Taylor Swift - Speak Now
By: Matt Bjorke
It’s hard to believe that it has only been four years since taylor swift arrived and forever changed the country music landscape. At the time of her arrival, she was an unknown teenager signed to an unknown record label. Her first single “Tim McGraw” made her an instant country music darling but it was “Teardrops On My Guitar” that put her on the mainstream musical map. Radio liked her and so did fans as they rushed to purchase her singles at iTunes, Amazon and other digital download stores and this proved that digital singles were a viable format for country artists. Taylor also tapped into an audience which wasn’t customarily tapped into by country artists when she connected with the teen and tween markets. These markets helped make Taylor Swift into the most-successful solo artist of the digital music era and sales of four million plus for Taylor Swift and over seven million for the 2009 Album of the Year” for the CMA’s, ACM and Grammys, Fearless.
With all of these accolades, Speak Now can already considered a success as around two million copies were shipped to stores for launch week in late October, 2010. Completely self-written, Speak Now is most definitely a transitional recording for Swift as she moves into adulthood (she turns 21 in December). It’s something that she needed to release to prove she could move beyond the ‘fairytales’ and ‘teen love stories’ of the past albums and – for the most part – she has done just that.
Lead single “Mine” was the perfect song to bridge the last album to this new album as it sonically feels like the stuff from Fearless while having lyrics which discuss college and a more mature frame of mind for Swift. Like most of the songs on this record, this song deals with being in and out of love. “Back To December,” One of three preview songs from Speak Now details a moment of regret in Taylor’s (or the narrator’s) life. The melody has an airy feel and is accented by a subtle orchestra and lilting mandolin. “The Story of Us,” is one of many outwardly pop-leaning songs on this album and it, too, has a theme about a broken relationship with lines like “The story of us looks like a tragedy now.” “Better Than Revenge” may be the albums most ‘pop’ song on the record but that doesn’t mean it’s a ‘dud.’ In fact, the song uses its Paramore-inspired pop/punk sound to great effect and it’s one of many places where Swift shows off her willingness to get back at somebody who did her wrong through her songwriting. Pop radio is likely to eat up this song.
Taylor offers up some advice on the Kanye West-inspired “Innocent” and “Dear John” (mayer) but also on album closer “Long Live” and “Never Grow Up.” “Long Live” is an interesting piece that showcases Swift almost in ‘graduation ceremony’ mode as she discusses ‘the end of a decade…start of a new age.” It’s a song that certainly finds her willing to turn the page on the first phase of her career as she blossoms into a well-rounded, world-travelling superstar. “Never Grow Up” is a song written to a younger girl reminding her to cherish the moments she has in childhood for they go very fast and you’re never able to reclaim that carefree fantastic time of your life. That segues nicely into “Innocent” which basically finds Taylor forgiving Kanye West for interrupting her moment but sagely says that he needs to remember that he’s a grown man and that he should act like so ‘innocent’ about the things he does in his life. “Dear John” basically finds Swift ripping the man a ‘new one’ for carelessly taking advantage of her young heart and leaving her in pieces.
“Enchanted” and “Haunted” both tell tales of different periods of love with the former describing that moment when your heart is a flutter with immediate warmth because of an instant connection to someone but also chronicling how fleeting that can be as it was but a moment in time. “Haunted” finds Taylor in an extremely theatrical mode melodically as she hits an Evanescense-like groove with lyrics about not being able to shake a memory of an old flame. “Mean” is an interesting song in that it finds Taylor chewing out many people, particularly bullies. It’s a song that really could become part of the anti-bullying campaigns for schools everywhere. Melodically it’s also the most ‘country’ with an extremely down-home, almost bluegrass sound.
Speak Now certainly feels like an album that’s leaving behind the ‘puppy love’ of the first two albums in favor of stronger stories, more mature themes and ambitious at times. So while Taylor Swift has indeed grown up and that fact may lose her some of the fickle teen and tween fans, Speak Now really looks and feels like it may give her many, many more fans worldwide, including some who have been skeptical of her from the start.
If You prefer your music to be of the silver platter variety, you can grab the CD version at Amazon ($8.00).