Maybe we're all in for a treat after all.
So I'm not NOT a Taylor Swift fan. In fact - I enjoy a large portion of her material in what used to be a guilty pleasure but now I just kind of own it. I can admit when one track is bad and another bangs - it is what it is and I am who I am. I remember working at FYE when Speak Now came out and thinking to myself "wait, do you actually fuck with this?" That album just straight up had some really well written pop songs and I appreciated them for what they were.
Fast forward to the release of Red - once again, jams all over that thing. And the icing on the cake, "All To Well" existed within that album and I promise you it's the best song this woman will ever write. Outside of mainstream pop music and what you'd expect an artist like her to create, that track was pivotal in her growth as a songwriter. From there we had 1989, my personal favorite album of hers, where she began linking up with Jack Antonoff to accompany her writing with a sort of 80's synth style that complimented her like no sub-genre had before.
I'm not really going to talk about Reputation though - that album was like a side-step or something. The single wasn't good, the songs had too much angst, she tried to tip-toe into the world of hip-hop and it simply did not fit her persona. There were some moments of brilliance (Delicate, Dress, Call It What You Want, New Years Day) and guess what - three of those four songs, Jack Antonoff produced. Clearly this man understands Taylor better than the other producers she frequently works with. Rather than pumping out radio hits, he's allowing her to create something with a little more meaning - something that exists outside of the box that we've all put her in.
Now, here we are. Face to face with Taylor's seventh studio album and her first in as far as I can remember to not be released during the Holiday season. This thing is dropping in the heat of the Summer and the aesthetic she's used in her promotion and in the album cover itself have been colorful, vibrant and the complete opposite of what she did back on her sixth release.
But then the music started pouring in. "ME!" was just about as corny as her music can possibly get (that "spelling is fun!" line still haunts me in my sleep). But at the same time, I understand it's existence. It's extremely poppy, it's extremely catchy and it exudes positivity like never before. It has a nice message that young and old people alike should hear - you're unique, you're special, just be you. Sure. It got the job done.
Follow up single, "You Need To Calm Down" got a little too political and a little too preachy for my tastes and once again, the lyrics presented Taylor at her corniest. At this point, I started to get worried that I was looking in the face of Reputation 2.0 in terms of how much I'd actually enjoy the final product.
And then I saw the track listing.
What's extremely interesting about this album is that it's 18 songs - more than I can ever remember there being on a Taylor Swift album. And what's even more interesting is that those two previously released singles are tracks 14 and 16. That's some shit, right there. Singles traditionally present themselves on an albums front half almost always. You want to familiarize the listener with the record as early as you can when they listen to it for the first time and what it looks like she's doing here is just tagging on these cheesy pop anthems on the very end of her album as if they are bonus tracks.
So I started to wonder if this was all intentional - maybe this is a classic case of label vs artist where Taylor wanted to make a more mature sounding album, absent of tracks reminiscent of "ME!" and "You Need To Calm Down", but the label knew that they couldn't sell that to masses. So the compromise was exactly this - toss the single at the very end of the record and on the first 13 tracks, make the album you want make, girl.
Side note: 13 is also notoriously Taylor's favorite member so that would totally make sense.
"It's emotional, vibrant and gives her a space to tell a story as opposed to just flaunting cliche's and over-the-top quirkiness."
All of this leads us to last night, when Taylor released "The Archer" - track five on the album - the first to have a prominent spot on the track listing, the first to be produced by Jack Antonoff and the first to make me go "damn, girl!". It's the best song she's put out in the last five years and that's just a fact. It's emotional, vibrant and gives her a space to tell a story as opposed to just flaunting cliche's and over-the-top quirkiness.
So am I going to be right in all of this? Only time will tell. Personally, I'd like to see her ass make an entire album with Jack. I mean, look at what he's done for Lorde, Carly Rae Jepsen, Lana Del Rey and some of the best songs of Taylor's career thus far. He brings out the best in those that he works with, has an ear for modernizing synth-pop and co-writes in a way that allows each songwriter to tap into areas they hadn't previously explored while also adding in his ideas - and if Fun, Steel Train and Bleachers have taught us anything it's that Jack Antonoff knows how to write a damn song.
These fingers are crossed for a classic. I guess we'll find out in just over a month.