Taylor Swift follows in the footsteps of the inimitable E. L. James in attempt to guide today’s consumers through their colour wheel. Like Fifty Shades, Red has mass appeal, will sell millions of copies, and possibly drags on a bit towards the second half. Where it differs (apart from the thinly veiled Republican nod), is that it does what it sets out to do in a really rather good way.
This album is almost all Swift who trips recognisably into the songwriting room from adolescence’s lonely enclave. Where it is bigger and better than her previous offerings, however, is when she invites others into this room. Red makes for more than the country-lite of her previous releases, though there is plenty of that. It is a rare and excellent female pop album with a winning combination of power ballads, songs for girls to cry to, and tracks for drunk people to flop around to. This is what Swift has set out to do, and – intentionalism be damned – she should be proud of the product.
Red is the kind of album that millions of schoolgirls will get ready to in the mornings: this is the evolution of Avril Lavigne’s Let Go with more than a dash of Shania Twain’s Up!. There’s little here which is recognisably 2012 (ignoring the slightly snarky comments about indie records and ‘dressing up like hipsters’, which is clearly a bit of a bee in Taylor‘s salubrious bonnet). The dubstep influence that permeates floorfiller ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ may be a little questionable, but at least guarantees it a place on Park End’s ground floor playlist for some time to come. And ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ is, despite all my better judgment, simply superb.
Few surprises here, but an elegantly slick album which shows young Ms. Swift going from strength to strength. Pity about the Republican National Conference performance, though.