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Red

Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Universal Music

Country - Released January 1, 2013 | Big Machine Records, LLC

Red

Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Universal Music

Alone among her peers, Taylor Swift appears genuine. Which isn't to say she's without affectation or that she avoids artifice. She uses both when it suits her, as any real pop star would -- and if her 2012 album Red intends to do anything, it's to prove Taylor is a genuine superstar, the kind who transcends genre, the kind who can be referred to by a single name. Uneven as it is -- and it is, running just a shade too long as it sprints along in its quest to be everything to everyone -- Red accomplishes this goal with ease, establishing Taylor Swift as perhaps the only genuine cross-platform superstar of her time. Naturally, in order to accomplish this transition from country ingénue to pop star, Swift takes her country bona fides for granted, ignoring Nashville conventions as she rushes to collaborate with Britney Spears hitmaker Max Martin and Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody. Red isn't sequenced like a proper album, it's a buffet, offering every kind of sound or identity a Swift fan could possibly want. Taylor deftly shifts styles, adapting well to the insistent pulse of Martin, easing into a shimmering melancholy reminiscent of Mazzy Star ("Sad Beautiful Tragic") and coolly riding a chilly new wave pulse ("The Lucky One"). Combined with the unabashed arena rock fanfare of "State of Grace" and the dance-pop of "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and the dubstep feint "I Knew You Were Trouble" -- not to mention the ludicrous club-filler "22" -- Red barely winks at country, and it's a better album for it. It is, as all pop albums should be, recognizable primarily as the work of Taylor Swift alone: her girlish persona is at its center, allowing her to try on the latest fashions while always sounding like herself. Although she can still seem a little gangly in her lyrical details -- her relationship songs are too on the nose and she has an odd obsession about her perceived persecution by the cool kids -- these details hardly undermine the pristine pop confections surrounding them. If anything, these ungainly, awkward phrasings humanizes this mammoth pop monolith: she’s constructed something so precise its success seems preordained, but underneath it all, Taylor is still twitchy, which makes Red not just catchy but compelling. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Universal Music

£7.27£10.26

Pop - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal Music

Taylor Swift abandons any pretense that she's a teen on her second album, Fearless -- which isn't to say that she suddenly tarts herself up, running away from her youth in a manner that's all too familiar to many teen stars. Swift's maturation is deliberate and careful, styled after the crossover country-pop of Shania Twain and Faith Hill before they turned into divas. Despite the success of her self-titled 2006 debut, there's nothing at all diva-like about Swift on 2008's Fearless: she's soft-spoken and considerate, a big sister instead of a big star. Nowhere is this truer than on "Fifteen," a kind warning for a teen to watch her heart sung from the perspective of a woman who's perhaps twice that age -- a sly trick for the 18-year-old Swift. There may be a hint of youthfulness to her singing but that's the only hint of girlishness here; her writing -- and she had a hand in penning all 13 tracks here, with six of them bearing her solitary credit -- is sharply, subtly crafted and the music is softly assured, never pushing its hooks too hard and settling into a warm bed of guitars and keyboards. Like many country-pop albums of the 2000s, the pop heavily outweighs the country -- there aren't fiddles here, there are violins -- yet Fearless never feels garish, a crass attempt at a crossover success. It's small-scale and sweetly tuneful, always seeming humble even when the power ballads build to a big close. Swift's gentle touch is as enduring as her songcraft, and this musical maturity may not quite jibe with her age but it does help make Fearless one of the best mainstream pop albums of 2008. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Country - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal Music

All of 16 when she recorded this debut album, country-pop singer Taylor Swift's considerably strong voice straddles that precarious edge that both suggests experience far beyond her years and simultaneously leaves no doubt that she's still got a lot of life to live. It's a fresh, still girlish voice, full of hope and naïveté, but it's also a confident and mature one. That Swift is a talent to be reckoned with is never in doubt: her delivery on tracks like the uptempo "The Outside," the spare acoustic ballad "Mary's Song (Oh My My My)," and especially the leadoff track, "Tim McGraw," which was the first single from the album, is that of a seasoned pro, despite Swift's newcomer status. "Tim McGraw" may also be the album's highlight -- not a teenager's tribute to the country superstar, it instead uses McGraw as a marker in a lover's time line: "When you think Tim McGraw/I hope you think my favorite song." It's a device that's been used countless times in as many ways, that of associating a failed affair with items, places, and people, yet it works as a hook here and manages to come off as an original idea. Swift wrote or co-wrote every song on the record, a fairly remarkable feat considering the sophisticated manner in which she treats matters near and dear to the heart of one her age ("Now that I'm sitting here thinking it through/I've never been anywhere cold as you"). Producer/mentor Nathan Chapman has applied a gloss to some of Swift's songs that not all of them really require and in some cases would do better to shed. But Swift has no trouble overcoming any blandness taking place around her. She's come up with a commendable starter album that's as accomplished as any by a ten-year veteran who's seen a lot more road and felt a lot more emotion. Swift's young age may be a major point of interest in bringing listeners in, but by the end of the record she's succeeded in keeping them. ~ Jeff Tamarkin

Country - Released February 15, 2011 | Open Road

22

Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Universal Music

Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Universal Music

Country - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal

Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal Music

When Kanye West bum-rushed Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs, the world rallied around Swift not because Kanye was a “jackass,” as President Obama so succinctly summarized, but because the singer/songwriter conveyed the fragility of adolescence on her 2008 breakthrough, Fearless, so successfully that she inspired instinctive protectiveness even among those who never spent much time with the record. Not timid or a tart, Swift seemed like a genuine girl on Fearless, perhaps treating her songs a little too much like diaries, but that only made them more affecting. If anything, Swift ramps up the confessions on her 2010 sequel, Speak Now, but circumstances have changed: few listeners, if any, would have a clue about the identity of the boy who belongs with Taylor, but now that she’s a superstar, anybody with a passing familiarity with pop culture can discern which songs are about Kanye, Taylor Lautner (her ex), or Camilla Belle (the actress girl who stole Joe Jonas out from under our heroine). Not that Swift takes great pains to disguise who she’s writing about -- not when she’s writing “Dear John,” an elegant evisceration of lecherous lothario John Mayer. Such gossip mongering is titillating but fleeting, suggesting that the charms of Speak Now are insubstantial, but Swift’s gift is that she sets the troubled mind of an awkward age in stone. She writes from the perspective of the moment yet has the skill of a songwriter beyond her years, articulating contradictions and confessions with keen detail and strong melody. Tellingly, underneath all her girlishness -- and Taylor makes no apologies for being girly as she baits mean girls, dreamily thinks of stolen kisses on a sidewalk, or fantasizes about stealing away her ex-lover at the altar -- there’s a steely strength. She walks away proudly from breakups and never dwells on mistakes; she moves forward. The same could be said about the sound of Speak Now itself, which is no great progression from Fearless but rather a subtle shift toward pure pop with the country accents, such as the Dixie Chicks foundation of “Mean,” used as flavoring. But that blend of pop and country, while certainly radio-friendly, is nearly as distinctive to Taylor Swift as her songwriting voice. She may be not a girl, and not yet a woman, but on Speak Now she captures that transition with a personal grace and skill that few singer/songwriters have. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
£7.27£11.56

Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Universal Music

When Kanye West bum-rushed Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs, the world rallied around Swift not because Kanye was a “jackass,” as President Obama so succinctly summarized, but because the singer/songwriter conveyed the fragility of adolescence on her 2008 breakthrough, Fearless, so successfully that she inspired instinctive protectiveness even among those who never spent much time with the record. Not timid or a tart, Swift seemed like a genuine girl on Fearless, perhaps treating her songs a little too much like diaries, but that only made them more affecting. If anything, Swift ramps up the confessions on her 2010 sequel, Speak Now, but circumstances have changed: few listeners, if any, would have a clue about the identity of the boy who belongs with Taylor, but now that she’s a superstar, anybody with a passing familiarity with pop culture can discern which songs are about Kanye, Taylor Lautner (her ex), or Camilla Belle (the actress girl who stole Joe Jonas out from under our heroine). Not that Swift takes great pains to disguise who she’s writing about -- not when she’s writing “Dear John,” an elegant evisceration of lecherous lothario John Mayer. Such gossip mongering is titillating but fleeting, suggesting that the charms of Speak Now are insubstantial, but Swift’s gift is that she sets the troubled mind of an awkward age in stone. She writes from the perspective of the moment yet has the skill of a songwriter beyond her years, articulating contradictions and confessions with keen detail and strong melody. Tellingly, underneath all her girlishness -- and Taylor makes no apologies for being girly as she baits mean girls, dreamily thinks of stolen kisses on a sidewalk, or fantasizes about stealing away her ex-lover at the altar -- there’s a steely strength. She walks away proudly from breakups and never dwells on mistakes; she moves forward. The same could be said about the sound of Speak Now itself, which is no great progression from Fearless but rather a subtle shift toward pure pop with the country accents, such as the Dixie Chicks foundation of “Mean,” used as flavoring. But that blend of pop and country, while certainly radio-friendly, is nearly as distinctive to Taylor Swift as her songwriting voice. She may be not a girl, and not yet a woman, but on Speak Now she captures that transition with a personal grace and skill that few singer/songwriters have. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
£7.27£11.56

Pop - Released January 1, 2011 | Universal Music Division Mercury Records

When Kanye West bum-rushed Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 VMAs, the world rallied around Swift not because Kanye was a “jackass,” as President Obama so succinctly summarized, but because the singer/songwriter conveyed the fragility of adolescence on her 2008 breakthrough, Fearless, so successfully that she inspired instinctive protectiveness even among those who never spent much time with the record. Not timid or a tart, Swift seemed like a genuine girl on Fearless, perhaps treating her songs a little too much like diaries, but that only made them more affecting. If anything, Swift ramps up the confessions on her 2010 sequel, Speak Now, but circumstances have changed: few listeners, if any, would have a clue about the identity of the boy who belongs with Taylor, but now that she’s a superstar, anybody with a passing familiarity with pop culture can discern which songs are about Kanye, Taylor Lautner (her ex), or Camilla Belle (the actress girl who stole Joe Jonas out from under our heroine). Not that Swift takes great pains to disguise who she’s writing about -- not when she’s writing “Dear John,” an elegant evisceration of lecherous lothario John Mayer. Such gossip mongering is titillating but fleeting, suggesting that the charms of Speak Now are insubstantial, but Swift’s gift is that she sets the troubled mind of an awkward age in stone. She writes from the perspective of the moment yet has the skill of a songwriter beyond her years, articulating contradictions and confessions with keen detail and strong melody. Tellingly, underneath all her girlishness -- and Taylor makes no apologies for being girly as she baits mean girls, dreamily thinks of stolen kisses on a sidewalk, or fantasizes about stealing away her ex-lover at the altar -- there’s a steely strength. She walks away proudly from breakups and never dwells on mistakes; she moves forward. The same could be said about the sound of Speak Now itself, which is no great progression from Fearless but rather a subtle shift toward pure pop with the country accents, such as the Dixie Chicks foundation of “Mean,” used as flavoring. But that blend of pop and country, while certainly radio-friendly, is nearly as distinctive to Taylor Swift as her songwriting voice. She may be not a girl, and not yet a woman, but on Speak Now she captures that transition with a personal grace and skill that few singer/songwriters have. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Red

Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Universal Music

Pop - Released September 3, 2017 | Universal Music