Review: Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now’

Oct. 29, 2010, 12:36 a.m.
Review: Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now'
(Courtesy of Taylor Swift)

Once upon a time (and isn’t this a fitting phrase for such a fairy tale fanatic?), Taylor Swift was a fresh new artist, the champion of every fragile female heart that had been beating between 11 and 17 years. To everyone else, she was a talented songwriter with a flair for giving people what they wanted to hear.

Two albums later, Swift has gone a combined 23 times platinum and is a worldwide phenomenon. However, her third album, “Speak Now,” is nothing more than a phenomenal flop that comes across as little more than a rework of her freshman and sophomore albums.

Swift has two themes she is always eager to sing about: love and innocence. Somehow, after four years and dozens of similar songs, Swift still lacks the inspiration to write more than three tracks that deviate from the norm. “Speak Now” begins weakly with the upbeat single “Mine,” which tells the same story about holding hands, falling in love and staying together.

Review: Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now'The album ends as feebly as it begins; song nine, “Enchanted,” is yet another tune about love at first sight through the eyes of a weak-willed girl who pleads, “Please don’t be in love with someone else.” The lyrics get even more pathetically dependent (“So I’ll watch you live in pictures as I used to watch you sleep…”) in the 13th track, a slow ballad predictably titled “Last Kiss.”

However, no song on the album is as comically terrible as her poor choice for a second single, “Mean.” The track is almost certainly the obligatory “country” song in this more-pop-than-country album, and the lyrics are remarkably immature and uninspired (“you, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard… why you gotta be so mean?”).

A few glimmers of hope come across in the album. One of her strongest tracks, “Back to December,” laments the loss of a potential romance and shows the depth of songwriting that Swift has the potential for, if only she would commit to forging a slightly different path than that of ineffectively retelling another version of the same love story.

Similarly, Swift shows a deviation from her typical sappiness in “Innocent,” “Better than Revenge” and “Dear John,” a trio of accusatory tracks that slam her enemies, the last of which boasts a lazy, riff-driven melody ironically reminiscent of alleged former paramour John Mayer. Nonetheless, the songs might be more powerful if she would address their obvious recipients directly (or stop talking about the same people, namely Joe Jonas).

And finally, despite its stereotypical lyrics, the title track, “Speak Now,” showcases the vocal talents that are often conspicuously absent from Swift’s biggest hits and live performances.

But despite giving listeners a glimpse into the depths of her psyche and the range of her talents, Swift has a debilitating tendency to stick to what is familiar, and that is nothing more than “girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, boy changes girl’s outlook on life so much that she needs to write a song about it.”

Understandably, Swift has a target audience, but at 20 years old, her time to write for preteens through preteen eyes will soon run out – eventually, she will have to mature as an artist. Although “Speak Now” takes a small but noticeable step towards her evolution of musical style, Swift has a long way to go to transition from little girl to adult woman.

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