By Amanda Wicks
Country darling turned pop princess Taylor Swift continued her seamless transition from country to pop this year with her massive album 1989. Although her previous country tunes contained a definitive pop feel, 1989 marked the first time Swift shed her Nashville beginnings and concentrated solely on crafting a pop sound.
It could have been a risky move for a singer/songwriter who got her start penning country and country-pop, but Swift succeeded. A commercial and critical success, 1989 came jam-packed with hit after hit. Backed by a production team that included the legendary Swedish producer Max Martin, Swift turned out an album that captured what it meant to love, lose and find oneself in the 21st century. As clichéd as that subject matter could be, it was anything but in Swift’s capable hands.
Whether capturing the excitement, energy and atmosphere of New York City in 1989’s first track “Welcome to New York,” or crafting a rhythmically addictive pop standard like “Blank Space,” or building an emotional ballad like “Wildest Dreams,” it seems like Swift can do no wrong on the album. One of the album’s fans was critically hailed singer/songwriter Ryan Adams, who released his own 1989, covering all the songs on the album.
Where a particular guitar chord played with a country twang might have underscored the confessional nature of her songwriting back then, bass and synths reign supreme in Swift’s music now. She seems (cough) tailor-made for pop. Her catchy, sing-along lyrics help to create a memorable impression that lasts long after each song has ended. (Just try getting her songs out of your head!)
Up against the category’s other contenders, all of which included musical experimentation and genre blending, 1989 may not seem to have the adventurous spirit necessary to win the category. But between Swift’s ability to craft a song, and her understanding of pop beyond its contemporary hybrid form, she shows via 1989 that pop need not compromise itself to turn out hits and find listeners.
With seven GRAMMYs already under her belt, Swift deserves another win, if only to crown her country-to-pop transition with a bit of gold.