Taylor Swift’s “Red” Questions Her Country Classification

Taylor Swifts New Album Red Showcases Her Changing Style.

Taylor Swift’s New Album “Red” Showcases Her Changing Style.

Hannah McLaughlin

Taylor Swift's New Album "Red" Showcases Her Changing Style.

Taylor Swift. With the simple utterance of this name, the average American instantaneously thinks of the charismatic, sparkle-clad blonde with a powerful voice, a sticky-sweet country sound, and a whole lot of ex-boyfriends. Releasing her debut album in 2006 and rising to global fame by 2008, Taylor Swift has gained millions of fans and created a prominent name for herself as a both a confident young woman and an outstanding country artist. However, it has been six years since stepping into the spotlight by entering the country music scene, and Swift—now 22 years old— has certainly matured. She has traded her flashy, sequin-covered mini dresses and long, curly locks for something a bit older-looking; for the new-and-improved Taylor sports a straight, banged hairdo and drab, simple garments in hopes of obtaining some sort of vintage-meets-hipster-meets-grandma vibe. This personal style concerns dedicated fans, leading them to wonder whether or not her signature country sound will be affected on Red—Swift’s highly anticipated album, which will be released on October 21, 2012 at midnight. Unfortunately for her faithful, country-loving followers, the new singles Taylor has released suggest less banjo and more bass-drops.

More than two years after the release of her third album, Speak Now, Taylor Swift is finally ready to give her fans what is predicted to be the best album by the country starlet yet; however, singles like “Red” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” insinuate that Taylor has been experimenting with totally different music styles. By flying under the radar for almost two years, Taylor Swift has worried many a teenage girl that she may be slowly fading into oblivion. As a result, hearts soared and expectations rose higher than ever before when Swift announced the release of the mystery project she had been working on for so long. Yet, judging by the hints of dubstep and alternative present in the aforementioned singles from the new album, loyal fans are concerned that their favorite country singer is just not country anymore. The evolution of Swift’s sound, as perceived from album to album, is odd and inconsistent, thus begging the following question: Will Red ruin Taylor Swift?

Famous for her portrayal of young love, cheating boyfriends, and life as a hopeless romantic, Swift expressed her fiery personality and typical teenage girl-ness throughout her first three albums, wowing music lovers while simultaneously capturing the hearts of young girls—and boys— everywhere. The self-proclaimed sufferer of “girlnextdooritis” provided teens with a role model that they could identify with, what with her countless songs centered around boys, love, and heartbreak.  In her first album, Taylor Swift is no doubt a country singer; soft, floating ballads like “Tim McGraw” and “Teardrops on My Guitar” are characterized by soft guitar notes. The loud, vengeful hit “Should Have Said No” features angry guitars and screeching violins that are contrasted perfectly with the jubilant and hopeful sound of “Stay Beautiful.” Finally— arguably the most popular song on the album— “Our Song” is a playful single whose bouncy lyrics are accompanied by upbeat fiddles and various odds and ends that combine to form one of the first quirky hits Taylor Swift is known for.

In the second album entitled Fearless, Taylor Swift’s sound is more developed and prominent, as her newly-acquired confidence adds volumes to the follow-up album, which depicts the roller-coaster many couples call their relationship. Fearless is fueled by both the anger at previous boyfriends and the excitement of falling in love. Characterized by pounding drums and animated electric guitar riffs, the album contains powerful singles like “Fearless” and You Belong With Me.” Popular track “Love Story” highlights the misfortune of modern day star-crossed lovers with a forbidden relationship. “Change” captures the essence of a quality country/pop song, as Taylor’s vocals shine with a country-twang and immense amount of soul unmatched by her contenders.

In October of 2010, Taylor released her most recent album, Speak Now, which has a sound even more fearless than the album Fearless itself. Swift did not hold back, as the electric guitar became more prominent and the drums were augmented to a level even louder and more intense than her previous album. The jealousy-filled “Better than Revenge” is mopre pop than country, but the prominent banjos and lively mood of “Mean” prevents the country singer from being accused of changing genres completely. “Enchanted,” “Haunted,” and “Dear John” are loved for their almost eerie vocals and lyrics sung with passion, as well as hints of pain and regret. “Long Live and “Speak Now” (the album’s namesake single), are two completely different songs with one important similarity; despite their obvious differences in sound, they provide fans with the perfect combination of lyrics and instrumentals—a very difficult feat to accomplish.

The fourth album, Red, will be released on October 21, 2012. Many singles have already been introduced to the public, and they are absolutely nothing like Taylor Swift’s previous songs. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” does have a hint of country, but can be easily compared to current pop songs like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” However catchy it may be, the single is childish, disappointingly monotonous, and irritating when overplayed. It can be argued that “Red” is justly classified as country, but for the most part, the auto-tune that conceals the beauty of Taylor’s natural voice distracts one from the slight country sound, and instead confuses the listener. “Ronan,” a song written for a devastated mother who lost her son to cancer, has good intentions and the lyrics evoke tears from its listeners. However, the song is not fluid, and the instrumentals simply do not mesh well and match up with the lyrics. “I Knew You Were Trouble” is probably the most shocking of the new singles, as it’s bass-drops and wailing vocals identify it as dubstep. This odd choice of genre is not a negative decision on Taylor’s part; rather its blatant incongruence with her trademark country style is puzzling. The best single that has been released so far is “State of Grace.” Swift incorporates loud drums and wailing, crying vocals into the song, and the result is an alternative masterpiece. It is grungy yet poppy, and the overall air of empowerment and strength is electrifying. Taylor Swift’s style change may be drastic, but that does not necessarily mean the songs are bad.

Despite suffering what fans may consider a simple identity crisis— what with the newfound hipster persona and affinity for dubstep— Taylor Swift’s new album is sure to be as popular as its predecessors. She may not be as much of a southern belle as she used to be, but Taylor’s fans are embracing her different style and look forward to discovering the similarities and discrepancies between Red and her past albums. The sweet southern twang in her voice will most likely be missing from each new track, but the passion and fire with which she sings each lyric will certainly never be extinguished. As for her future as a social icon and role model, Taylor Swift will remain in the spotlight—fearlessly being herself and, with each new adventure, painting the town red.