you care to look into them. The lyrics are currently spelled out in fridge magnets on my bathroom door; they always makde me smile.
Sarah, I truly "had the time of my life fighting dragons with you".
My over-all verdict is overtly positive. As a "quote collector", this album is my dream come true; as a fan of both Indie and Country music, it encompasses all my favourite styles. As a writer, the lyrics stun me; and as a Taylor Swift fan, it makes me proud.
It also only fuels my excitement for her UK tour dates in March - and for the fact that I'm going with two of my very best friends. Long live!
- A -