Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they break up, heartbreak ensues. This, it seems, is the foundation for 95% of Taylor Swift’s back catalogue. At first it appears that nothing is different about the sixteen tracks on RED. And you know what? It’s completely true. Nothing really is different. It’s almost completely expected and predictable. And it’s amazing.
From the punchy drum beat of State of Grace to the beautiful storytelling in Begin Again, RED captures a whole array of emotions about growing up and falling in and out of love. The title track offers up some wonderful similes detailing just what “loving him” is like and integrating the colour spectrum (well, blue, dark grey and red at least) into the lyrics somehow adds to its catchiness. Country pop rock at its finest.
You can’t get past the opening lyrics of 22 without cracking a smile. The song sounds more Katy Perry-esque than the rest of the album with the lyric about dressing up like hipsters showing that Swift is switched on to her audience. The shouty pop theme is continued in the far-too-long-titled We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together which has another corker of a lyric in “And you will hide away and find your peace of mind with some indie record that’s much cooler than mine”. Swift knows she’s not indie or hipster and milks her tried and tested country pop formula for all it’s worth. She’s not afraid to point out what she’s not and good on her.
The album features two major collaborations, with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody on The Last Time and then with Ed Sheeran on Everything Has Changed. The former is probably the one track that does offer variation from the norm. It’s slow, harmonic and Lightbody’s influence is immediately noticeable.
So yes, this latest release is samey but it’s so incredibly catchy that I can’t see why Swift would want to change her path. The Last Time shows she can shake things up with great success, but Swift knows her fan base well enough to keep giving them what they want because, ultimately, that’s what she’s so talented at doing. Taylor Swift is the perfect crossover between raw country songwriting and manufactured pop.
I always say I hate to admit that I love Taylor Swift, but the time has come to shake off the embarrassment. RED is a wonderfully crafted record that I am proud to own.