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Music Review: Taylor Swift teaches you to ‘Begin Again’

Angelene Sun, Columnist

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It’s finally here. After months of promotion going as far as the Papa John’s pizza box, Taylor Swift, the American sweetheart known for her innocent looks and diary-spilling, guess-my-exes’-names lyrics, came back with her fourth album, “Red.” In this 16-track album, Swift has ditched her country roots to take on a more pop and rock sound.

Hooking up with seven new and popular producers, Swift makes the genre of “Red” almost impossible to pin down. The opener, “State of Grace,” sounds like vintage U2, with ethereal guitars and moody overtones ringing out over a driving mid-tempo drum beat. Then come poppy, sonic vocals in the album’s namesake, “Red,” where Swift uses autotune for the first time. The monster single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” produced by Max Martin and Shellback, became her first number one on Billboard’s hot 100 chart with an outright pop sound. Other average songs such as “Holy Ground” and “The Lucky One” feature producer Jeff Bhasker, best known for producing Fun’s blockbuster album and hit songs for Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Beyonce and Lana Del Rey.

Two songs immediately stood out when I first listened to the album. “I Knew You Were Trouble” is an adventurous track with which I have a love/hate relationship. Accented with vocal stutters, autotune and a programmed, dubstep feel, it goes against the expectations of a five-year Swift country fan. But there is something attractive about the song’s tumultuous nature. The music goes perfectly with the chaotic feeling the lyrics convey. Sounding unconventionally aggressive over an electrified and electronic beat, Swift portrays the frustration one feels after falling for the wrong person, something most of us have done at some point. Then there is the heartwarming “Begin Again,” which makes me extremely nostalgic for old country-soul ballads like the heart-wrenching “You’re Not Sorry” and “White Horse” from her “Fearless” album. The song is clearly her kind of thing. Swift is remarkably talented at taking a single moment in time and letting it unfold like a pop-up storybook. Tactile details including “On a Wednesday in a cafe,” and “James Taylor records” give the song an undeniable texture and us the bubbly hope that love will somehow begin again.

Though more pop-driven and less classically country than the 22-year-old’s previous releases, “Red” is nonetheless inspired by the same tried-and-true muses: young love and ups and downs in a relationship. She continues to write ever-more convincingly  (and wittily, and painfully) about the messy emotions of a young twenty-something nearing the end of her transition from girl to woman.  This album is “about the other kinds of love that I’ve recently fallen in and out of,” Swift writes in the album booklet. “Love that was treacherous, sad, beautiful, and tragic. But most of all, this record is about love that was red.”

No matter what you love or hate about her change, with “Red,” Swift has little time for criticism. Though it may seem like she already has ten thousand songs about falling in and out of love, each of them still keeps reminding you of something amazing, bittersweet and heartbreaking in life. This is what keeps us craving the next chapter of the singer’s story.

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