Taylor Swift's '1989' Album: A Helpful User's Guide!
Taylor Swift's 1989 is out! Time to start analyzing. After listening to it five times already, here's what I can tell you about the album, complete with influences, themes, and RIYLs (recommended if you like) included.
1. 'Welcome To New York' - RIYL: NYC
If you thought this song was straight out of a NYC tourism commercial, there's a reason. On Monday, Tay Tay was named Global Welcome Ambassador for the city. Coincidence?
Nevertheless, "Welcome to New York" chronicles our girl's move to the Big Apple, and while it's been criticized for being a bit naive about the city, this opening track captures the excitement and frenzy of NYC as well as the new chapter in Taylor's adult life, which sets the tone for the entire record.
2. 'Blank Space' - RIYL: Lorde, Lana Del Rey... and Shaggy?
This song takes you on musical journey, which sounds incredibly cheesy, but just listen: it starts off with a hip-hop beat, takes on Lorde-like vocals (and Lana when she's singing about her "long list of ex-lovers") and comes in with a catchy chorus, which you'll soon learn is standard for 1989. The best part about "Blank Space" -- besides the *pen click* -- is that Taylor pokes fun of herself, or rather, what people think of her. (Oh, and if you listen carefully, you can hear Shaggy's "Saw me kissing on the sofa" in "So it's gonna be forever," according to my Twitter friend.)
Related: Guess Who Loves 1989?
3. 'Style' - RIYL: Kesha's 'C'mon', Katy Perry, Dating members of One Direction
The melody references Kesha, but the lyrics are all Taylor. She confronts her love interest about seeing other girls, and when he admits to it, she says she thinks about other people too. It's awesome. As for the ad-libs at the end, I'm hearing Katy Perry, but don't tell Swifties I said that.
If you put this song in the context of Haylor -- because, I'm not dancing around the talk that this album is about Harry Styles -- it makes sense. Styles (I mean, just look at the name), has that James Dean swagger she sings of, and he really never gave her a clear answer on if they were a thing or not. Which leads us to...
4. 'Out Of The Woods' - RIYL: Hypnotic speed-singing, snowmobile accidents
Make up my mind, Harry! You sure know a thing or two about romance, but not a lot about making it last. Like the snowmobiling accident that inspired it, this song -- produced by wiz kid Jack Antonoff -- chugs along like thoughts racing through Taylor's head: "Are we in the clear yet?" Good. Try singing the chorus without running out of breath. You can't.
5. 'All You Had To Do Was Stay' - RIYL: Relationship reflection
Clearly, this relationship wasn't meant to last, but it could've ended differently if he stayed. It sounds so simple. This track definitely has a "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" vibe, because even when he calls her up (sound familiar?), it's too late. It sucks, but man, Taylor makes great pop songs about heartbreak -- it's already stuck in my head.
6. 'Shake It Off' - RIYL: Dancing like a fool
Besides the bad-boy theme that runs throughout the LP, Taylor's other clear statement is "I don't give a f--k." She's fully aware of how famous she is, but that doesn't mean she cares what the haters or the dirty dirty cheats of the world thing. Want to call me crazy"? I'll write "Blank Space." Want to say I can't sing? "Shake It Off." Want to analyze my relationships while I'm living them? Well, that's for "I Know Places," later in the album.
7. 'I Wish You Would' - RIYL: Getting back together
Hello '80s! You can thank Max Martin and Shellback for most of 1989's irresistible hooks and beats, but this one is all Antonoff, who has a talent for recreating the '80s in a way that feels fresh, not derivative. After Taylor declares her freedom in "Shake It Off," she has time to think about her lost love, and decides she's lonely. "2am/ here we are/ see your face/ hear my voice/ in the dark/ we're a crooked love/ in a straight line down/ make you want to run and hide but it made us turn right back around." It's real talk, but it's one of the many mature life lessons that likely contributed to her incredibly honest fan letter in her liner notes, where she referred to herself as "the girl who said she would never cut her hair or move to New York or find happiness in a world where she is not in love..."
8. 'Bad Blood' - RIYL: Not being stabbed in the back
Okay. Now to that song reportedly about Katy Perry, a singer who "tried to sabotage an entire arena tour." This is your revenge anthem (hear "Fancy" in "It's so sad to think about the good times"?). The layered vocals and the "heys" create the ultimate kiss-off singalong. Time to stand up for yourself.
9. 'Wildest Dreams' - RIYL: Lana Del Rey
It's not just me who thinks this song sound like Ms. Del Rey. Twitter's with me, too, OK? Just hear the sassy note bends, the breathy swoops in the chorus, the spooky sparse beats, the words "NICE DRESS." The whole song is just one long sigh about your crush.
10. 'How You Get The Girl' - RIYL: Helpful how-tos
This is a must-listen for all people who want a bf/gf. It's basically a how-to for getting your crush to love you. Step 1: Don't be afraid to say you love her. Step 2: Love her through hard times. Step 3: Love her forever. Step 4: Remind her how it used to be. Even if you've been together for a while, you can still make her swoon! See? Easy!
11. 'This Love' - RIYL: Love (obvs), and also Tori Amos
Sweet, sweet, echoey ballad. After you emerge from the the warm wash of synths that sweep over you on this track, listen to the lyrics. Like Tori Amos, Taylor uses metaphors (these happen to be nautical) to make a straightforward point. If you release your control on love, it will come back to you.
12. 'I Know Places' - RIYL: Privacy
It must be hard to date when you're being chased by photographers. Swift likens the paparazzi to hunters on "I Know Places." "See the vultures circlin' like dark clouds/ Love's a fragile little flame, it could burn out." Sometimes you can shake it off, but other times you just want to run and hide -- especially if you're trying to get to know someone. It's one thing if you're in a confident state -- like dancing at award shows -- but when you're vulnerable and opening yourself up to another person, you don't need the media hounding you about your love life. One context-less photo, and you could be labeled, and that might scare of the person you're crushing on.
13. 'Clean' - RIYL: Sobriety of all sorts
Wait, what? Sober? Taylor gets "clean" on this bittersweet one co-written with Imogen Heap about finally moving on from a breakup. "When I was drowning that's when I could finally breathe," she sings. It doesn't matter if you wanted to break up or not, it's still rough, and there will be times you want them back. But Taylor says you can look back fondly on your relationship. "Ten months sober I must admit: just because you're clean don't mean you don't miss it."