Country-pop wunderkind Taylor Swift has built a career off her ability to construct a well-crafted narrative. This trademark quality might have kept her loyal cadre of fans in tow throughout the years, which is why their abandonment of her bombastic and genre-stretching sound featured on her newest album, “Red,” could be seen as a risky and alienating choice.
From the dubstep-infused “I Knew You Were Trouble” to the Cure-esque stadium rock of “Holy Ground,” expert pop producers Max Martin and Shellback demonstrate that Swift’s go-to country essence takes a backseat to radio trends and glitzy production choices. While this genre-hopping makes for an interesting twist on Swift’s material, it pulls enough focus away from her usually on-par songwriting skills to be a cause for concern and complaint.
However soulless “Red” appears at first listen, Swift’s talents shine through in enough small moments across the album’s 16 songs. Swift displays glimpses of her past formulations of pop country on ballads like “Sad Beautiful Tragic” and “All Too Well,” which are outstanding examples of production choices. Sadly enough, one of the album’s most vulnerable and honest cuts, “The Moment I Knew,” is only available on the 22-song deluxe edition and is a reminder of just how talented Swift can be when she prioritizes her songwriting.
While the title of “Red” brings to mind images of simmering passion and complex emotional situations, Swift makes a misstep throughout the album of relying on dramatic production choices to speak for her work, which seems to have made her burning messages fade away from their true potential.
Overall rating: 2 stars
Taylor Swift released her fourth studio album, “Red,” with some new influences on the tracks.