Typically, red is merely a descriptor — a color representative of chili peppers, stop lights and Red Lobster signs. But on Oct. 22, it became a movement or, at very least, a frantic rush for thousands to the computers.
At 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, the first of more than half a million Taylor Swift fans rushed to download her new album, “RED.” “RED” helped Swift reach 50 Billboard HOT 100 hits within a period of six years, which is the quickest accumulation of Billboard accolades ever.
Swift’s album took only 36 minutes to top the all-genre Top Albums chart on iTunes. Not only were more than 262,000 digital albums sold within the first day on iTunes alone but the album also reached No. 1 in thirty-two countries. With people from all over the world eager to listen to “RED,” it’s not surprising that 13 of the top 20 songs on iTunes came from this fourth Swift album.
Although Swift writes of independence in one of her new songs, “22,” her success with these new songs did not arise without the help of several talented others.
Unlike Swift’s last album, “Speak Now,” for which she wrote all her own songs, almost half of her songs in “RED” are the results of more collaborative efforts. Enlisted in her hit-producing arsenal were Max Martin, Dan Wilson, Gary Lightbody, Ed Sheeran and Liz Rose.
These five carry resumes that touch some very impressive corners of the musical spectrum. Max Martin is the co-writer of top-10 singles such as Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” and Usher’s “DJ Got US Fallin’ in Love.” Dan Wilson, a singer, songwriter and producer known for writing three of Adele’s songs in her album entitled “21,” has country ties to Dierks Bentley and the Dixie Chicks. Gary Lightbody is lead vocalist as well as a guitarist for the alternative rock band Snow Patrol. Ed Sheeran lit up the charts in the United Kingdom with his 2011 debut single, “The A Team,” and has won two BRIT awards for Best Solo Artist. And finally, to wrap up the last item in Swift’s tool box of music gurus, is Liz Rose, a long-time co-worker and friend who’s partnered with Taylor Swift to write 14 songs. Led by Nathan Chapman, Swift’s producer since her debut into the music world in 2006, these five music industry talents and Swift painted the world RED.
With its ready-to-take-on-the-world gusto, “22” is a far cry from Swift’s “Fifteen.” As the numbers suggest, she grew, both in her musical style and content. Goodbye to the uncertainty and insecurity-ridden lives of teenage girls thrust into the new world of high school; hello to a time of celebration, to a love of life and to a drive to make the world new. In this song, Swift embraces a heavy bass and a sassy tone and fashioned an anthem for optimism and fresh outlooks in the process.
Another jump from the norm is “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” which shows that for once Taylor Swift is not going to be the victim. Gone is the broken-hearted blonde hugging her guitar while attempting to strum away the pain as her tears trail down the instrument’s wooden exterior. And gone is anything remotely country. This upbeat song keeps a heavy beat and thoroughly embraces the band. It’s a road trip song meant to be played with the windows down, to be half-chanted, half-screamed.
“Red,” the album’s namesake, does sport the classic Taylor Swift relationship heartache, yet lyrically, it’s creatively inventive. It’s almost a manifestation of a mood ring in a song: “Losing him was blue like I’d never known / Missing him was dark gray all alone / Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you’ve never met / But loving him was red / Oh red burning red.”
Songs such as “Everything Has Changed” and “Begin Again” ironically revert back to the old Taylor — acoustic guitar and melancholic melodies.
However RED did illuminate a changed Taylor Swift, overall. Her style, her genre and her lyrics create a picture much different from the 16-year-old country girl who wallowed in bleak musings of broken hearts, shredded dreams and irreparable relationships.
Well worth the frenzied craze to obtain it, “RED” reminisces about the gray moments but chooses to move on and color life with yellow, orange and, of course, red.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars