3 and 1/2 stars (out of four)
Haters gonna hate, but the truth is, Taylor Swift’s breakup with country has worked out for the best.
The star’s all-pop fifth effort is impossibly irresistible, kicking off with “Welcome To New York,” a starry-eyed view of her new adopted hometown where she gives herself permission to take all those broken hearts and “put them in a jar.”
Not that they stay bottled up for long (And just where do you think you’re going, Harry Styles?). Swift has stacks of scores to settle throughout. On the hypnotic “Blank Space,” she knows what she’s getting herself into — and exactly how she’s getting herself out (“I can make all the tables turn!” she warns). In the incandescent “All You Had To Do Was Stay,” she pins the blame squarely on the guy, griping “I’ve been picking up the pieces of the mess you made.” Meanwhile, the sharpest daggers aren’t even aimed at a guy at all. In “Bad Blood,” she sticks it to a female frenemy (hint: initials K.P.) over a hard-driving beat, harshly noting, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.” Time to have your lawyer draw up stricter contracts for your backup dancers, sweets.
The only slight blemish here is that the tracks tend to run a tad one-note without the twang, fiddles, banjos and pedal steel of her previous masterpieces, Red and Speak Now. Swift owned and operated her own female-skewed, country-pop hybrid genre for the last few years and there are times in 1989 where it feels like you’re listening to the same song over and over. The latter third of the album seems to solve this dilemma when she slows the pace and lets her gifted lyricism run wild over airy synths. Chief among these tracks is the glistening closer “Clean,” a minimalist electro ballad co-penned with Imogen Heap. “You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore,” she emotes.
The same can’t be said of her Nashville roots. Swift has shaken them off and it’s gonna be alright.
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