Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989 in Reading, Pennsylvania. She is right up there with Britney Spears as my favourite female artist of all time. She has won 7 Grammys, 11 American Music Awards, 7 Country Music Association Awards, and 6 Academy of Country Music Awards. Her first three studio albums were TAYLOR SWIFT (2006), FEARLESS (2008), AND SPEAK NOW (2010). I would cite the latter as my favourite. It contains such great songs as ‘Mine’, ‘Back to December’, and ‘Mean’. It served as the soundtrack for my trips to and from counselling when I lived in Flesherton. Taylor’s latest album is RED (2012, Big Machine Records). Here I will be reviewing the two disc deluxe edition.
Disc One consists of sixteen new songs and runs 65 minutes and 16 seconds! A nice pop song, ‘State of Grace’, starts things off and is one of nine tracks Taylor wrote alone. It contains these lyrics of great depth: “Love is a ruthless game/Unless you play it good and right/These are the hands of fate/You’re my achilles heel/This is the golden age of something good and right and real/And I never saw you coming/And I’ll never be the same.” The title track, ‘Red’, is a colorful song: “Losing him was blue, like I’d never known/Missing him was dark gray, all alone/Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met/But loving him was red.” It should be noted that several men who have worked in the Contemporary Christian Music industry appear on this track: Nathan Chapman (acoustic guitar and percussion), Dan Huff (bouzouki, electric guitar), Jimmie Sloas (bass), and David Huff (digital editing).
I’ve got a feeling that many young gals will be able to relate to ‘Treacherous’, the next song: “I’d be smart to walk away/But you’re quicksand/This slope is treacherous/This path is reckless/This slope is treacherous/And I, I, I like it/I can’t decide if it’s a choice getting swept away/I hear the sound of my own voice/Asking you to stay.” A terrific pop/rock song, ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, is next. Written by Swift, Max Martin, and Shellback, it speaks of how insensitive a guy can be: “No apologies, he’ll never see you cry/Pretends he doesn’t know that he’s the reason why/You’re drowning (3X).../And I heard you moved on from whispers on the street/A new notch in your belt is all I’ll ever be/And now I see, now I see, now I see/He was long gone when he met me/And I realize the joke is on me/Hey!”
‘All Too Well’ is a co-write with Liz Rose. It is a delightful song that talks about heartbreak: “There we are again in the middle of the night/We’re dancing round the kitchen in the refrigerator light/Down the stairs, I was there/I remember it all too well/Well maybe we got lost in translation/Maybe I asked for too much/But maybe this thing was a masterpiece/Till you tore it all up/Running scared, I was there/I remember it all too well/And you call me up again/Just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest/I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here.” ‘22’ has a party sound to it. It reminds me vocally and musically of Ke$ha and offers a glimpse into the mindset of many a young lady: “Yeah, we’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time/It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah.”
Next up is a wonderful ballad, ‘I Almost Do’, that shows a vulnerable side of Taylor: “I bet you think I either moved on or hate you/Cause each time you reach out, there’s no reply/I bet it never ever occurred to you/That I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye.” ‘We are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, co-written with Max Martin and Shellback, has to be tied with Carly Rae’s ‘Call me Maybe’ as the catchiest song ever! Taylor sings the following sweetly: “I used to think that we were forever, ever, and I used to say ‘Never say never’.” Then in her sexy speaking voice she says: “So he calls me up, and he’s like/’I still love you’ and I’m like, ‘I mean this is exhausting/You know, like we are never getting back together, like ever.’”
‘Stay Stay Stay’ is an upbeat country song that would have fit nicely on Taylor’s first album. Nathan Chapman plays mandolin and Eric Darken plays percussion. This song reveals that Taylor is looking for much more than a one night fling: “You took the time to memorize me/My fears, my hopes, and dreams/I just like hanging out with you/All the time/All those times that you didn’t leave/It’s been occurring to me/I’d like to hang out with you/For my whole life.” ‘The Last Time’ features vocals by Gary LIghtbody of Snow Patrol and makes use of an orchestra. This song is about seeking a permanent reconciliation: “I find myself at your door/Just like all those times before/I’m not sure how I got there/ All roads, they lead me here/ I imagine you are home/In your room all alone/And you open your eyes into mine and everything feels better/And right before your eyes/I’m breaking/No past, no reasons why/Just you and me.”
Despite its title ‘Holy Ground’ is not a gospel song: “I left a note on the door with a joke we’d made/And that was the first day/And darling it was good/Never looking down/And right there where we stood/Was holy ground.” ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’ finds Nathan Chapman on ukulele and is on the quiet side. It is, as the title suggests, about the end of a human love relationship: “We had/A beautiful, magic love there/What a sad/Beautiful, tragic love affair/In dreams, I meet you in warm conversation/We both wake in lonely beds, different cities/And time is taking its sweet time erasing you/And you’ve got your demons and darling/They all look like me.”
‘The Lucky One’ reflects on the downside of fame: “Now it’s big black cars and Riviera views/And your lover in the foyer doesn’t even know you/And your secrets end up splashed on the news front page/And they tell you that you’re lucky, but you’re so confused/Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used/And all the young things line up to take your place.” An adult contemporary duet co-written with, and featuring Ed Sheeran, is next. ‘Everything Has Changed’ is about infatuation: “Cause all I know is we said hello/And your eyes look like coming home/All I know is a simple name/Everything has changed/All I know is you held the door/You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours.../And all I feel in my stomach is butterflies, the beautiful kind.”
‘Starlight’ finds Taylor hopelessly daydreaming to a danceable beat: “I met Bobby on the boardwalk/Summer of ‘45/Picked me up late one night/Out the window, we were seventeen.../The night we snuck into a/Yacht club party, pretending to/Be a duchess and a prince.../Oooh, oooh, he’s talking crazy/Oooh, oooh, dancing with me/Oooh, ooh, we could get married/Have ten kids and teach them how to dream.” ‘Begin Again’ is a moving ballad that makes use of steel guitar, mandolin, accordion, and B-3 organ, to name a few instruments. It ends the standard sixteen track edition of the album on a hope-filled note: “And you throw your head back laughing/Like a little kid/I think it’s strange that you think I’m funny cause/He never did/And I’ve been spending the past 8 months/Thinking all love ever does/Is break and burn and end/But on a Wednesday in a cafe/I watched it begin again/You said you never met one girl who/Had as many James Taylor records as you/But I do.”
Disc Two contains the bonus tracks and runs 25 minutes and 21 seconds. Swift and Liz Huett perform backing vocals on ‘The Moment I Knew’. It is a sorrowful song: “What do you say/When tears are streaming down your face/In front of everyone you know?/And what do you do when the one/Who means the most to you/Is the one who didn’t show?” ‘Come Back...Be Here’ is one of my favourites. It is a co-write with Dan Wilson and uses strings. It is another great sad song: “Taxi cabs and busy streets/That never bring you back to me/I can’t help but wish you took me with you/And this is when the feeling sinks in/I don’t wanna miss you like this/Come back...be here, come back...be here” ‘Girl at Home’ is a fine song that serves as a warning to a two-timing fellow: “Don’t look at me/You’ve got a girl at home/And everybody knows that/Everybody knows that/Don’t look at me/You’ve got a girl at home/And everybody knows that/I don’t even know her/But I feel a responsibility/To do what’s upstanding and right.” Original demo recordings of ‘Treacherous’ and ‘Red’ and an acoustic version of ‘State of Grace’complete the second disc with a more intimate feeling.
I recommend RED to fans of well executed contemporary pop and country music. I do wish Taylor would have included a couple of rock songs to add even more flavour. The photos of Taylor reveal a beautiful fashion model. Taylor is maturing into an elite group of singer-songwriters whose music will far outlive themselves. She is a true talent with substance and poise! I’m rating this deluxe edition of RED 93%. For more info visit www.taylorswift.com and www.bigmachinerecords.com.