Tag Archives: taylor swift

Album review: Taylor Swift, ‘1989’

Photo courtesy of Big Machine Records.

In a schadenfreude kind of way, I like that “1989” represents Taylor Swift’s further descent from hopeless romantic toward bitter cynicism. Thanks for joining us, Taylor.

She’s always been great at capturing a uniquely Millennial kind of loneliness characterized by a desperation for love but an inability to figure out how to really connect with anyone. This is especially evident in “Out of the Woods,” a haunting song about struggling to hold onto a new relationship with the chorus repeatedly chanting, “Are we out of the woods yet? Are we in the clear yet?”

Another excellent melancholy song about ill-fated love is “I Know Places.” Again, Taylor depicts clinging to a doomed relationship, singing, “See the vultures circling, dark clouds. / Love’s a fragile little thing, it could burn out. / It could burn out. / ‘Cause they got the cages, they got the boxes, / And guns. / They are the hunters, we are the foxes, / And we run.” The dark tone of the song is enhanced with a few edgier vocal embellishments and an overall lower, more somber pitch to the music.

Probably the best straightforward pop song on the album is “All You Had to Do Was Stay.” It features a strong chorus and deals with an all-too-relatable subject matter, which is Taylor’s specialty. The ultra high-pitched punctuation of “stay” throughout the song is an amazing touch.

I do wish that we, as a society, knew less gossip about Taylor’s personal life, because I found it essentially impossible to separate what I “know” about her from the music itself. Maybe I would have liked “Bad Blood” more if I could have heard it as a song about being betrayed by a friend rather than a song about that time Katy Perry snatched all of the dancers from Taylor’s tour to use for her own, but we’ll never know because Taylor’s music can’t really stand on its own anymore. (Although I would venture a guess that the song would still suck either way.)

In addition to “Bad Blood,” there are some real weak points on the album.

taylorswift-1989polaroid-03

Photo courtesy of Big Machine Records.

The first single, “Shake It Off,” is quite bad, but it still gets stuck in my head all the time. It’s an obnoxiously catchy pop song that sounds like Avril Lavigne circa 2007, which is also coincidentally the last time it was clever to use the phrase “Haters gonna hate.” The worst part is the horrifyingly embarrassing spoken word bit in the middle: “Hey, hey, hey! Just think: while you’ve been getting down and out about the liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world, you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.” Let’s not and say we did.

“Wildest Dreams” is such an overtly obvious attempt at a Lana Del Rey track it’s a little painful. It’s not a bad melody, though. I also enjoyed it when it was “Without You” on Lana’s 2012 album, “Born to Die.”

Overall, I think Taylor is a good storyteller, a strong songwriter and a great businesswoman. She’s phenomenal at marketing herself and interacting with her fans. The deluxe edition of the album includes three “voice memos” that detail Taylor’s writing process for a few choice songs, which is a cool insight and makes me kind of want to hang out and write music with her.

However, I don’t think she has a commanding presence or any star power, which is weird because she’s become a huge star. She doesn’t have much vocal range, and she was wildly disappointing when I saw her perform live a couple of weeks ago on Hollywood Boulevard.

Altogether, I can’t really say that “1989” is any better or worse than any of Taylor Swift’s previous albums. It has about the exact same handful of good songs as ever, alongside the same number of boring ballads and boring dance-pop tracks. The tl;dr of it is that she attempted to go in a different direction but achieved basically the same result.

Taylor Swift
1989
Release Date: Oct. 27
Genre: Pop
Grade: C+

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I played 1Dreamboy (so you don’t have to)

1Directiongames.com

I didn’t expect to be quite so incensed upon my completion of this virtual game, but here I go with it anyway. The night I spent working my way through the 1Dreamboy universe is going to haunt me forever; I’m going to be deeply regretting the hours wasted on that bullshit game while I’m on my deathbed, wondering where my youth went, probably.

An eroge (“erotic game,” as it were) is a type of video game centered on sexual content. Gameplay is often in the style of a dating sim (“dating simulator” — that’s just how we’re talking now), where you move through the story making occasional “choose your own adventure”-type choices in the hopes of attaining a relationship with one (or many?) of the characters. Sometimes the characters are pigeons. Sometimes they’re aliens. Sometimes they’re Harry Styles. Japan is a creative place.

1Dreamboy is kind of like that: it’s a romance-driven online game, and the player’s objective is to marry boyband One Direction within 60 days. Natch.

I lasted about two minutes in the realm of 1Dreamboy version 1.0. They expected me to sit through full audio clips ripped from YouTube of the boys’ original “X Factor” auditions, and Simon Cowell kept yelling at me to go away. Nope. Not even for true love. I decided to peace out and try the updated version with slightly better graphics, which was released in May 2014.

The story starts off on the first day of school: my teacher announces that Harry, Louis and Niall will be joining our class for the semester, while Zayn and Liam hold down the fort at “1D Headquarters,” which already makes no sense at all, but whatever.

Niall is the only one who appears to actually attend school; Harry and Louis stand in the hallway and are exceptionally rude. Harry says “Who the hell are you?” every time I try to initiate conversation, while Louis seems to respond best to me acting completely unhinged. When I select “LOUIS! MARRY ME!” as an opening line from the provided chat options, his response is, “You’re crazy, but I like it!”

Yeah, alright, let’s go with that.

1Directiongames.com

The first step of the game is to get to know the characters a little better. Zayn takes me to “the karaoke,” where I have to actually enable my computer’s microphone and sing along with a sped-up, Muzak rendition of “Best Song Ever.” Harry makes me play the piano while he rehearses “Little Things” (this is not only a difficult task to execute using my keyboard, but I had to mute my speakers through it as well because that song is god-awful).

Then, shit gets weird. At one point, Niall leaves me alone with Justin Bieber, who has appeared solely to participate in this scene. Bieber suggests that we split up and search the town for Niall as if he’s a lost puppy. When I finally find him, I discover that he’s been kidnapped by the cast of “Mean Girls” for some reason, and I have to engage in fisticuffs with Regina George. Now that’s romance.

The next day, Taylor Swift shows up to confront me about my relationship with Harry. I really don’t have one — as I said, he’s mostly rebuffed my advances. But she also wants to fight. And she also kicks my ass. Afterwards, Harry shows up and confesses his love for me, which is really the only reasonable reaction to this kind of situation.

Little did I know, this would cause some tension between Louis and Harry. Back in their hallway at school, Harry accuses Louis of playing me. Louis — ever the ladies’ man — tells Harry off, so Harry takes a swing at him. After the fight, they both demote me back to “just friends” status and delete their numbers from my cell phone. Rude as hell, but probably for the best.

I decide to pursue Zayn instead. Once I’ve formed a rapport with him by asking “Vas happenin,” I can ask him on a date, at which point the game becomes incredibly boring. He asks me to describe myself, and I lose points for giving him the “wrong” answers to questions like “What’s your favorite color?” Well, alright, Zayn. Maybe I’m just a little distracted by the disproportionate head-to-torso ratio this game’s animators have given you.

I suddenly realize that I’m running out of time, but Niall won’t accept any of my marriage proposals, so I find myself at an impasse. Once my 60 days are up, the boys determine that I don’t love them enough, so they decide to skip town. It’s the most frustrating conclusion imaginable. I don’t love you enough?! I just spent the better part of my night completing word searches and buying bouquets of flowers for you!

Once I come up for air, it’s 11 p.m., and I have missed messages on my phone from real, actual people who are out doing things in the physical world while I’ve been immersed in the 1Dreamboy universe. I can’t believe these are the life choices I’ve made.