Saturday, November 20, 2010

Applause for "Speak Now"

Dare I attempt to voice my opinions on the music of Taylor Swift? I feel like I'm about to step onto a minefield where any small move I make will cause a sudden explosion, in the form of someone reacting to what I say that they don't agree with. Depending on the person, this could leave me in a bad mood, but what it comes down to is this: I have a strong feeling about this new album, and whether it be positive or negative, at least it's something to write about. And honestly, lately I've been having a hard time with that.

Fact: There are two kinds of people in this world - those who love T-Swizzle, and those who hate her. Anyone in the middle needs to reveal himself to me, because I know of no such case. If you wanted to be picky, we could say there are people who like her music but don't like her, but I'm not concerned with that at this point. I've been pro-Taylor for a while, and her new album Speak Now just further confirmed that standpoint for me.

In trying to discover why everybody loves her music, I've decided it's because her lyrics always tell a story. Lessons on effective arguing always teach you that one of the biggest persuasive techniques is appeal to emotion, especially with examples. Every one of Taylor's songs is either a love story or a broken heart story, and everybody can relate to that - whether it be from personal experience, or a dream harbored deep in our hearts with the rest of our hopeless romantic insecurities. Instead of confusing strings of poetic language like many of the more artistic/emotional song-writers create (emo music, for example), Taylor writes with naturally spoken phrases that are easy to understand. Less of the unclear, abstract feelings, more of the detailing what happens in situations that affect her life. The little things like seeing a charming boy across the room (by whom she is "Enchanted"), the first time another put his arm around her by the water ("Mine"), or the tiny hand of an infant wrapped around her finger as she puts her to bed ("Never Grow Up"). These details paint pictures in the mind of listeners, which forge the way for emotional connections to be made.

Besides the narrative lyrics that everybody can comprehend and relate to, a few witty rhymes are thrown in as well, such as on "Better Than Revenge": "She's not a saint and she's not what you think, she's an actress. She's better known for the things she does on the mattress." In the imaginative scene about interrupting a wedding to save the man she loves from marrying the wrong girl ("Speak Now"), Taylor sweetly croons in her innocent voice all her humorous and biting commentary about the bride: "I sneak in and see your friends and her snotty little family all dressed in pastel, and she is yelling at a bridesmaid somewhere back inside a room wearing a gown shaped like a pastry." It's funny because such remarks should be spouted from a grumpy voice, but instead they're sung brightly from the optimistic, Disney-esque Taylor who is angelic as always. And have I mentioned how cute "Mean" is, where the tone reminds me of an 8 year old version of myself or any other vulnerable girl sticking her tongue out at an offensive comment?

Back to that voice of hers - who could criticize the aesthetic appeal? Couple it with the simple guitar chords and varied, beautiful melodies that she impressively puts together herself (starting at such a young age, too), the sheer sound of her music is just pleasing to the ear. And to anyone who says all her songs sound the same, I say you need to listen to a couple more - besides the normal bubbly love songs, "Dear John" is a slow and beautiful ballad of heartbreak, while I personally heard a strikingly Paramore-like influence on "Haunted." On the first few listens, anyway. And those were just the ones I found that strayed from the norm the most; by no means do the other 12 songs follow one similar pattern. Taylor's producers also know just the right amount of subtle pop additives to complement the basic structure of every song. Kind of like how make up is said to enhance beauty, not create it. The harmonic back-up sections are not necessary, but they enhance the already present beauty of a song.

Some fun I've had with this album is attempting to pin every one of her public relationships to at least one song, using the small hints provided in the lyrics. "Back to December" (which I LOVE) is obviously about Taylor Lautner, while the only one "Dear John" could be about is John Mayer. If you watched the VMA's this year, you know "Innocent" was directed towards Kanye West, but I also think "Mean" could have been, too. I admire her for having the guts to release these raw emotions willingly to the public, knowing full well they'll figure out who the lyrics are about. It's one thing to put your love stories out there, but when they're not anonymous anymore, that's just risky territory.

I sometimes feel like I'm intruding on Taylor's diary, which is maybe another reason fans like her so much - she trusts us. I've read facebook statuses of people saying things like "Taylor Swift knows exactly how to put into words the events of my life!" so obviously there is a great deal of common experiences. I haven't even had that many relationships in my life yet, but I know many songs that I felt were direct representations of my own thoughts. It's just annoying that she can put them into song form so well, whereas I don't even have enough talent to ATTEMPT such a feat.

Conclusion: Two thumbs up, a round of applause, cheers, hats off . . .  to Taylor Swift's 2010 album Speak Now. Shannon is a very satisfied consumer.


Boquavv said...

I applaud you. While I do disagree on the Taylor Swift phenomenon, this review is well written and thoughtfully structured. If I was oblivious to who Taylor is this summary of the latest album would convince to at least take a look at it.
Do not hold your breath though, I still refuse to give her any attention or listen to her new music let alone her previous releases. ;)

Furree Katt said...

I agree with Boquavv.

Shannon said...

Thank you, Brayden. That means a lot.

LuluBelle said...

Hi Shannon!

I would love to listen to Taylor Swift's album again. Maybe there won't be as many distractions. Here's this other blog - See you tomorrow.