Country Star Writes Familiar Diary

Taylor Swift
Speak Now
Big Machine

We all know Taylor Swift’s recipe for success: lyrics about the girl next door falling in love with the boy next door (who also has washboard abs) mixed in with some pop-country guitar and catchy melodies. It’s formulaic, but it made the singer a worldwide music icon.

So it’s no suprise that T-Swift’s new album, Speak Now, is filled with more sappy, sugary songs about young love.

The album is only halfway believable — surprising, since Swift is so adamant about injecting every minute detail of her life into her music. But how can we find credibility in songs like weepy title track “Speak Now,” where Swift steals a groom away from his bridezilla of a wife-to-be? For a songwriter who takes pride in airing dirty laundry, this moment of fiction feels out of place.

The lyrics on Speak Now aren’t too grown up either. On “Mean,” Swift sings, “You with your words/Like knives and swords/And weapons that you use against me.” These overdone metaphors sound like all that bad poetry we wrote in middle school, the lines of which we sure as hell didn’t want to hear again. Still, the country essentials are all there — the banjo, the fiddle, the clapping beat — to help us overlook the Disney Channel verse and enjoy the fun refrain.

At least in country heartbreaker “Dear John,” we get a redeeming sense of the emotional anguish caused by a barely legal affair. (Rumor has it, Swift wrote this one about 33-year-old singer John Mayer.) There’s depth in the track’s narrative (“And I lived in your chess game / But you changed the rules every day”) and beauty in Swift’s soft vocals, as they waver to a swirling violin and Dixie Chick-esque bottleneck guitar. Halfway through the album, the track finally provides a sense of realism from Swift, which is refreshing after listening to so many tracks about contrived relationships.

If you’re not an avid Taylor Swift fangirl, Speak Now is definitely an album to pass up. It’s nothing new for the singer; just more of the same overblown love ballads that have been playing on the radio for the past few years — with a slight hint of maturity slipped in (too far) under the radar.  (4/10)

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