Ambition in the pop sphere is owned by many, ruled by few. Kanye has it in spades, Katy parlays it to perfection and Gaga bathes in all its (edge of) glory. Nashville darling Taylor Swift has her eyes firmly set on world domination with her fourth LP ‘Red’ and this time around she’s bringing the big guns to the game.
Red, a 16 track opus, sees Miss Swift with a mission statement of maintaining her country superstar status, whilst further leaning towards the mainstream pop/rock echelon. Lead single, the bouncy, confident ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ is crafted by pop mastermind Max Martin (Britney, Kelly Clarkson) and Shellback (P!nk, Adam Lambert) and is one of 2012’s finest pure pop moments. The FM-ready hooks of ‘22’ find Swift channeling a PG Katy Perry via Avril Lavigne and sets her up as one of the biggest hitters in the radio game. Opening track ‘State Of Grace’ is pure U2 stadium rock and begins the widescreen sonic scope of ‘Red’ perfectly.
The dramatic departure from Taylor is the electronic buzz of ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, incorporating 2012 trick of choice, dubstep. ‘Trouble’ is an instant and sweaty bump and grind with the tale of the bad boy we all knew and loved, the strongest diversion yet from the innocent girl who brought the world the country-lite innocence of ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong To Me’. Fresh, fun and feisty.
Swift has not completely abandoned her country roots, the simile laden title track is a banjo led anthem with assured rock hooks, whilst ‘Stay Stay Stay’ is handclapping barn dance number that carries a unbridled joy. Be it calculated or sincere, country is still delicately woven into the majority of ‘Red’ and allows Taylor to carve her own niche amongst her superstar contemporaries.
‘Begin Again’ cements the notion of Swift as one of the finest songwriters of her generation, when stripped of the big pop sheen the simple melodies flow and are instantly relatable. ‘The Last Time’, featuring Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, is a sparse break-up anthem that builds to a bombastic chorus that captures you in the heartbreak of lines such as ‘you break my heart in a blink of an eye’.
Taylor’s bank account is overflowing thanks to bruised ingenue tales of love and loss, and at sixteen tracks, the path should become laborious. Yet aided by the production maestros and effortless ability to shift genres, Swift sounds anything but repetitive. Best advice – get out of the way, she’s aiming for the top.