Those of you with tween-aged daughters certainly know that Taylor Swift released her third album, Speak Now, on 25 October. (Actually, considering that the album sold a cool million copies in the first week, everyone except you Martian cave dwellers probably knew this even without little girls to remind you, like, every day.)
Let me say at the outset of this review that it is a measure of my respect for Swift’s talents that I even notice this at all. In fact, I couldn’t even name a single album released in the last decade. As I listen to the music while writing this review, I will fully concede that Swift’s latest work retains for her the position of America’s sweetheart.
I was disappointed. Thematically, we’ve heard all these songs in Fearless. Both albums divide easily into the I-love-my-boyfriend songs, the my-jerk-boyfriend-left-me songs, the I-left-my-jerk-boyfriend songs, and the my-boyfriend-to-be-is-dating-the-wrong-girl song. Each album also has a triumph-over-adversity song: “Change” in Fearless, “Long Live” in Speak Now.
This last was a comedown from its earlier counterpart.
Long live the walls we crashed through
How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you
I was screaming long live all the magic we made
And bring on all the pretenders
One day we will be remembered
Nothing in the rest of the song provides any context, but the opening line is incoherent. Why would we want the “walls that we crashed through” to “live long”?
There are a few bright spots. A few of the songs explore old territory in a new way. “Mine” was especially moving as she sings of a girl (in the first person) whose parents’ broken marriage colors her current relationship:
And I remember that fight, two-thirty AM
You said everything was slipping right out of our hands
I ran out, crying, and you followed me out into the street
Braced myself for the goodbye, cause that's all I've ever known
Then, you took me by surprise
You said, "I'll never leave you alone."
“Better than Revenge”, in its own category as a that-scheming-slut-stole-my-boyfriend-and-I’m-gonna-crush-her song, has this funny'-‘cause-it’s-true line:
Stealing other people's toys on the playground
Won't make you many friends
She should keep in mind,
She should keep in mind
There is nothing I do better than revenge, Ha
If Fearless left any gaps in its exploration of female narcissism, Speak Now plugs them. But at some point, I really would like her to apply her talents to subjects that aren’t all about her. So Taylor, if you really want to solidify your position as the premier songwriting talent of our generation . . . write us a new national anthem. “The Star-spangled Banner” is so 1812.