About the Album:
“1989 is the Thriller of the 2010s.” CS’19 The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica said Swift was aiming for “a mode of timelessness that few true pop stars even bother aspiring to.” WK “It’s the true-blue pop album that doesn’t die, storming through one month after another, until you sit back and go, ‘Jesus Christ, that came out two years ago?’” CS’19 “Every song feels and sounds like a smash hit, and half of them actually were.” AV “Shake It Off,” “Blank Space,” and “Bad Blood” “became part of our American life the same way ‘Beat It,’ ‘Billie Jean,’ and ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Something’ became American FM traditions.” CS’19
“Out of all of Swift’s post-country albums, 1989 remains her most fully realized,” UD the moment that “saw her shake off any remaining country trappings to become a gleaming synthpop behemoth.” GU This was “a love letter to the Pet Shop Boys and Eurythmics, all glossy synths, icy snares.” RS’20 Swift had experimented with “blatant pop music on the still country-tinged Red” RS’19 but with 1989 she took “the biggest risk of her career.” RS’11
The album, named after Swift’s birth year, saw Swift “replacing acoustic guitars and pedal steel with multi-layered synthscapes, drum machines, and densely packed vocal tracking.” SL She maintained the “savvy, self-aware lyrics” NME she’d honed in “writing astutely observed country ballads” SL such that 1989’s “standout tracks retain the narrative detail and clever metaphor-building that distinguished Swift’s early songs.” SL “Shedding her younger skin and going for broke with a new identity” BB proved fruitful. “Everything on this blockbuster collection sounded timeless.” NME
Swift called it her most “sonically cohesive” studio album. WK It generally satisfied her critics as well. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis said the album is full of “undeniable melodies and huge, perfectly turned choruses and nagging hooks.” WK Billboard said “it was big, bright and fun, even in her more lovelorn moments” BB and the AV Club said “it’s smart and cheeky by turns, expertly produced but also resolutely human.” AV “Every note and marketing stunt seems carefully planned, sure, but…[it] was far from pre-fab. It’s one of those incredibly rare records that unites everyone from jaded music critics to tweens, a phenomenon that might seem perfectly manufactured but is in fact a kind of rare cosmic event.” AV
1989 became Swift’s third album to sell more than a million copies in its first week, making her the first artist to do so. WK The 1.287 million tally was the highest sales week since 2002 WK and 1989 was the only album in 2014 to exceed a million in sales. WK Swift also won her second Grammy for Album of the Year.
“Shake It Off”
She also repeated herself in leading off with a Max Martin and Shellback produced single (Shake It Off) which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, just as she’d done with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in 2012. With its “undeniable energy” AV her reply to detractors was “the ‘Hey Ya’ of 2014.” AV It was certified double platinum by the RIAA before the album was even released and became her biggest Billboard Hot 100 hit to date, amassing 50 weeks on the chart. IS The song, a reply to Swift’s detractors, was supported by a video which would surpass 2 billion views.
Lyrically, Swift is at her most experimental and self-referential, like on the cheeky Blank Space.” RS’19 The “minimalist electropop” WK of the official second single and gave Swift the distinction of being the first artist to knock herself from the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. WK The song was an “imperious meta-pop takedown of her image of a serial Dater who uses her exes as score-settling songwriting fodder…using a humour and lightness of touch she’s never equalled.” NME She constructed “a delightfully psychotic version of herself in one of her best songs ever.” BB Like its predecessor, it amassed more than 2 billion YouTube views.
The “vitriolic” RS’11 Bad Blood was about an unnamed female singer – speculation has suggested Katy Perry – who hired away Swift’s tour personnel to sabotage the tour. WK A remixed version of the song featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar was the third #1 single from the album and racked up over 1 billion views on YouTube. It won MTV’s Video of the Year.
Style was also a top-10 hit. Insider’s Ahlgrim described it as a “transcendent experience,” IS and said that “Lyrically, Swift has rarely been more in control. Each winking detail has been carefully chosen; each image is precisely painted. The song's narrative builds and smolders, gradually, until the climactic lament…blows it all wide open…The moment feels like an explosion, or a rebirth.” IS
Wildest Dreams, with its “atmospheric romance,” RS’19 was the fifth single from the album to reach the top 10 in the U.S. The sixth, and final, official single was the top 20 hit Out of the Woods, with what Insider described as “the perfect bridge.” IS
“Songs like I Know Places ride a reggae swagger and trap-influenced snare beats before launching into a soaring, Pat Benatar-esque chorus. It’s an effortless fusion that, like much of 1989, displays Swift’s willingness to venture outside her comfort zone without much of a safety net, and test out an array of sonic experiments that feel both retro and of the moment.” SL
The album also included the “atmospheric” IS “electro-chill of Clean,” RS’20 “easily the holy grail among Swift’s closing tracks.” IS This is “one of her starkest, grandest romantic exorcisms, comparing love’s memory to ‘a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore’ and unspooling images of drowning and surviving that can bring to mind another Eighties hero, Kate Bush.” RS’20
Notes: A deluxe edition added tracks “Wonderland,” “You Are in Love,” and “New Romantics.” A Target deluxe edition also added alternate versions of “I Know Places,” “I Wish You Would,” and “Blank Spaces.” In 2015, Ryan Adams released a track-by-track covers album of 1989.