After dominating the world with her fourth album Red, Swift set about constructing a more “sonically cohesive record” in her next project. The result of Swift’s vision was a cut-back of contributors – there were almost 100 on Red compared to just 30 on 1989 – and a shift from the acoustic, folk-driven style of her past albums toward ‘80s synth-pop. The idea for 1989 came to Swift in the middle of the night: “I woke up [one morning] at 4 a.m. and I [decided the album is] called 1989. I’ve been making ‘80s synth-pop [and] I’m just going to do that.”
So what happens when arguably one of the biggest pop-stars in the world modifies a sound that carried her so successfully throughout her career? She creates her most popular album to date, selling in excess of a million copies in the first week of its release. After her 2012 album Red, it was almost impossible to think Swift could become an even greater pop icon than she already was, and yet, thanks to the success of 1989, she did just that.
The rapid and sustained success of the album might almost exclusively be attributed to her change in genre. The movement away from Swift’s trademark acoustic tune to the exciting electronic elements found on 1989 invigorated her sound. And although Swift was aiming to somewhat emulate ‘80s synth-pop, 1989 was a far more modern trajectory for her music.
After carving out four folk-driven titles, this directional change was well overdue, and the introduction of an electronic, mostly synth-inspired sound highlighted a new maturity to her songwriting. It completely refreshed Swift’s music, adding unforeseen layers of spice to her pop/folk sound and allowing an exit from former preconceptions that suggested Taylor Swift was still just a high-school sweetheart singing pop songs about boys.
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