Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ mixes maturity and … dubstep?

Taylor Swift performs on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday in New York. Associated Press

Taylor Swift performs on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday in New York.
Associated Press
By Alexandra Barca


Taylor Swift’s fourth studio effort, “Red,” makes a statement as bold as its namesake color: As Swift matures into a woman, her talent is here to stay.

With an eclectic mix of radio-ready pop songs, twangy country tunes and heartbreaking ballads, Swift proves her range both lyrically and musically.

Although she teamed up with several co-writers for this album, the lyrics are still signature Swift.

The ballad “All Too Well” begins as a flashback to happier times in a relationship and then builds until she is nearly screaming about what went wrong. The words thread a beautiful narrative as she uses images like a forgotten scarf that reminds her lover of their past.

In other songs such as “I Almost Do,” she brings depth to her words by repeating the first few lines again at the end, now holding a deeper meaning after Swift crooned about her desire to contact an ex-lover.

Once again, she covers the entire spectrum of love and relationships from pure bliss in “Stay Stay Stay” to the final stand in a dysfunctional union in “The Last Time.”

But it is in the duet “The Last Time,” with Snow Patrol lead vocalist Gary Lightbody where Swift falters, pairing her thin falsetto with his deep, complex tone. Her voice, along with the truly powerful lyrics, are drowned out in the process.

But the other duet, “Everything Has Changed,” featuring Ed Sheeran may be the standout of the album. Swift and Sheeran’s tender voices mold into one another, and the lyrics are propelled into the spotlight. As they sing about an instant connection with a new lover, a listener can’t help but think this one is about her current beau, Connor Kennedy.

Another ballad about the start of a relationship, “Begin Again,” also seems to be about her famous, albeit young boyfriend as she speaks about a relationship blossoming eight months after a breakup (Swift presumably dated Jake Gyllenhaal eight months ago).

Although many of these songs are emotional ballads with mature lyrics reminiscent of many tracks off her somber second album, “Fearless,” Swift has not forgotten her younger fan base.

Following up on her first foray into the pop genre, 2010’s “Speak Now,” Swift includes punchy pop songs such as hit singles “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “Red,” along with lesser known tracks “Holy Ground” and “Starlight.”

But she also captures her former curly-haired teen with songs like “Stay Stay Stay,” which has the same country sound and upbeat lyrical riffs as songs off her self-titled debut album, which was released when she was just 16 years old.

While Swift pulls inspiration and musical styling from each of her past albums, she still pushes her own limitations and dabbles in a genre no one ever thought she could: dubstep.

In her hit single “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Swift melds her high-pitched lines with a beat produced by Max Martin and Shellback and created a dance-club worthy hit.

Many people might ask why she is straying from what she knows and what she does well, but the answer is quite simple: because she can.

Swift’s likability as a celebrity allows her to experiment.

Her fan base is so loyal that they will follow her into any genre she explores. With “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Swift is able to pull off a massive departure from her country roots.

And her loyal fans will thank her.

With catchy hits like this and the titular “Red” juxtaposed against deeper, tear-inducing tracks like “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” it is safe to say Swift has perfected the ability to produce a hit album with substance.