When I think about Taylor Swift's fifth album, "1989," a lot of different things come to mind, like convincing my mom to buy me a Polaroid camera when I was 12 years old, specifically in the shade of baby blue — or taking my dad's credit card so I could buy "Blank Space" on iTunes and listen to it on the bus ride to school while I stared wistfully out the window.
When we had to take the long way to school one day, my brother switched between radio stations, and all of them were playing "Style." So we listened to this song on repeat for 20 minutes.
These are all my experiences, and many people, fans or not, can give you their own distinct set of memories from this time. It’s one of those "everyone remembers where they were" moments.
So is to say that Swift's first pop album (although she had dabbled in the genre before on "Red") transcended the individual level and had a massive cultural impact. Almost nine years after its original release, when Swift's star power is higher than ever before, "1989" still proves to be the fun, crowd-pleasing, stadium-suited, being-happy-free-confused-and-lonely-in-your-20's album that it was always meant to be.
Let's take it back to the 2014 Grammy Awards, when Swift's fourth studio album, "Red," lost the Album of the Year award to Daft Punk’s "Random Access Memories." Although "Red" was a massive hit worldwide, it was deemed by many to be sonically incohesive, which gave Swift the final push to do a complete genre switch from country to pop.
The 1st of 7 singles released, "Shake It Off," is a vibrant, catchy song where Swift finally addressed the media and the incessant criticism of her personality, songwriting and dating life.
At this point in time, we could see her rebranding from a teenage country girl to a modern and independent pop star in the city, and the subsequent singles off of “1989” are symbolic of this shift. The ones that followed: "Blank Space," "Style," "Bad Blood," "Wildest Dreams," "Out of the Woods" and "New Romantics" were all incredibly rich pop songs that became widely adored after their releases and a few generated billions of views on their music videos.
Members of Swift's fanbase often lament her choice of singles, saying that they don’t accurately represent the album or her songwriting abilities. But in my opinion, "1989" is where she got it right. The marketing of this album, her constant exposure, storied music videos and fan opportunities are what sent her career into the stratosphere we know today.
As a fan of Swift myself, my personal favorites on this album are "Style," "Clean," "New Romantics" and "Out of the Woods."
"Style" is an exceptional pop song that I've been listening to for years since its release, and it never gets old. It's a stellar collaboration between her and famed producers Max Martin, Ali Payami and Shellback that tells the story of two people who keep coming back to each other, no matter how much time has passed. It's one that you can scream in your car, listen to on your way to class and dance with your friends at a party.
Then there’s "Clean," a timeless deep cut that can be a real tearjerker when performed on piano at live shows. Written and produced by Swift and fellow artist Imogen Heap, it's the final track on the non-deluxe, original version of "1989."
At its core, the track is an ode to closure and making it through a rough time in one's life, particularly related to a romance that left you scarred or "like a wine-stained dress" you "can't wear anymore."
"Out of the Woods" is considered the birth of the iconic friendship and working relationship between Swift and decorated pop producer Jack Antonoff.
This punchy track feels high-stakes and exciting, with Swift repeating "Are we out of the woods yet?" almost frantically throughout. That is until the bridge comes and just completely takes you, the listener, away.
"1989" is a considerably perfect album in the eyes of critics and fans, also winning the 2015 Grammys Album of the Year award. But if I could change some things, I would. The one that sticks out to me the most is the opening track being "Welcome to New York," whereas I think it should have been "New Romantics."
"New Romantics" was a song on the Target deluxe version of the album and also became a single that was played on tour. Swift clearly now understands the value of this song years later, as she played it acoustically on The Eras Tour after announcing the re-recording of "1989 (Taylor’s Version)."
It's not that "Welcome to New York" is a bad song by any means — it just doesn't really do much for me. It doesn't have the staying power that many of the other tracks on the album possess. While the premise fits the album and the narrative of her life at the time, "New Romantics," a song about being young, making mistakes and living with your friends, fits much better and truly encapsulates what the album is really about.
Another misstep I feel Swift took with this album was making "All You Had to Do Was Stay" track five. Swift loves using numerology for Easter eggs in her music, and she always makes track five of the album her most emotionally vulnerable song.
Examples of this in her work include "All Too Well,""The Archer," "Dear John" and "You're On Your Own Kid." In retrospect, "All You Had to Do Was Stay" seems like a weak choice to be track five, and I'd much rather have a different song on the album, such as "This Love," be in its place.
"1989 (Taylor’s Version)" is one of the most anticipated re-recordings for Swift due to the original album's commercial popularity, value and expected new vault tracks. As an addition to the rerecording, several songs "from the vault" will be released. For the uninformed, this means tracks written at the time but didn't make the cut.
Due to the original album's success, many are anticipating high-profile artists to feature on these tracks. Some of my (slightly unhinged) predictions are Drake, The 1975, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sabrina Carpenter and Harry Styles.
"1989" is considered one of the greatest pop albums of all time and a career-defining moment for Swift. It's one of my favorites in her discography, not only for its amazing songs but also for what it stands for. It recognizes those universal feelings of stepping into a new phase of your life, whether that’s moving to a new city, being single, trying something you’ve never done before — or doing all three.
In the record's liner notes, Swift writes, "Timing is a funny thing. And everyone was watching. She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything." The album tells a "coming-into-your-own" story that we can all relate to at some point in our lives, and I’m excited to see where Swift decided to take the narrative nine years later.