Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’: Album Review

“You don’t know about me, but you want to,” sings Taylor Swift on “22,” one of the more delirious pop gems on her new album Red, due out on Big Machine Records. She’s right: The national obsession with Swift’s personal life shows no sign of slowing. Swift’s signature heartbreak anthems are inextricably connected to the famous men she dates, which makes the guess-the-celebrity game that the media plays with her deeply confessional songwriting much more fun than deconstructing, say, the latest Katy Perry song.

But even as it informs her music, Swift’s romantic life is probably the least interesting thing about her. What’s still the most compelling feature of the Taylor Swift industrial complex is the dexterity with which she translates the minute specificity of her experience into songs that resonate with millions of diehard devotees — not in the predictable way, with generalities and abstractions, but with finely rendered details that betray a writer’s nerdy touch. In a world of pop stars, Swift is a memoirist who sings. That would be interesting even if she were dating civilians. 

This tendency is less obvious on Red than in any of her three previous studio albums, but Swift has learned when to withhold her verboseness and when to use it. The explosive chorus in lead single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is all Max Martin‘s Swedish shellack, as simple a hook as any on the radio. (Compare the minimalist spunk of that chorus, built around the simple repetition of “We are never ever ever getting back together,” with the chorus on “Mine,” the lead single from Speak Now, which contained the tongue-twisting mouthful “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.”) Likewise, on the sunny-but-rueful “I Knew You Were Trouble,” the chorus lyrics are just spare enough to make room for that dubstep wobble to explode.

Red packs a handful of polished pop songs like “Together” and “Trouble,” and even the figurative language-heavy title track, with its electro stutter on the chorus, feels smooth and shiny as any of her previous work, which received its country-pop-rock luster courtesy of Nathan Chapman. On Red, Swift teamed up with a crew of the industry’s most reliable hitmakers, including Martin, Shellback and even Jeff Bhasker, who (ironically) helmed much of Kanye West‘s critically acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

It’s Swift herself, though, who leads the charge on diversions into sonic experimentation that wouldn’t fare as well on the radio, and they feel even more exciting. “State of Grace,” with its layers of reverb and galloping backbeat, evokes Coldplay and U2; and that latter influence is clearest of all on “Treacherous,” those aching guitars referencing “With Or Without You” as Swift sings about sex for the first time since alluding to poor Abigail’s bygone virginity in “Fifteen.” “I’ll do anything you say/If you say it with your hands,” she sings in “Treacherous,” her voice rising to a threatening power: “I will follow you, follow you home,” she cries, over and over again.

Red has more than a few surprises, and the most startling song on the album is “Holy Ground,” produced by Bhasker: A storming drum beat brings a sense of urgency that Swift’s sprawling soft-rock productions have rarely had. But the lyrics are classic Swift, with a couplet that’s brilliantly tight and so obvious it seems like it should have been the hook in a thousand pop songs already: “Tonight I’m gonna dance for all that we’ve been through/But I don’t wanna dance if I’m not dancing with you.” Equally luminous is “The Lucky One,” a meditation on fame (presumably inspired by Joni Mitchell, who Swift is slated to portray in an upcoming biopic) that marries a ’60s girl group rhythm with lyrics about the vicissitudes of celebrity, performing a nifty third-act trick of turning observation into introspection.

If some of those flirtations with other genres sound less like Swift, there are ballads, too, that sound more quintessentially Swift than anything she’s ever recorded. Both collaborations — with Ed Sheeran on the acoustic strummer “Everything Has Changed,” and with Snow Patrol‘s Gary Lightbody on “The Last Time” — are effective, and the not-gonna-call listlessness of “I Almost Do” breaks up the pop nicely. And yet, it’s the tense “All Too Well” that hits the hardest: Swift drops the devastating image, “We’re dancing around the kitchen in the refrigerator light,” before reaching an almost hysterical unraveling with the despondent cry, “I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here.” It’s dramatic, but with Swift, it always is. That’s a good thing.

The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: If “22″ is released as a pop single and given the proper promotion, it’ll be a worldwide smash. Not only is the hook ironclad and the spunky production made for radio, she nails twentysomething angst with the lyric “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time / It’s miserable and magical.” It’s better than a thousand indie records that are much cooler than hers.

Pops Like: All the Taylor Swift songs you’ve ever heard, grown-up and better than you remember them.

Best Listened To: In Hyannis Port. (Nashville works too, though.)

Full Disclosure: I’ve been saying for years that Taylor Swift is the best songwriter of her generation, and Red does nothing to dissuade me.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sam Lansky

  • Brittany Love

    Finally.. a review worth mentioning. I think this is Taylors best album to date! Red, I almost do, Come back be here and Begin again…are personal favorites. But there isn’t one song on this album I can’t listen to over and over again.

  • Robbie

    I totally agree! I LOVE this album, best track for me from the album is definitely 22 and the lucky one … love them!

  • vstorevigilante

    I am growing up as Taylor does (age-wise, not fame-and-fortune wise ;)). I’ll be twenty-four a few weeks after her 23rd birthday, and I find her albums growing with me – ‘Mine’ was my perfect song for my getting-very-serious-at-the-time relationship, and while I’m still with the same man as she dates handfuls, the emotions are still spot-on. I’ve been listening to the album all day, and I’m in love with her music over and over again. : )


    Eww. I don’t like this. I ‘m a huge fan of taylor swift. I hate max martin and these crappy pop songs. Everything has changed is pretty good, but fearless is still the best album out there

  • Alswaysaswiftie

    i love taylor swift no matter what

  • Emelie

    I compleately agree about the wrong single choice, 22 is so much better and catchier than “We are never ever Getting Back Together”, that btw has a waaay too long title in my opinion. 22 It should definitely serve as the album’s third single! My 3 absolute favorites is 22, All to Well and Everything has Changed, cause Swift and Sheeran as a is just a match made in music heaven!

  • Mark Ocampo

    I was a bit disappointed with the album. I think the only good songs are the ones that she leaked online. And also I Almost Do. The remaining are just blah. Fearless is still her best album IMO.

  • Jena

    You think Taylor Swift is the best songwriter of her generation? HAHAHA um…no.

    • Alex

      Who would you say is then? Obviously there are many, many artists with superior songwriting skills, but of the mainstream artists around Swift’s age, there are few that write their own lyrics and none that I know of that write as many or as well as Swift does

  • Anton

    yeah i think that “fearless” is still a better album. what i particularly didnt like in some songs in “red” is the electronic music. in previous albums she never used that kind of tipical “BOOM BOOM” music which makes her songs sound tipical cheap music like many other bands have. her songs sound much better with nice guitar, drums… but in new songs there are elements of that 21ST century cheap electonic “music”. and most of “red” doesnt sound like Taylor due to music and the way she sings them for example – 22
    p.s. T.Swift Stay your-self!

  • LYadon

    It’s not country, but it is good for what it is. It’s a nice change for Taylor to see a different side to her. I like every song except Stay Stay Stay, which is the worst song I have ever heard from her on any album.

    Overall B+

    • Anton

      i agree, it is still a great album,realy great actioly. just have to listen in to it a bit( like any other great music)
      her music has matured now.. i guess she grows.
      I now give it A

  • mysza

    verified-download.com/file/03i8j3 ——>>>> here is deluxe version HQ rate of whole album enjoy.

  • Awesomeness

    I’ve heard this album over and over again, almost like 10 times and it’s been just a day since i got it! come back be here, moment i knew, begin again, red, i almost do and basically every song is beautifully penned. it’s like a own personal diary, anyone can relate to these song, album is a worth a buy! taylor swift just keeps on growing! i don’t mind an artist who writes about love in fact i love it! AT LEAST SHE DOESN’T WRITES THRASH. over all taylor swift’s albums and red is a perfect personal audio diary

  • Spoofgirl

    t feels like the perfect night, to collapse dead tired, watch TV, not Disney…..uh huh, uh huh
    It feels like a perfect night, to pay bills and Facebook, and fold up some laundry….uh huh, uh huh
    Yeah, It’s sad I’m happy all the socks have matches this time
    It’s pathetic and practical
    Oh yeah, I’m glad I finally got the bills paid by the deadline, on time

    Oh I don’t know about you but I’m feeling 36
    So many damn things to do, so many things I need to fix
    See the thing about me, is I even work too
    But I sneak to movies while the kids are stuck at school
    At 36. At 36

    It seems like one of those nights, that I just might get some, kids finally sleeping…. uh, huh, uh huh
    It seems like the perfect night, kids at a sleepover, and end up sexing instead of sleeping
    Yeah, we actually had a meal that never comes with free toys, its expensive but it’s magical
    Oh yeah, tonight’s the night we forget about the homework, its time.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 36
    Everything is chaos and both kids are really sick
    I don’t have the flu, but I think I’m going too
    Stock up on Gatorade and load up my Netflix queue
    At 36, at 36

    It feels like one of those nights, I’m going to be dragging
    It feels like one of those nights, I just want to be sleeping
    It feels like one of those nights, where it’s just bad news
    It feels like one of those nights, I just wish it were you!

  • David Rodriguez

    RED is one of the best albums of the year.
    I’m going to be a huge fan of her!

  • Milytoni Ebo

    Agree! This is yet her best album. I just love every single track on the album. You are perfectly awesome and wonderful, Taylor. Don’t ever change. Do not worry, Swifties got your back no matter what. I love you. WE love you.

  • Alfred

    Starlight, the best of all !!

  • Swiftie

    All Too Well is the best song on the album. Why did you not mention it?

    • Jake

      He did. Why did you not read the whole article?

  • imoldgregmuthalicka

    heeeellllllllllllll yeaaah bitch

  • imoldgregmuthalicka

    heeeellllllllllllll yeaaah bitch