By Antonio Robert
It seems that heartbreak does good to Taylor Swift. At least to her music. John Mayer as an inspiration for one of best songs on her previous “Speak Now” album (the sprawling and stinging “Dear John”) now aside, on her fourth album “Red” she shines brighter than ever. Indeed, lyrically, she’s really as 22 (born in December 1989), as she sings on the eponymous song, one of the highlights of the record. Relationships stuff still serves as a prime source of inspiration for this superstar, which, in turn, makes her a next-door-girl and easily identifiable with for many of her peers.
Her style is now far from country alone, indeed, only a fiddle in the closer “Begin Again” may remind you of that. In fact, Swift makes her pop more global and open to new inspirations. The record begins with “State of Grace”, a starter similar to U2’s “Where The Streets Have No Name” on the classic “The Joshua Tree” LP. And two guest stars from Britain give their best as well – Gary Lightbody sounds real (and maybe better than ever) on “The Last Time”, while the Brit Awards sensation Ed Sheeran joins in but stays decently out of the spotlight on the tenderly melodic “Everything Has Changed”. The British stamp is unmistakably heard on “All Too Well”, while “Starlight” sports Keane-like piano.
Elsewhere, Taylor is as ingenious as ever. “I Knew You Were Trouble”, “22” (where her vocals are similar to Alanis Morissette) and the No.1 smash “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” find her at the top of her game and with uncanny synergy with Swedish master pop composer Max Martin (guy behind hits of Backstreet Boys and Kelly Clarkson, among many others). Energetic “Holy Ground” sounds well juxtaposed to ballad “Sad Beautiful Tragic”. And almost every song has an added value to it (the sum of the record’s parts is higher than at “Fearless” and “Speak Now”, which both got a tad samey towards the end), including “Treacherous”, co-written by Adele’s collaborator Dan Wilson.
Generous at its 16 songs, “Red” should not disappoint Taylor Swift’s loyal fans, as it expands the musical horizon gradually, gently – and sublimely. This barrier-breaking album is maybe the next best thing to save the current lame pop music based on short-lived dance tracks. Already one of the highest-grossing artists of our day, Taylor Swift is the one who definitely deserves it, since there is not much pop artists left of her stature now, which – given her still the tender age and the full-blown artistic maturity in one – is all the more impressive.
This rewarding “Red” should definitely get the green. Like… ever.