How To Listen To Taylor Swift’s 1989

2 Nov


I was really worried about the new Taylor Swift album.

Well, really worried might be overstating it.

I was concerned about the new Taylor Swift album in that nebulous way someone who is a fan but not a crying, screaming Fan is concerned.  I was concerned because Shake It Off didn’t do all that much for me.

Don’t get me wrong!  Shake It Off is quite catchy.  I enjoy that section in the music video where regular people dance all regularly.  And I’m all about Taylor’s new haircut.

But the song?  It feels like anyone could be singing it.  It’s a bit generic, the words don’t move me.  And, well, that’s just not Taylor Swift.

Taylor’s biggest strength, is, of course, her lyrics.  Her ability to make you feel in on a slumber party secret, to relate by being specifically personal.  Taylor Swift is in the details. And I didn’t feel that from Shake it Off.

I was also a bit concerned about the direction of the album.  The Taylor I adore doesn’t shake shake shake it off.  She uses her immeasurable talent to write pointedly personal (better than revenge?) songs.  She owns her experiences and her stories and she takes the terrible, the John Mayer, and turns it into gold like the badass kitten lover she is.

And so when I got 1989 and I did a cursory listen, I was disappointed.

There were some poppy jingles, but where was the story?  Where was the range of emotions, the beginning, middle and end all in three minutes?

Where had T. Swift gone?

And then I saw the album notes.

Please review the album notes with me for a minute:

Welcome to New York We begin our story in New York
Blank Space There once was a girl known by every one and no one
Style Her heart belonged to someone who couldn’t stay
Out of the Woods They loved each other recklessly
All You Had To Do was Stay They paid the price
Shake It Off She danced to forget him
I Wish You Would He drove past her street each night
Bad Blood She made friends and enemies
Wildest Dreams He only saw her in his dreams
How To Get The Girl Then one day he came back
This Love Timing is a funny thing
I Know Places And everyone was watching
Clean She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything

When I read these notes, something shifted in me.  Suddenly the album was a single, cohesive story, a continuation of an experience.

An extended version of We Are Never Getting Back Together.

One girl.

One Harry Styles.

One story about growing up.

Suddenly the line in Style:

I say I heard that you been out and about with some other girl

He says, what you’ve heard it’s true but I

Can’t stop thinking about you and I

I said I’ve been there too a few times

is about Conor Kennedy in the same way

 Drop his name 

Push it in and twist the knife again 

Watch my face

As I pretend to feel no pain

In John Mayer’s Heartbreak Warfare is about Brad Pitt.

It’s a puzzle, it’s hints at a whole, it’s utterly fascinating.  And to take one song from this album is like taking one line from a poem.  You miss the whole.

1989 is the only Taylor Swift album you’ve ever needed to listen to in order, beginning to end.

It’s her most cohesive album to date.

And my favorite.  There I’m saying it.

Holy crap I love this album.

Taylor has talked a lot about how 1989 is her “growing up” and “finding herself” album, and how she’s a new girl.  A girl who lives in New York with short hair and is happy in a world where she isn’t in love.  You can feel this in the album, the growing self awareness, the growing cynicism.

(Ugh I love the cynicism.)

(Though I wouldn’t mind  few songs about these intense female friendships she says she’s been focusing on.)

(Perhaps the next album?)

Taylor’s self-awareness is most apparent in (by far her best song) Blank Space.  This is Taylor Freaking Swift at her Taylor Freaking Best.  She mocks her public perception, the intense scrutiny on her personal life, and she does it with a whole lot of cheek.

Darling I’m a nightmare dressed as a daydream.

Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane 

Love’s a game, want to play?

Taylor is freaking rewriting her own narrative, no longer the underdog or victim or anything but a feminist queen, and every single bit of me loves this to death.

To death, I tell you!

It’s easy to listen to 1989 and imagine myself as Taylor, going through this tumultous relationship, wanting nothing more than for it to work out and being burned again and again.  It’s easy because I’ve been there, it’s easy because it’s a human emotion, it’s easy because Taylor makes it look effortless, that relatable thing.

Which is why I am infinitely grateful for I Know Places.

With Shake it Off it appeared Taylor was going for the classic Swift, the You Belong With Me Outsider Thing that has worked so well for her in the past.  I’m just like you!  I’m a dork who listens to Spice Girls and can’t dance!

And perhaps Taylor is and does all of those things, but the reality is she’s also the most successful pop musician in the world and her life, while similar to mine on some levels, is dramatically different.

And I’m glad she addressed this.

I’m glad this wasn’t The Hills where we pretended the girls weren’t celebrities, that cameras didn’t follow every lunch date, that that whole side of their lives wasn’t real.

I’m glad Taylor sang about feeling hunted by the paparazzi, the public, the world.  I’m glad I could feel the urgency, the fear that the flame of a relationship was going to burn out because of who she is.  Who he is.

I’m glad we got a glimpse into the Taylor of now.  No longer idealistic and black and white about love and relationships and life.

Taylor Now is edgier.  She’s in control of her own story.  She’s fierce.

There’s a lot to say about Taylor’s vocals.  How the first time I listened to Wildest Dreams I thought I had stumbled on a Lana Del Rey song, how Taylor experiments with sounds and beats and pop music in general and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.


That doesn’t even really matter to me, honestly.

This album a story.

A story I get excited listening to.

A story I relate to, a story I want to know more about, a story about a girl.

And those are my favorite sorts of stories, you know.

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5 Responses to “How To Listen To Taylor Swift’s 1989”

  1. Cait aka Kit Kat November 5, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    you know how proud this makes me.

    • jillianlorraine November 7, 2014 at 8:45 am #

      Kissy face emoji.

  2. Kay R. November 6, 2014 at 8:06 am #

    I actually might buy this album even though Im not the biggest swifty fan! …. good review!

    • jillianlorraine November 7, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      Thank you! It’s still on repeat in my life.

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