First of all, let me say, I am SO EXCITED YOU ARE FINALLY READING THIS. I had maybe too much fun writing it.
Because we both took Joe's class, but I don't feel like being subtle, I'll start out just by throwing my thesis in your face. Taylor Swift's 1989 is one of the best pop albums published in recent memory because not only do all the songs, in groups, use one another to amplify their respective messages about love, relationships and loss, tried and true themes in Taylor Swift's world, in ways each individual song couldn't achieve standing on its own and together, create a coherent, well-organized album but manages to do so in such a way that personal and highly intimate.
One of the points that struck me after listening to her album was that there wasn't a song called "1989." Taylor Swift was born in 1989, and has said this album, was really influenced by '80s music: "I really loved the chances they were taking, how bold it was," she said. "It was apparently a time of limitless potential, the idea you could do what you want be what you want ... the idea of endless possibility was kind of a theme in the last two years of my life."
She said this before the album was released. Already she's setting the stage, setting it for something big, revolutionary even. Or at least that's the aim. This album is going to be bold, limitless: anything is possible. I've read multiple places on the internet something along the lines of "before it even came out most of us had a feeling it was going to be a game changer." But more subtly, this album is her. The making of this album started when she was born. She is this album and the album is her. The ultimate success will determine her place in history: a flop would have her remembered only among the defining artists of our generation; she has already earned that. But success, bold, limitless success, would launch her beyond her compatriots in the music industry to levels achieved only by superstars: likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna. 1989 is Taylor Swift and her legacy.
Throughout this process of producing a icon, she did not lose sight of what defines her as an artist: her dedication to her fans. She took what could have felt like an impersonal pop album, produced through the pop music powerhouse that is Sweden and made it feel personal. She held intimate listening parties. She created the illusion that this album was released for you, personally, as her fan.
Even her album itself invites you in. The first song, I would argue based on zero imperial evidence, is the one that is skipped the most often. I don't love it, personally, as a song, but it is an excellent opening to an album. I have heard it critiqued, saying that "Empire State of Mind" is this generation's defining New York anthem, and I think that's definitely true. I equally don't think Taylor Swift was trying to write a song about New York. She took what New York is and represents and used that symbol to tell us what her album is. 1989 is the New York City of the music world, and, most importantly, she's inviting you to it. It's called "Welcome to New York" but what it means is "welcome to our new world of music." In the opening verse of the song she says "Everybody here wanted something more/Searching for a sound we haven't heard before" and just a line later, she welcomes you to this new sound, this pop music revolution.
The first song welcomes you to the new world she's created; Blank Space's opening line is "Nice to meet you/ Where you been/I could show you incredible things." In the context of this song, she's talking to her next love, but in the context of the album she is talking to you, her cherish fan. Welcome. Nice to meet you. It's all for you the listener. Blank Space shows how aware she is of what people think of her, taking that and amping it up and doing so in what is a really catchy song
Blank Space pairs really well with Style. Style seems almost to be the more realistic version of Blank Space. They are thematically similar enough that this cover was able to happen and be something I'm obsessed with.
"Out of the Woods" seems to be a believable follow up to "Style" and Swift said on Good Morning America "Out of the Woods" was one of her "favorite songs on the this album because it best represents 1989." She mentions it's because it best deals with the fragile nature of love and relationships. And thematically, most of her songs do revolve around this topic, like much of her past work. But the opening verse again brings in the listener on a more personal level. Included in the deluxe edition of 1989 were fake Polaroid photos of Taylor growing up, complete with captions that correspond to lyrics from her music. And in "Out of the Woods" she talks about how "You took a polaroid of us" not "He" not "We" but you. You did this. It's an instant buy in to the song. You can feel like you are in the song because you have the Polaroids she mentions.
Following, and possibly answering the questions asked in "Out of the Woods" is "All You Had to Do Was Stay." "Out of the Woods" repeatedly asks "Are we out of the woods yet/Are we in the clear yet" and only offers the ambiguous response of "good." Does good mean they are out of the woods or does good mean she's glad they're still in the woods? The number of times she asks the question seems to suggested she doesn't feel secure in whatever answer she's getting either way. The resolution to the questions asked really comes through the messages of "Stay." She reminds her former lover "all you had to do was stay/had me in the palm of your hand."
The word "stay" is repeated 29 times in this song. It's powerful and sticks with you through the opening line of the next song "Shake it Off," which begins "I stay out to late...at least that's what people say/I go on too many dates/But I can't make 'em stay." The next song immediately uses stay twice in it's opening verse, linking these two songs on a more subliminal level. The response is clear, you're not going to stay, so I'm just gonna to shake it off.
The songs on 1989 show a clear cause and effect relationship as well. "I Wish You Would" repeats the theme "I wish you would come back...I wish you were right here." The song tails off to a chorus "I wish you would"s, which forms almost a complete sentence with the next song "Bad Blood." Listening to the songs in order you hear "I wish you would, I wish you would... 'Cuz baby now we got bad blood/ you know it use to be mad love" The feelings and actions (or lack thereof) in one song cause the next one. And all revolving around the gold standard that is Taylor Swift: love, loss and heart break.
The rest of the songs can fit into this pattern "This Love" would seem to be the girls perspective when in "How You Get the Girl" the guy "must've lost [his] mind/And you left her all alone and never told her why." The relationship between "Clean" (my favorite song) and "Wonderland" can almost been seen as a slip back into old habits after getting clean "10 months sober, I must admit/Just because you're clean don't miss you don't miss it." "Wonderland" could be seen in a (perhaps callous) "relapse" into the drug that is love.
She finishes off her Deluxe album by including a few recordings of her working on her music. It's very intimate. She's affording her fans this sneak peak into her world–how she makes the world she lives in. It allows you, as the listener, to have a private moment with Taylor. She's talking to you, explaining how what she's created came to be. She's made you part of the construction of this world as well as invited you to live in it. Welcome, Nice to Meet You. It's a holistic experience and by the time you are done you feel as though you have experienced everything right along with Taylor, every moment since 1989.