Thursday, 8 November 2012

Taylor Swift: Red - Track by Track Review

On October 22nd, 2012, Taylor Swift followed up the success of her 'Speak Now' album with her fourth studio release, 'Red'. This new collection of songs has been ridiculously successful on charts worldwide, becoming Swift's first chart-topper in the UK and the best-selling #1 debut in the US this decade. It's safe to say then, that 'Red' is a pretty popular album! 

I've never been a fan of Taylor Swift's work in the past and aside from the occassional song, I always thought that she was a bit dull as an artist. Every now and again though, Swift would release a song like 'You Belong With Me' or 'Innocent' that would begin to grow on me, despite my resistance, and then 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' came out and I was suddenly hooked. After receiving 'Red' as a present, I've been suprised by how good the album actually is and I find that I can't stop listening to it. I've been converted! To celebrate this miraculous occassion, I've written a track by track review of 'Red', with audio included for the highlights of the album.

1. State of Grace

While this may not be strong enough to be a single, 'State of Grace' is a good opening to the album, showing maturity on Swift's part, with honest lyrics about the joys of a relationship, despite the ups and downs. It also has a slight country twang to it, although this and the album as a whole is more poppier than previous releases. I think Swift has found the perfect balance between the two genres on 'Red', appealing both to diehard fans and newcomers to her sound.

2. Red

This was one of the promotional singles released in the run-up to the album's release. Taylor has revealed that the album is called 'Red' because the colour sums up the pain and passion that she's experienced in her relationships from the past few years and while this theme does become slightly repetitive as the album progresses, this is a great uptempo song about moving on from a failed relationship.

3. Treacherous

Swift is usually known for producing and writing every song on her albums - which is extremely impressive considering the age she started recording music - but on 'Red', Swift opened up to the idea of collaboration. 'Treacherous' was co-written and produced by Dan Wilson, lead singer of band Semisonic who recently worked on Adele's modern classic '21'. This collaboration is not at that level but 'Treacherous' is a nice country song about falling in love, even when you know it could be dangerous.   

4. I Knew You Were Trouble

Aside from the lead single, 'I Knew You Were Trouble' is the standout track on the album for me. The song acts almost as a sequel to 'Treacherous', with Swift regretting her decision to fall in love with the wrong man. This is the first of three collaborations with Max Martin, genius hitmaker of classic songs for stars such as Britney Spears, Pink and Katy Perry. For his top ten tracks so far, click here. I am obsessed with this track, which combines Swift's country roots on the verses with a classic pop chorus from Max Martin. 'I Knew You Were Trouble' has been confirmed as an official single and I cannot wait to see the video for this track. It's going to be huge! Listen to the audio here.

5. All Too Well

'All Too Well' reverts back to more familiar territory for Swift and although it didn't grab me at first, the song is definitely a grower and has now become one of my favourite slower tracks on the album. The lyrics are beautiful in this song, looking back at the high points and smaller tender moments of a relationship after it has ended. Swift's sweet vocals lend the song a bittersweet feel so it's not all as depressing as it sounds.  

6. 22

Here's the second Max Martin collaboration and once again, this track has a poppier feel with potential to become a single. I love the chorus, with its catchy upbeat hook but I have to be honest; I can't stand the verses, purely because of the lyrics. The song opens with the line 'It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters and make fun of our exes'. It's lyrics like this which put me off Swift back when she first hit the music scene and because most of the album shows a great deal of growth and maturity, the more childish moments like this are very jarring and feel like they belong on an earlier album. Still a great song overall though, check it out.

7. I Almost Do

Back in country territory again with the guitar strumming and lyrics of heartbreak. This is another nice grower of a song which seems to follow on from 'All Too Well', in terms of style and content, where Swift sings about the temptation she now feels to attempt a reconciliation with her ex.  

8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Here it is; Swift's first chart-topping single in the US and her most successful song yet. The track combines Swift's innocent appeal with Max Martin's ridiculously catchy hooks for one of the musical highlights of the year in my opinion. Despite the weird and annoying band members, I also love the video, which shows Swift changing into a variety of costumes while she performs the song in one take! Very impressive. Check it out here. What really impressed me though was when Swift performed the track live at the 2012 MTV VMAS with a great live vocal and an infectious energy. Here it is.

9.  Stay Stay Stay

'Stay Stay Stay' is a sweet little song with some Hawaiian instruments (ukeleles?) that give it a cute upbeat vibe. This is despite lyrics that show a desperate Swift trying to save her relationship in the lyrics, asking her lover to stay. Nice album track.

10. The Last Time ft Gary Lightbody

This duet with the lead singer of Snow Patrol is a typically depressing offering, with Gary Lightbody's forlorn voice dragging Swift down, sapping her youthful energy away. Ok, so the song's not terrible but I think it depends mostly on whether you like the Snow Patrol sound or if you would rather fall into a coma then hear a single word from Lightbody's lips.

11. Holy Ground

'Holy Ground' is definitely one for Swift's core audience of lovestruck teen girls, with idealistic images of a perfect relationship but I still like it. Not a single but it's still a good song that lifts the mood after the somber tone of the previous track. 

12. Sad Beautiful Tragic

From 'Holy Ground' onwards, I feel that 'Red' begins to feel more like one of Swift's previous releases and lacks the innovation of the first half of the album. So here we are, with yet another sad love song and some slow guitar strumming. That's not to say that 'Sad Beautiful Tragic' is a bad song but just that I would not skip tracks to get to it in a rush.

13. The Lucky One

Every young singer has one; a song about the perils and difficulties of being famous. The lyrics are a bit throwaway but I really like Swift's voice on this song. However, given the choice of songs dealing with this subject matter, it would be Britney Spears all the way for me, with cheesy pop classic 'Lucky'!

14. Everything Has Changed ft Ed Sheeran

I'm a big fan of Ed Sheeran so I was really excited about this duet but it left me a bit disappointed. Their two voices are sweet together but this song just blends into the background a bit for me. As both Swift and Sheeran are so popular right now, this could have been a potential single had they just injected a little bit more excitement or even emotion into the song.

15. Starlight

'Starlight' is another one for the Swifties, with lyrics about spending the perfect night with a boy and the whole thing is reminiscent of previous song 'Holy Ground'. It's a nice enough track but I wouldn't have missed 'Starlight' if it hadn't made the final cut.

16. Begin Again

Unusually for such a long album, Swift has placed one of the best tracks at the end. With so many songs focussed on how terrible men are and how much love can hurt, I think it was a great choice to end on such an optimistic note. This official single release features Swift reminiscing once again about a relationship gone wrong but the lyrics show that she is now ready to leave the past behind and move forward with a new relationship. It could have been cheesy but 'Begin Again' includes lots of little idiosyncratic observations that veer the track away from well-worn cliches. I had never realised this before but Swift is very good at making her songs sound individual and yet somehow manages to keep them relatable still for her fan base.

Overall, I'm a big fan of this album, despite it being too long at sixteen tracks, and that's just the standard edition! Swift has moved on from her teeny-bop lyrics of the past (for the most part) and I feel is now more deserving of her international success. Some tracks take a little while to grow on you but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of 'Red' as a whole and there are quite a few potential singles that Swift could still release if she chose to. If like me, you weren't a fan before but found yourself secretly tapping your foot to 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together', then I recommend that you give the album a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Remember to like, share and comment if you've enjoyed reading this post or even just to spread some Swift love!


  1. Great review, intresting comparision of Lucky Ones and Britneys Lucky. I'm not gonna lie,I was a little surprise myself to find that I really liked this album, some really good songs miss Swift, i love All to well, reminds me of the Indigo Girls a little bit.

    1. I definitely see the Indigo Girls comparison, which I would have never thought before I listened to this album. All Too Well is so amazing, hope she doesn't release it as a single though because I quite like the personal feel of it on the album