So, if you haven’t heard by now, Taylor Swift sings about the people in her life, and her exes in particular. Yes, some are famous. Yes, she doesn’t hold back. And yes, she’s done it in the past and she’ll continue to do so in the future. We can speculate all we which song is about what guy, but that would just overshadow the album itself, wouldn’t it? So let’s just put that aside and focus on Taylor’s music and impeccable songwriting.
At 16, Taylor broke ground with her sweet and mellow hit song, “Tim McGraw.” That’s when I first took notice of her. As a country artist, she definitely had what it took to maintain staying power. I knew she’d be going places, but I never imagined how huge she would become until I heard 2008’s “Love Story.” When a teenage girl can write a song that even my sixteen-year-old nephew (who is considered, by all definitions, a “jock”) likes to belt out, then obviously Taylor knows she’s struck a golden chord. Now nearly 21, Taylor continues to mature and grow into her role as prolific songwriter with the release of her third disc, “Speak Now,” an album that speaks volumes about heartache and regret. And Taylor, we’re listening.
“Mine” is the first single and the song that kicks off the album. A warm and lighthearted love song, it reached number 3 on Billboard Hot 100, making Swift the second female artist in the history (along with Mariah Carey) to debut multiple tracks in the top five during a calendar year – not an easy feat.
“Back to December” reminds us that we all have regrets, even Taylor. She’s usually the one who’s scorned, but in this number, she’s the one who made a mistake, and now wants to assuage the situation. We see a different side of Taylor in the title track “Speak Now,” in which she breaks up a wedding, claiming the guy deserves better than the girl he’s about to marry. The song contains one of her secret messages in her liner notes stating, “You always regret what you don’t say.”
As for “Mean,” this song is country through and through, complete with the twang of a banjo and the use of hand clapping as percussion, while “The Story of Us” leaves no metaphor left unturned as she describes the demise of a once perfect relationship.
“Innocent,” as we all know from Taylor’s VMA performance, is the “Kanye” song. Cleverly, her secret message in the liner notes for this song is: ‘Life is full of little interruptions.’ Regardless of the subject matter, it’s still a really affecting song. Making mistakes and having regrets seems to be a common theme on the album.
The claws come out on “Better Than Revenge,” which is a lot of fun lyrically with Taylor singing “…she’s an actress, but she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress…She thinks I’m psycho ‘cause I like to rhyme her name with things…no amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity.”
“Last Kiss” is heartbreaking ballad that focuses on the little details of a broken relationship, as opposed to the big milestones. It paints a vivid picture we can all relate to. At one point or another, we’ve all been crying on the floor, lamenting on what was and could have been.
There is not one ancillary song on the album and in spite of some of the more serious tracks, it’s clear that she knows how to have some fun. The album really does read as a diary put to music, which is excellent. So many great songs are based on personal, real-life experiences. The important thing to remember is to include your listeners by making it something they can relate to and avoid making it too self-indulgent. By not specifically naming names, Taylor pulls this task off very well. Having been a fan from the beginning, I’m glad to see she’s only getting better and better. And despite being in my late 20’s, I too find myself sometimes grabbing a hairbrush and singing along to Taylor. It can’t be helped. And I know I’m not the only one who’s done it, so no judging. That’s just my point. She reaches a wide variety of people and has a diverse audience, which bodes very well for the future of this talented young lady.