Friday, November 30, 2012

Van Morrison released Astral Weeks: November 1968

image from

Release date: November 1968
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Astral Weeks / Beside You / Sweet Thing (2/6/71, --) / Cyprus Avenue / The Way Young Lovers Do / Madame George / Ballerina / Slim Slow Slider

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, -- UK, 0.5 world

Peak: -- US, -- UK


Review: Astral Weeks is generally considered one of the best albums in pop music history. For all that renown,” AMG “it is one of rock’s least-likely masterworks;” TL “in fact, it isn’t a rock & roll album at all,” AMG but “a jazz record disguised as a rock record.” JM It also draws from folk, blues, and classical. It has been described as “achingly beautiful,” EK “an emotional outpouring cast in delicate musical structures,” AMG “an ingenious orchestration of poetry and mysticism.” RV and “a languid, impressionistic, utterly gorgeous song cycle.” TL

This was Morrison’s first solo album. He’d “previously been the pint-sized head thug for the ruffian R&B combo Them” EK “which achieved immortality with the garage anthem ‘Gloria.’” TL This was “followed by an abortive stint as a top 40 pop singer” EK which produced “the irresistible singalong ‘Brown-Eyed Girl,’ but he dismissed the album that came from those sessions. Signing with Warner Bros. Records, Morrison then assembled a bunch of jazz-based players, took them into a New York studio, and emerged two days later with Astral Weeks.” TL

“Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, Morrison sings in his elastic, bluesy voice, accompanied by a jazz rhythm section.” AMG Among the musicians are drummer Connie Kay, who played with the Modern Jazz Quartet; bassist Richard Davis, who worked on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch; and guitarist Jay Berliner, who worked with Charles Mingus and others. EK In addition, John Payne is on reeds, Warren Smith, Jr. on vibes, and a string quartet is overdubbed. AMG

It “sounded like nothing he had done previously — and really, nothing anyone had done previously.” TL Kay and Davis, “in particular push what are actually pretty simple songs with an empathy that’s seldom seen outside jazz.” EK “The leap from all that to a delicate, graceful musing on romanticism is basically unprecedented. It’s as if Lost in Translation had starred Tony Danza.” EK

Astral Weeks more or less sank without a trace upon its release. It’s mostly through the critical rehabilitation of guys like Lester Bangs that this album achieved its widespread standing.” EK The album isn’t without its detractors with comments like, this “is a rambling record with a heavy jazz influence, lyrics that rival beat poets, and the average track goes on for seven minutes. It’s no wonder no one cared when it came out.” JM

Astral Weeks

However, the Warner Bros. publicity department hyped it as “the closest rock music has ever gotten to literature.” EK Morrison “spouts stream of consciousness lyrics like the James Joyce of music.” RV “The title track finds Morrison at his most idyllic.” RV He “takes us from slipstreams and viaducts of your dreams to his lady-love doing her kid’s laundry, possibly while our hero is slumped on the couch watching Green Acres. Van has continued to do this throughout his career…but it’s never been quite as seamless” EK as it is here. The song “encompasses a lifetime in a mere five minutes, making the journey from innocence to experience with all of the heartache such a pilgrimage entails.” RV

Madame George

“Morrison sings of lost love, death, and nostalgia for childhood in the Celtic soul that would become his signature.” TL He crafts “stories about the people of Ireland, characters searching for the solace and companionship that eludes them. Madame George is an ode to an aging transvestite” RV which is “hypnotic and compelling instead of a three-chord drone.” EK Meanwhile Cyprus Avenue could serve as the theme song for obsessive romantics too nervous to speak to their muse.” RV

Cyprus Avenue

Astral Weeks’ “mystic poetry, spacious grooves, and romantic incantations still resonate in ways no other music can.” TL Morrison has created “a beautiful sonic painting.” RV “He never made another record quite like Astral Weeks again.” EW

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rolling Stones released Let It Bleed: November 28, 1969

image from

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Gimme Shelter (11/28/98; #29 AR) / Love in Vain / Country Honk / Live with Me / Let It Bleed / Midnight Rambler / You Got the Silver / Monkey Man / You Can’t Always Get What You Want (7/19/69; #42 US)

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.3 UK, 6.0 world

Peak: 3 US, 1 1 UK


Review: The Rolling Stones were in turmoil when they recorded Let It Bleed. Brian Jones, the guitarist who originally lead the group, was booted during the sessions for his serious drug problem. He died less than a month later. His final work appears on two tracks on the album. As such, Let It Bleed “finds the band, for perhaps the first time, accurately reflecting the spirit of its age. [They] now found themselves firmly in the center of the social and political post-‘68 whirlwind, and faced up to the challenge magnificently.” CDU

The Stones had already launched a “confident climb to its artistic peak” CDU with 1968’s Beggars Banquet, but this was “a quantum leap even from that musical milestone” CDU extending “the rock & blues feel of Beggar’s Banquet into slightly harder-rocking, more demonically sexual territory.” AMG Let It Bleed is “a motley compound of country, blues and gospel fire [which] rattles and burns with apocalyptic cohesion.” RS500 It “is less of an homage than its predecessor, as the songs begin to reflect the personalities that drive them.” IB The album also showcases “every role the Stones have ever played…swaggering studs, evil demons, harem keepers and fast life riders” RS – while also signaling the beginning of the ‘70s.

Gimme Shelter “came to symbolize not only the catastrophe of the Stones’ free show at Altamont but the death of the utopian spirit of the 1960s.” RS500 The song “is the sound of a frantically braking freight train about to crush the ‘60s under its wheels” IB as it “leads us decisively out of Flower Power and into a world where rape and murder are ‘just a shot away.’” CDU The song “builds on the dark beauty of the finest melody Mick [Jagger] and Keith have ever written,” RS “slowly adding instruments and sounds until an explosively full presence of bass and drums rides…into the howls of Mick and…Mary Clayton.” RS “The Stones have never done anything better.” RS

Gimme Shelter

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, with its “epic moralism…honky-tonk piano and massed vocal chorus” RS500 “is one of the most outrageous productions ever staged by a rock and roll band.” RS It “was the Stones’ ‘Hey Jude’ of sorts, with its epic structure, horns, philosophical lyrics, and swelling choral vocals.” AMG “Every note…works to perfection.” RS

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Songs like that, Monkey Man, and Let It Bleed, with its “druggy party ambience,” AMG “cast a sharp writer’s eye on the decay seeping into the Stones’ camp, proving that Mick had become more than a pair of lips and hips.” IB Elsewhere there’s the “menacing Midnight RamblerAZ in which Jagger sounds like a bloodthirsty stalker and “the spare country settings of Country Honk,” IB “the two-stepping alter ego of ‘Honky-Tonk Women.’” AZ The Stones also do a “brilliant revival of Robert Johnson’s exquisite Love in Vain.” RS

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Grammy Hall of Fame Inductees for 2013

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In 1973, the Recording Academy (more widely known as the Grammys) established a Hall of Fame to, as it says on their website, “honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old.” GH On November 21, the 2013 class was inducted, marking the 40th anniversary of the Grammy Hall of Fame. UT The full list now comes to 933 entries. UT

Neil Portnow, the President and CEO of the Recording Academy, echoed the Grammy’s mission by calling this new batch of recordings “memorable for being both culturally and historically significant.” HP Inductees include both albums (in italics) and songs (in quotation marks). Here are the 2013 Grammy Hall of Fame inductees:

  • AC/DC Back in Black (1980)
  • James Brown “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (1965)
  • Ray Charles “Hit the Road Jack” (1961)

  • John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (1963)
  • Francis Craig & His Orchestra “Near You” (1947)
  • The Drifters “On Broadway” (1963)
  • Bob Dylan “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (1964)

  • Joe Falcon “Allons À Lafayette (Lafayette)” (1928)
  • Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, & the Foggy Mountain Boys Foggy Mountain Banjo (1961)
  • Carols Gardel “El Día Que Me Quieras” (1935)
  • Son House “My Black Mama (Parts 1 & 2)” (1930)

  • Whitney Houston Whitney Houston (1985)
  • Billy Joel “Piano Man” (1973)

    Piano Man

  • Elton John Elton John (1970)
  • Louis Jordan “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” (1946)
  • Little Richard Here’s Little Richard (1957)
  • Memphis Jug Band “Stealin’ Stealin’” (1928)
  • Charles Mingus Mingus Ah Um (1959)

  • Paul McCartney & Wings Band on the Run (1973)
  • Buck Owens “Act Naturally” (1963)
  • Richard Pryor That N*****’s Crazy (1974)
  • Frank Sinatra “Theme from ‘New York New York’” (1980)

  • W.H. Stepp “Bonaparte’s Retreat” (1937)
  • Ernest V. “Pop” Stoneman “The Titanic” (1924)
  • Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton “Hound Dog” (1953)

  • Lennie Tristano Sextet Crosscurrents (1949)
  • Various Artists Lost in the Stars (original Broadway cast, 1949)

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Monday, November 19, 2012

2012 American Music Awards

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On November 18, 2012, the 40th American Music Awards were held in Los Angeles and broadcast live on ABC. Nominees were announced October 9, 2012. Here were the winners:

  • Artist of the Year: Justin Bieber
  • New Artist of the Year: Carly Rae Jepsen

    Justin Bieber with “As Long As You Love Me”
    and “Beauty and a Beat” with Nicki Minaj

    Favorite Pop/Rock
  • Male Artist: Justin Bieber
  • Female Artist: Katy Perry
  • Band/Duo/Group: Maroon 5
  • Album: Justin Bieber Believe

    Favorite Country
  • Male Artist: Luke Bryan
  • Female Artist: Taylor Swift
  • Band/Duo/Group: Lady Antebellum
  • Album: Carrie Underwood Blown Away

    Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop
  • Artist: Nicki Minaj
  • Album: Nicki Minaj Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

    Perhaps the most talked about performance of the night:

    Favorite Soul/R&B
  • Male Artist: Usher
  • Female Artist: Beyonce
  • Album: Rihanna Talk That Talk

    Additional Categories
  • Favorite Alternative Artist: Linkin Park
  • Adult Contemporary Artist: Adele
  • Latin Artist: Shakira
  • Contemporary Inspirational Artist: TobyMac
  • Favorite Electronic Dance Music: David Guetta

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Four Seasons hit #1 with “Big Girls Don’t Cry”

First posted 3/12/2021.

Big Girls Don’t Cry

The Four Seasons

Writer(s): Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 20, 1962

Peak: 15 US, 14 CN, 16 HR, 13 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 15.26 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Five weeks after the Four Seasons got their first #1 with “Sherry” they were back on top again with “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” The two songs “were recorded at the same session and it was a toss-up as to which would be released first. As it turned out, it didn’t matter. They both established Frankie Valli’s falsetto voice and the danceable rhythms of the group as the definitive East Coast sound, with its roots in doo-wop and R&B music of the fifties.” BR1

The two songs – both of which spent five weeks at #1 – were very similar. The group’s chief songwriter Bob Gaudio said, “I didn’t feel it was the freshest follow-up…After the success of ‘Sherry,’ we had to follow it up with something vaguely similar. The harmonies were structured differently, a little bigger.” BR1 The group would reach #1 again in early 1963 with “Walk Like a Man,” making them the first group in history to have three consecutive non-holiday #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” was inspired by a line in the 1955 Western Tennessee’s Partner, which starred Ronald Reagan with John Payne and Rhonda Fleming. In one scene, Payne slaps Fleming and asks her what she thinks about that. She responds, “Big girls don’t cry.” According to the liner notes in Time-Life Records’ Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Gaudio was dozing off during the movie, but heard the slap. He wrote the line on a scrap of paper and wrote the song the next morning. WK However, another account attributes the story to Bob Crewe, the Four Tops’ producer and the song’s other writer. SF

While not featured on the blockbuster soundtrack to the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, this song played in the opening scene of the movie. It also appeared in the movies The Main Event (1979) and Mermaids (1990). SF

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Four Seasons
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 120.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Today's "New" Music Is All Folked Up

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on November 1, 2012. See original post here.

Mumford & Sons press photo, image from

One of todays biggest musical trends owes a debt to one of musics oldest traditions: buddies gathered on a front porch jamming with guitars, banjos, and mandolins. Some of today's most popular groups sound like they belong in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1920s, not on alternative radio of the 2010s.

With the year 80 percent over, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on 2012's biggest albums before the slew of impending big-label seasonal blockbusters get a choke hold on the music-buying public. Out of the four biggest 2012 US chart debuts, two owe their success to career longevity, another can attribute his massive first week outing to a stranglehold on the teen and tween market, and a fourth is successful for…well, who knows for sure why.

In April, Madonna scored her fifth consecutive #1 album and eighth overall when MDNA topped the Billboard album charts. With 359,000 units sold, she set the bar early as the year’s biggest debut (, “‘MDNA’ gives Madonna biggest album debut of 2012,” 4 April 2012).

It lasted but a few months, though. Summer was marked by a Canadian teen sensation who eclipsed the 53-year-old Madge with 374,000 copies of his official sophomore release. Perhaps you’ve heard of Justin Bieber? He not only outdid the Queen of Pop but himself, considering it was his best sales week ever (, “Justin Bieber’s ‘Believe’ Records Biggest Debut of the Year,” 27 June 2012). In the record industry heyday of the ‘90s, the album would likely have moved a million copies in a week. However, in the digital age, Bieber’s sales were still impressive.

In September, the Dave Matthews Band became the first group in history to land six straight studio albums atop the Billboard album chart (, “Dave Matthews Band’s Away From the World Debuts At #1,” 19 September 2012). While they’d proved themselves a model of consistency, their 266,000-unit week wasn’t enough to dislodge the Bieb. Certainly if veterans like Madonna and Dave Matthews Band couldn’t outdo Canada’s finest, then no one could, right?

Except that someone did – and with a sound that owed more to the music of the Appalachian Mountains nearly a hundred years ago than any of today’s current trends. Relying on instruments like banjo and accordion, Mumford & Sons logged more than 600,000 in first-week sales of Babel, their sophomore release (Rolling Stone, “On the Charts: Mumford & Sons’ ‘Babel’ Scores Biggest Debut of 2012,” 3 October 2012).

The group emerged from the West London folk scene when their 2009 debut, Sigh No More, became a slow-burning hit, eventually hitting #2 and selling two million copies in the US. However, it had to be a fluke, right? How could their next effort even hope to come close?

There was precedent for such a decidedly niche group picking up an even bigger audience the second time out. The Fleet Foxes, a Seattle-based folk band, garnered enough critical acclaim with their 2008 eponymous debut to start life on the Billboard chart at #4 with 2011's Helplessness Blues.

It's important to note that the digital age has afforded some flexibility to niche acts. In an era when six-figure sales are no longer a necessity to top the charts, more modestly successful acts can boast about racking up #1 albums.

For example, with Sigh No More still a top-ten album in early 2011, the folk-rock group The Decemberists debuted at #1 with their third album, The King Is Dead. As an article in Billboard noted, the album moved 94,000 copies (“Decemberists’ ‘King Is Dead’ Is No. 1 on Billboard 200,’ 26 January 2011). While that bested any previous efforts by the Decemberists, it was a so-so figure for the top-selling album."

Mumford & Sons, however, didn’t just scratch the top ten with an album selling south of six figures. They landed a gold record in a mere seven days. This wasn’t just a sales bonanza, either – the crew also stormed radio with first single, “I Will Wait”, topping the Alternative Songs and Rock Songs charts.

When taken along with the success of the Fleet Foxes and Decemberists, the Mumfords’ triumph looks more like a trend than a fluke. Sure enough, Mumford & Sons aren’t the only group topping the Rock Songs chart with a decidedly un-rock mix of instruments like mandolin and strings. The Lumineers, a group out of Colorado, also hit #1 with their song "Ho Hey."

Last year’s Grammys acknowledged the new trend by putting Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers on stage alongside Bob Dylan, arguably the most important figure in the history of folk music. Just a few weeks ago, the Avett Brothers debuted at #4 on the Billboard charts with The Carpenter, one notch behind Dylan’s Tempest.

They weren’t the only new folk stars to emerge from those Grammys. Bon Iver surprised everyone when they stormed out of the gates to a #2 start on the album chart. Even more people were surprised when the Justin Vernon-led crew landed a slew of Grammy nominations, including Song and Record of the Year for "Holocene."

However, in a move which embarrassingly demonstrated the Grammys’ misunderstanding of the word “new”, Bon Iver was also nominated as Best New Artist, an award they ended up taking home. It didn’t matter that the folk group’s self-titled album was their second release. Apparently since the public had largely ignored 2007’s self-released For Emma, Forever Ago, the brilliant minds behind the Grammy selections figured they could as well.

By also taking home the prize for Best Alternative Album, Bon Iver demonstrated the full-fledged acceptance by the alternative rock crowd of a new segment of indie-rock bands – those inspired not by being at the forefront of what was new with music, but tapping into what was old.

The move arguably began a year earlier when Arcade Fire’s mix of indie-rock with baroque pop took home the prize for Album of the Year with The Suburbs. Suddenly the idea of string-drenched rock ‘n’ roll didn’t seem so odd for radio, sales, or awards.

It’s never a simple task to nail down when a movement starts and why. However, the message sent by the widespread acceptance of these folk acts as more than just niche groups suggests a desire to return to music of a simpler time. In a world where enough dollars and proper Auto-tuning can seemingly turn any pretty face into a superstar, perhaps enough cynics cried, "Enough!" to allow for music from a simpler era to take hold.

Interestingly, it also signals a return to rock ‘n’ roll or, more accurately, the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. Music historians largely peg the ‘50s as the birth of rock music, or at least its explosion. The sound, however, grew out of the blues and country sounds from the decades before. In the United States, both of those genres were rooted in the folk music of the early part of the 20th century.

Certainly Mumford & Sons, the Fleet Foxes, the Lumineers, the Avett Brothers, Bon Iver, and Arcade Fire have done more than just mimic the music of a century ago. No, they’ve done what any good artist does – tap into what has come before to point us in a new direction entirely.

Dave Whitaker is the author of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999 and No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”…And Other Essays from a Musical Obesessive. He maintains a website (, blog, and Facebook page (all music related) with followers in more than 40 countries.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Taylor Swift’s Red debuts at #1

First posted 3/4/2019; updated 12/4/2020.


Taylor Swift

Released: October 22, 2012

Peak: 17 US, 116, 11 UK, 12 CN, 13 AU

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 0.6 UK, 8.78 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: pop/country


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. State of Grace (10/27/12, 13 US, 36 UK, 9 CN, 44 AU)
  2. Red (10/13/12, 6 US, 2 CW, 26 UK, 5 CN, 30, AU, worldwide sales: 1.44 million)
  3. Treacherous (11/10/12, 26 CW, 65 CN)
  4. I Knew You Were Trouble (10/8/12, 2 US, 5 AC, 11 A40, 55a CW, 2 UK, 2 CN, 3 AU, worldwide sales: 7.75 million)
  5. All Too Well (11/10/12, 80 US, 17 CW, 59 CN)
  6. 22 (11/10/12, 20 US, 19 AC, 9 A40, 9 UK, 20 CN, 21 AU, worldwide sales: 2.92 million)
  7. I Almost Do (11/10/12, 65 US, 13 CW, 50 CN)
  8. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (8/13/12, 13 US, 10 AC, 7 A40, 110 CW, 4 UK, #14 CN, 3 AU, worldwide sales: 9.1 million)
  9. Stay Stay Stay (11/10/12, 91 US, 24 CW, 70 CN)
  10. The Last Time (with Gary Lightbody, 11/4/13, 25 UK, 73 CN)
  11. Holy Ground (11/10/12, 32 CW, 89 CN)
  12. Sad Beautiful Tragic (11/10/12, 37 CW, 92 CN)
  13. The Lucky One (11/10/12, 33 CW, 88 CN)
  14. Everything Has Changed (with Ed Sheeran, 11/10/12, 32 US, 11 AC, 8 A40, 7 UK, 28 CN, 28 AU, worldwide sales: 1.07 million)
  15. Starlight (11/10/12, 28 CW, 80 CN)
  16. Begin Again (9/25/12, 7 US, 10 CW, 30 UK, 4 CN, 20 AU, US sales: 1 million)

Total Running Time: 65:11


3.820 out of 5.00 (average of 11 ratings)

Quotable: Red establishes “Taylor Swift as perhaps the only genuine cross-platform superstar of her time.” AMG

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Red seeks “to prove Taylor is a genuine superstar, the kind who transcends genre, the kind who can be referred to by a single name.” AMG It certainly accomplished that goal on a commercial level. It was her third consecutive chart-topper, debuting with first-week sales of 1.21 million, making it the fastest-selling album in the US in more than a decade. WK It was also her third consecutive top-selling album of the year WK and received Grammy nominations for Album of the Year and Country Album of the Year.

She used the term “red emotions” to describe the “semi-toxic relationships” she experienced while making the album, hence the title of the album. WK In addition to exporing her “signature themes of love and heartbreak” WK she explores “fame and the pressure of being in the limelight.” WK She told MTV News “each song stands on its own. It’s this patchwork quilt of different sounds and different emotions.” WK

Red barely winks at country, and it’s a better album for it.” AMG It offers “every kind of sound or identity a Swift fan could possibly want.” AMG While the result is “uneven” and runs “just a shade too long as it sprints along in its quest to be everything to everyone,” AMG it establishes “Swift as perhaps the only genuine cross-platform superstar of her time.” AMG Billboard magazine said the album “transcends her country roots for a genre-spanning record” that is “her most interesting full-length to date.” WK Randall Roberts of the Los Angeles Times was impressed by her talent at incorporating different music styles. In Slant magazine, Jonathan Keefe gave the album a mixed review, but acknowledged that Swift “now sounds like the pop star she was destined to be all along.”

Billboard magazine noted that “Red will likely be remembered for its sonic risks,” WK specifically noting the dance-pop lead single We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (her first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and “the dubstep feint” AMG of I Knew You Were Trouble, which was released as an official single and became her eleventh song to debut in the top 10.

“Back Together” was nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year while Begin Again also received a Grammy nod – for Best Country Song. It was released as the official second single, debuting in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. It was also serviced to country radio, becoming her seventeenth consecutive top 10 on the Billboard country songs chart. WK

22 was the album’s official fourth single. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide called it a “ludicrous club-filler,” AMG pointing it out as one of the songs contributing to the album’s uneven buffet nature. In noting the variety of the album’s material, he also cited the “shimmering melancholy reminiscent of Mazzy Star” AMG on Sad Beautiful Tragic), the “chilly new wave pulse” AMG of The Lucky One and “the unabashed arena rock fanfare of State of Grace.” AMG

“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.” AMG

Notes: A deluxe edition added new songs “The Moment I Knew,” “Come Back…Be Here,” and “Girl at Home” as well as demos for “Treacherous” and “Red” and an acoustic version of “State of Grace.”

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