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Country Sweetheart or Pop Princess? Surely a great album is just a great album as Taylor Swift shows with her 7th studio release ‘Lover’

It’s just shy of 11 years since I first got to see a teenager from Pennsylvania live on stage when Taylor Swift graced a London stage at King’s College Students’ Union shortly before the release of her sophomore record ‘Fearless’ and there was instantly something you noticed about this lady and almost an ability to create magic by making her audiences feel special to an extent I had not experienced before.

Move forward to August 23rd 2019 and the release of ‘Lover’ which is her 7th studio album where just over 3 months before reaching 30 she has elevated to a level of musical stardom and influence that I doubt anyone could fathom from that teen country princess we all first singing ‘Tim McGraw’

One thing that has remained constant is her uncanny knack as a songwriter, from her eponymous debut release through ‘Red’ which was her fourth release and marked a definitive point where her musical style started to move away from a distinct Nashville sound since then with ‘1989’ and ‘Reputation’ that she was not afraid to move on as such and bring a different type of music to her fans however at heart it’s has always been her depth lyrically that has stood out whatever musical box people try and place her into.

I am not ashamed to say I am a fan of her and what she does musically. Before I properly listened to ‘Reputation’ all the way through I wasn’t sure I would be big on the record and as much as I do miss the honesty and connection in her live shows when it was just her in front of a band without the mass stage production and dancers she really is as good a show woman as you will see anywhere! What she does however is the same as what she has always done, she waves a magic wand and creates an environment where every single person in that stadium or sold out arena feels special like she is connecting with them personally which is why her fans are so loyal to her and so dedicated.

The magnitude of her success has effectively turned her fans into part of her brand as “Swifties” are as much a part of her journey as she is a role model to them and so many others. A strong independent woman, philanthropist and one of the biggest names in all music are just some of the reasons so many people look up to her.

Like the 2 most recent albums preceding ‘Lover’ the record would fall more under the banner of pop rather than what you may traditionally class as ‘country’ but I believe the expression is “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” and what draws me to country music is the depth and relatability of the songs rather than a song needing specific ideology or a dedicated instrument. The way she addresses negatively in her songs and titles is admirable and ‘You Need to Calm Down’ just sends out the perfect message to people that spend too much of their time addressing what they dislike about her or what she is doing!

I have always maintained that I am not a diehard country fan as such, I just like a lot that falls under this umbrella that typically is more towards the pop side but my musical spectrum is very vast so trying to place someone as what they are or were musically isn’t really something I consider too much. My mum raised me listening to Fleetwood Mac, Queen and George Michael then my first ever concert was seeing The Charlatans before I saw Bon Jovi for the first time on my sixteenth Birthday and my early festival experiences were at V Festival or Creamfields before I had the life changing discovery of Natalie Maines and the Erwin sisters as my introduction to the genre.

This leads smoothly into talking about the album itself beginning with what is not just the absolute masterpiece on this record but what is without question one of the finest and most powerful songs she has ever written or recorded. ‘Soon You’ll Get Better’ which is a collaboration with the Dixie Chicks is such an emotional track and it is impossible to define it as anything other than a country song of the uttermost beauty which is very personal to Swift as it is about her mother’s battle with cancer.

This is not a country album and I don’t think there is any chance of convincing anyone that it is. However what she does as a pop artist (and the world’s biggest at that) is that many of the songs once again retain the same core and base that we were familiar with when she was helping people be ‘Fearless’ or encouraged to ‘Speak Now’ in the lyrics but has found a way to open these tracks up differently and to a wider audience particularly with ‘Cornelia Street’ on this record. You can’t fault her as a songwriter and she still gets the opportunity to showcase her stories in her own way. Isn’t the dream of Nashville all about getting to tell these stories rather than just simply throwing some steel or fiddle or a banjo on something as how to define it? Anyone that has poured so much of her emotion into writing songs over more than a decade deserves to be able to fully appreciate their own work so I am really pleased that she is looking to re-record the previous records which could mean some different arrangements but even if not, we will see a lot of songs coming back out of her locker including what many fans regard as her finest hour with ‘All Too Well’

Living in the capital, you are drawn to ‘London Boy’ firstly because it is the perfect example of a country song at heart (despite being written about a city across the pond) that she has found a way to evolve perfectly! Yes people can pick all the faults in the logistics about traveling around the capital with great ease or how she could be hanging out in Brixton, Shoreditch and Hackney without being widely noticed but it does talk about things a lot of us over here do relate to a lot and is written with the same organic passion she delivered when she was regarded by the genre police as a country artist.

The album is at 18 tracks really long for a lot of people to deal with in the modern climate and despite a few tracks that almost feel like they could have fitted on her last record, there are some absolute gems! ‘The Man’ is out and out genius in every way with the melody combined with the lyrics addressing that people shouldn’t have to take things that are not acceptable! The other track that immediately jumped out to me on the first listen to the album is ‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’ because I feel this could fit perfectly onto any of her previous albums but at the same time is so reflective of her current musical venture. I just love the melody and how it is so relevant and catchy in today’s climate and lyrically is so strong and it fits the tune perfectly which is poignant and relatable.

When people heard the title track prior to the album dropping, the anticipation built so much about this record as whatever opinions people may have had about ‘Reputation’ as an album or a direction that you could not argue that with ‘Lover’ we had such a strong indication that she was back at her best as a songwriter but had taken things to a new level. This instantly grabbed me as one of my all-time favourite songs she has cut because it’s just perfect, so Taylor lyrically and melodically but not just so fitting for a song to depict an emotion but more importantly gives a real reflection of how happy she is right now which is so great to see.

I appreciate our website is called Think Country and we cover a certain genre but this person is particularly in the UK the sole reason why we have the access we do to Nashville artists making Europe a priority for releasing music and touring. She was the pioneer of having country music played on Radio 1 when we all first heard ‘Love Story’ and showed how fans over here are not just a curiosity market but an essential part of any tour plans. If you have loved this record regardless of what you deem it, I’m preaching to the converted but there is some real powerful and deep song writing that whatever you musical preference you cannot help but admire so maybe people could be pleasantly surprised if they listen to this record with an open perspective. This is just a great album and that is how you need to view it, not a certain type of album but just something that she wrote or co-wrote and co-produced every single track on that is exactly what she and her fans wanted!

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Jamie Gardam
Without trying to write something that belongs in a Tinder profile, I’m Jamie: sometimes seen as a bit of a rogue potentially even notorious but all in all I am just an Essex boy that loves iced latte’s and colourful hair accessories with a tendency to continually cause disappointment to my mother and a worry to my therapist as I drink too much! It took me far too long to visit and fall in love with the world’s ultimate pub crawl that is Nashville, TN but prior to my next visit I make the most of the sights and sounds of London’s emerging country music scene.
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