114 of 131 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2010
Format: Audio CD
With "Speak Now" Taylor Swift ups the singer/songwriter aspect of her art and turns down the radio-ready emphasis a notch. It is a little less calculated and a little more comfortable than her last two, especially 2008's non-stop hit factory "Fearless."
It is also less focused and tight, but since this is Swift's debut effort without any co-writers, her melodies and lyrics composed independently, this was inevitable. The result is akin to comfort food - unpretentious, honest and warm. She has the natural talent and flair for catchy song craft to make a less precious recording - which "Speak Now" certainly is - work especially well.
Because Swift was clearly given more leeway to do as she pleases both her strengths and excesses are more prominently on display than previously. A few of her melodies sound simple and similar to one another, and she is often bursting with lyrics, with every other tune or so a bit overwritten. However, this is also one of the strengths of "Speak Now." It shows that Swift is the real deal - an artist from whom strong songs flow naturally.
Much has been made of the men whom Swift has written songs about, and that transparency shows her age, but "Speak Now" proves she does not need the controversy to validate the music. From the inventive, shrewd, near power-pop of "The Story of Us" and "Enchanted" to the elegant, apologetic "Back to December," these songs stand on their own.
Accents of country remain, but Swift is transitioning into pop/rock territory, and she cannot be blamed for it - at 20, she is, in spite of her major success, still finding her voice. "Mean" with its cheeky, smartly executed humor, is the only outright country tune.
"Someday I'll be living in a big old city and all you're ever gonna be is mean," she forecasts.
Her eye for detail and sense of levity are prominent. In the classy, tuneful title song she paints the picture of a wedding - which she hopes to put a stop to - in delightful detail:
"...and she is yelling at a bridesmaid somewhere back inside her room wearing a gown shaped like a pastry."
She also plays the role of big sister on "Innocent" and "Never Grow Up," affectionate odes to the importance of childhood. The latter especially demonstrates her depth as she sings of the importance of love, family and innocence.
"But don't make her drop you off around the block," she affectionately sings to her younger listeners about their mothers. "Remember that she's getting older too, and don't lose the way that you dance around in your PJs getting ready for school."
In an industry with plenty of flesh and flash and little substance, Taylor Swift remains refreshing and real, and "Speak Now" is just the right record for her to be releasing now - a collection of songs that proves the validity - and sincerity - of her still-burgeoning talent.
112 of 133 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2010
Format: Audio CD
I broke down and ponied up for the Deluxe Edition CD from the big red bullseye store just so I can answer some burning questions:
CD VS. DOWNLOAD - WINNER: CD!
Speak Now wins the prize for best CD packaging and booklet of the past decade (pricey box sets and reissues excluded). What you get: an embossed cover and an 18 page booklet filled with eye-popping color and some of the best photographs you'll ever see of Taylor. She playfully creates scenes from the songs - the damsel in distress on the train tracks gets the most press, but Taylor breaking up the wedding is the most hysterical. Plus - you get the rare shot of Taylor with straight hair. 2 pages of liner notes written by Taylor, lyrics - and a stellar shot of Taylor and her full band. Plus, the CD wins for superior sound. This brings back memories of bringing home an album on vinyl and having hours of artwork to pour over while listening to the album over and over.
STANDARD EDITION VS. DELUXE - WINNER: DELUXE
I'm not a big fan of pricier deluxe editions. Why exclude people from some of the content? Wouldn't it be better to encourage first-week sales by making all first-pressing CDs deluxe and then making it a collectible by taking it out of print. Afterward, making ALL the bonus tracks available for purchase online. But I digress - this is one of the most action-packed deluxe editions I've ever purchased. You get a different color dress on the cover; six bonus tracks (3 new songs, two acoustic versions and a remix). Of the new songs, Superman is a sure-fire radio hit. The others are simple and wonderful and would have fit in nicely on the album. The acoustic versions are nice but don't stray too far from the originals and I'd be hard pressed to notice too much difference between the Mine remix and the original version (a Victor Calderone club banger remix it isn't). As for the video content - who would think a half hour documentary about the making of a 3 minute video would be so captivating? It was one of the most enjoyable half hours of TV I've seen in years - despite the fact I thought the "enhanced CD" was a technology that died in the 90's. Best parts of the docu: Taylor getting attacked by bugs, Taylor coaching kids to act and the local Maine townspeople all but shutting down the shoot. Wait til you see how Taylor saves the day in the row boat.
Would Taylor Swift be so universally adored if she wasn't so adorable? Probably not. If you disagree, name one ugly pop star since the dawn of MTV - let alone CMT. Sure she's no stranger to the occasional flat note of off-key chorus, but thanks to the miracle of studio-wizardry anyone from T-Pain to Britney Spears can have a hit record these days. What sets Taylor apart is she proved you don't need to sell sex to sell records; you don't need to be on major label to top the charts; you don't need to be old to write songs that are universal tales about the human condition; you can be a role model without being a hypocrite or a prude; you can be a celebrity without being a train wreck - and most importantly for the sake of this review - you can pack 14 singles onto an album without a single dud. No filler here. This would have made a good soundtrack to summer, but we'll have to settle for it warming our hearts and tapping our toes all winter long. Sure, the road she's traveled in her 20 years is quite different from yours or mine, but the mark of a true artist is capturing snapshots of real life and presenting them in a way that is timeless, captivating and honest.
77 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2010
Format: Audio CD
First of all, I will admit that I was not a big fan of Taylor Swift before I listened to this album. I would confess that she is a decent songwriter and a decent singer. My complaint was that she lacked originality.
However, her songs were always so damn catchy! Every once in a while, there would be a song or two from her that I just couldn't get out of my head. This album made me respect her on a whole new level. Almost every song on here could be a radio hit, and the lyrics show incredible growth in maturity.
Many tracks are reminiscent of songs on her first two albums. "Mine" is particularly strong in it's poppy, giddy goodness. Also, "Enchanted" is very unique and "Sparks Fly" has an irresistible chorus.
The most impressive tracks on the album, however, show signs of Swift's maturing as an artist vocally and as a songwriter. "Dear John" and "Back to December" both bear ghosts of Swift's love life and are hauntingly emotive. "Never Grow Up" is a gorgeous track that brings nostalgic feelings with it, and "Innocent" is deeply reflective and carries wisdom. Her words are carefully chosen.
The album is not perfect however. Some of the weaker tracks, such as "Mean", "Speak Now", and "Long Live" show a lack of artistic ingenuity that Swift has worked so hard to develop on this album.
Overall, "Speak Now" is a CD that won't leave your iPod for a long time. You'll be humming the tracks in your sleep. Bravo! Color me impressed.
5/5 Stars, and probably the best album I've heard this year.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I wondered if I was the only one who was getting tired of Taylor Swift and her lack of originality of song lyrics on her album? When the first single to "Speak Now" was released, all I could think was this song sounds like all the other songs Taylor has sung. And then I began to doubt the maturity of "Speak Now." I wondered if she had ever grown as a musician and if we were just going to get another album similar to "Fearless"?
Can I say that Taylor genuinely surprised me with the release of her third album? (BTW...thank you Amazon for selling the MP3 download version of her album for four dollars). Taylor is not screaming as much on this album as "Fearless": she's finding the key to her voice that is soothing and not making the ears cry out in mercy. But "Speak Now" is more than her voice maturity: on this album, you have solid lyrics. The songs aren't about puppy love--she's sings about true emotion...love that is beautiful, and love that is hurtful. The songs are about cherishing what you had as a young child and to value parents (a lesson that can only be learned by growing up). Taylor is not just focusing on past relationships...she's focusing on all aspects of her life from these past few years.
Most of the tracks on this album will have you singing from the top of your lungs or tug at your heart. I'm not a huge fan of "Mean"... to me, this is a very petty song. But I am not surprised that she wrote and sang about this event of her life. So in a way it fits.
Thanks for surprising me Taylor. I believe this is the album that does deserve an award.
32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I've been playing this over and over really wanting to like it, but with the exception of a couple of songs, something's missing. I haven't been able to put a finger on it yet, but after going back and listening to Fearless, I'm starting to get some ideas about why Speak Now isn't striking a chord with me.
I'm not finding a "Love Story" here...or a "Fifteen"...or a number of other great songs from that album, but the reason is those songs have a lot of dynamic range, stronger melodies, and overall better production. A lot of songs on this new record are loud, from beginning to end.
I do think the lyrics are very good...very real. I listen to a variety of styles of music, and the appeal of Taylor Swift for me is that she writes real songs without the need for gimmicks. The lyrics mean something to her, and they are easy to relate to, whether you're 16 or 45. But the vehicle for the lyrics is the music, and that's where things fall flat for me here.
Yes, there's more variety in styles, from a decidedly country song with banjos ("Mean") to an Avril Lavigne-type rock song ("Better Than Revenge"), and everything in between. But when she leans too much towards country, it feels a little forced, and "Mean" has no originality to it whatsoever. A lot of the songs suffer from a lack of originality musically...they've been written hundreds of times before by many different artists. What saves them from total disaster are Swift's personal lyrics, so I'm not overly surprised with the positive reviews from fans and critics alike.
Thankfully, there are exceptions to the drop-off in music, melodies and production. Everyone seems to be talking about "Dear John", and it is good, mainly because of a passionate vocal performance. Still, it drags on and doesn't go anywhere musically. My heart starts to beat a little faster once I get to "Enchanted", and even though producers use a little auto-tune to spice up the vocal (which normally I would abhor), it works to perfection and the song builds in intensity and has a great melody. "Innocent" has a dark, eerie mood with some edge to it...something we haven't heard from Taylor before but suits her vocal tone perfectly. And on "Last Kiss", producers finally push the right buttons to help create a ballad that invokes goose bumps.
Overall, this is still a solid album...just not one I'm going to like from start to finish. I applaud her for writing all of the songs herself, but next time, I hope she gets a little help from her friends.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2010
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
I haven't bought an album since I was like 10. I bought this album after getting caught up in all the hype, and I do not regret my decision at all! Many have said "Mine" sounded like her previous albums but the songs on this new one are all quite dynamic...ballads, pop, country, everything. Best decision I've made all week to purchase this. I can't stop listening to it! Go Taylor!!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2011
Format: Audio CD
First off, I wasn't always a Swift fan. I originally brushed her off as just another cookie cutter pop singer. Then "You Belong With Me" hit the airwaves. I LOVED the song but didn't want to admit it. Then I heard "Our Song." So infectiously catchy...still wanted to dislike her but getting harder to resist. Then came "Teardrops On My Guitar." Game over....I was officially a fan.
It's hard for a 25 (close to 26) year old guy to admit it but I truly LOVE Taylor Swift now. I have all 4 of her albums (including her Xmas one) and I just can't get enough of her. She truly has talent that is heads and shoulders above 90% of her musical peers. I recently went to her Speak Now concert and found out she could not only play the regular six string guitar and banjo, but she was amazing with the 12 string and the piano too!!
Her Speak Now album is her first album where she wrote every single one of her songs by herself and it shows in both good and bad ways (but mostly good). I find the songs to be much more honest and as such, some of them just aren't quite as catchy. (Haunted and Last Kiss come to mind). BUT Swift truly shines and stands out in her other songs (Mean, Speak Now, The Story of Us, Better Than Revenge, and ESPECIALLY Sparks Fly). That one line is simply ingrained into me and is just soooo touching "I'm on my guard for the rest of the world but with you, I know it's no good."
Simply put, if you're a fan of her 2 earlier albums, you will love Speak Now. The album as a whole is a bit more mellow and less upbeat but you can really hear Swift's talent and slow maturity in every one of her songs on this album. Please support artists such as Swift and John Mayer who actually have real talent and turn off all the lady gaga, katy perry, miley cyrus crap.
-Openly proud Taylor Swift fan
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2011
Format: Audio CD
I didn't buy this at Amazon, to be honest, but I still wanna create a review. Let me start saying that I didn't plan to buy this CD because I never listen to Taylor Swift and I haven't bought any of her CDs, I just listened to You Belong With Me, Mine and Fearless, but I was with my dad at the supermarket one day, 1 or 2 weeks ago, and I decided to explore the CDs because I was looking for CDs by singers I listen often and buy their CDs like Miley Cyrus, etc. And they just had Can't Be Tamed, and I already had it. Then I was about to leave the CDs section when I saw Taylor Swift's Speak Now, hidden and the only one left, and I thought: ''I listened to some of her songs, including Mine and it's featured in this album'', and then I thought: ''Why not giving Taylor a try? After all, the songs seem to be good and I like country music'' and well, if I didn't ask for it, we would have just continued shopping, but I spoke in that moment, when I was there I said ''I have to speak now'', and I asked my dad for the album, and it was expensive, but he let me buy it, and I was so happy to be getting Speak Now, which was the thing I just did. I'll give the songs rating, and comment some of them if necessary.
1- Mine - 10/10
2- Sparks Fly - 9/10
3- Back To December - 9.5/10
4- Speak Now - 10/10 Favorite song
5- Dear John - 8.5/10 Maybe too long
6- Mean - 10/10 Second favorite song
7- The Story of Us - 8/10 Not too catchy
8- Never Grow Up - 9.5/10
9- Enchanted - 10/10
10- Better Than Revenge - 9.5/10 Pretty good song, catchier than The Story of Us
11- Innocent - 9.5/10 Sweet, I know who is it about, and I think Taylor's fans do know too
12- Haunted - 8.5/10
13- Last Kiss - 10/10 This is really sweet
14- Long Live - 9/10
It's pretty good, but I give it 4 stars out of 5 because some songs could have been better, but I LOVEEE the album :D. I don't regret buying it, I'll be sure to buy more of her music soon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
With third effort Speak Now, Taylor Swift delivers an album that finds her further evolving her honest songwriting style and cultivating her artistry. Given my past criticisms of Swift, I should probably have several songs on this album directed towards my criticism of her (would "Mean" be appropriate?). Prior to purchasing and listening to Speak Now, I had predicted it would be an album that would pale in comparison to the Grammy-winning Fearless by miles and would be less successful on pop radio. However, Ms. Swift should probably pen one of her `honest' songs directed towards me for wrongfully pre-judging her third album, which is overall very strong and one of 2010's best. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Taylor Swift sound so fresh and writing songs that are much more mature than her nearly twenty-one years. Sure, it does pale slightly in comparison to the more commercially-driven Fearless, but this album marks an artist truly "coming into her own" and taking her artistry `to the next level' and extending upon what she has already accomplished. There are no misses on Speak Now, even when the `hits' outshine secondary cuts.
The album opens with the superb "Mine," which upon an initial listen when it was released as a promo single, I found to be ok, but not earth-shattering or Swift's best. However, listening more intently, this is a fine cut with nice simple production work and grand songwriting. The refrain (hook) may not be the catchiest of Swift's career - that's arguable "You Belong With Me" from 'Fearless' - but it solid and shows off here consummate songwriting chops: "do you remember we were sitting there by the water? you put your arm around me for the first time, you made a reel of a careless man's careful daughter, you are the best thing's that's ever been mine..." Follow-up track "Sparks Fly" continues the wave of refreshing lyrics, with great lines such as "the way you move is like a full-on rainstorm/and I'm a house of cards..." The refrain is superb as any, where Swifts urges her lover to "drop everything now/meet me in the pouring rain/kiss me on the sidewalk/take away all the pain/cause I see sparks fly..." On the bridge in particularly, Swift sounds as if she has improved vocally, which is great.
"Back to December" opts for a slower tempo, which is a nice contrast here. Again, the songwriting never sags, making up for any improprieties that have had critics criticizing Swift (vocally). This track is superb because it is `country-enough' for true country fans but `crossover-enough' to suit pop/rock fans. "Speak Now," the exceptional title track features nice, light production work (particularly on the verses) which allow every vocal nuance by Swift to shine. What makes "Speak Now" stand out is its overall catchiness, solidified by another golden hook. I personally love the line "I hear the preacher say speak now or forever hold your peace..."
"Dear John" is a masterpiece, finding he disgruntled Swift pointing the finger at John Mayer. Everything about the track is "programmed" to give this effect - the six-eight feel, the bluesy-laziness of the production, and the `organic' nature that is given off here. The track is lengthy at 6:45, but it feels like Swift is on `autopilot' and the time passes by easily. "Mean" is equally credible, though it contrasts the slower, more solemn nature of "Dear John" in favor of a faster cut that begins abruptly. Here, Swift takes on the critics who have chastised her live performances by calling them, well, `mean': "Someday I'll be living in a big ole city/and all you're ever gonna be is mean/someday I'll be big enough so you can `t hit me." Swift is on a roll.
"The Story of Us" and "Never Grow Up" are both great cuts, if less distinctive than the accusatory "Dear John" or "Mean." "The Story Of Us" features more superb songwriting, with my favorite line being "I've never heard silence quite this loud..." "Never Give Up" is very beautiful with its low-key vibe (strummed acoustic guitars with no percussion), but it is a bit long. "Enchanted" is another solid cut, though it also suffers from being a bit too long (nearly six minutes). As far as production work, the use of an eery synth pad adds to the tone of the track and again, the songwriting is great. "Better than Revenge" is a better cut, with Swift reigning herself in at 3:39 and delivering great one liners such as "She took him faster than you could say sabotage."
"Innocent" did not appeal to me upon hearing its premiere at the VMAs, but here in its studio incarnation, it is a standout. The songwriting is focused and I have a new appreciation after hearing it on the album. "Haunted" is solid, though not the highlight of Speak Now. "Last Kiss," another expansive, lengthy cut is one of the better extended cuts where Ms. Swift sounds incredibly genuine. "Long Live" closes the album solidly, but is not `the cream of the crop' per say.
Taylor, I apologize for being "mean" and pre-judging 'Speak Now.' I have no doubt we can expect to see this album nominated for multiple Grammys when it is eligible to be nominated in 2011 for the 2012 Grammy ceremony. I have no major reservations with this album save for it has moments where the songs and the album itself go too long. Otherwise, it is a superb, mature effort. 4 stars.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2010
Format: Audio CD
What makes a good album?
This is a question which a multitude of artists attempt to answer every year. For Taylor Swift, the answer to this question has proven simple -- poignant lyrics, memorable melodies, and universal themes of love and heartbreak have become her trademark style, and listeners across all genres have raced to embrace her vision of country music. After a groundbreaking year in which she won awards at a multitude of venues, anticipation for the the twenty-year-old's third studio album was so thick that it was almost tangible. With Speak Now, Taylor Swift has attempted to solidify her place as the biggest act in country music, but with such a roller coaster ride over the past two years, could she top her previous success? Answering this question requires a detailed look at Swift's latest record.
The cornerstone of Swift's widespread appeal is undoubtedly her unique songwriting ability. As a lyricist, Swift manages to condense the emotions of her experiences into songs to which anyone can relate. Her wit and charm have earned her numerous supporters across the world, but some doubted that she could transition from songs about high school heartbreak and adolescent angst into a writer of mature songs about adult life. In Speak Now, Swift proves that her songwriting skills extend beyond the locker-lined hallways of high school into the realm of young-adult life. From capturing the uncertainty of balancing love with real life in "Mine", to giving a heartfelt apology (a first for Swift in an album) in "Back To December", to expressing the ambivalence teenagers feel towards the increased responsibility of age in "Never Grow Up", Swift lays a foundation for an emotional journey of unparalleled scope and clarity for someone her age. Once again, Swift manages to craft songs that can be understood by a younger audience who are living through similar experiences, while also appealing to any older listeners who can remember what it felt like to be her age. Though there are still some fairytale references in songs like "Enchanted", Swift has largely let the themes which ran through her sophomore album, Fearless, remain in the past. In doing so, Swift proves to the critics that she can mature as a songwriter and continue to produce tighter, deeper, and more satisfying lyrics.
Like most albums, Speak Now is constructed around a theme. Swift's theme for her third album is that of saying things she left unsaid -- each song is a confession to a specific person, telling each one what she failed to say in the heat of the moment. The result is a collection of songs with finely-honed lyrics, and each track sends a clear message. Unfortunately, a side effect of such specificity in her writing is that Swift may have constructed an album which reminds listeners more of her personal life than it does of their own. Those who have not closely followed Swift for the past two years may be more inclined to draw their own conclusions from the songs, while anyone who follows her activities may have a difficult time embracing some of the material. While this may be detrimental to the listening experience of some, it may not be entirely fair to blame Swift for the problem. If Speak Now is any indication, she has remained true to the same songwriting strategies that she established in her first two studio albums, and the only difference is that people now know the subjects of her songs before listening to the album for the first time.
A prime example of the nature of this controversy is "Mean", a song Swift reportedly wrote for music critic Bob Lefsetz. In it, she rebukes his commentary on her vocal ability and accuses him of cruel and unnecessary negativity in his evaluation of her talent. By tackling this topic head-on in an album, Swift has ostensibly risked additional rebuttals from other music pundits who may argue that she has proven an inability to handle criticism, but this is perhaps only a cursory understanding of the song. Few singers have managed to polarize listeners as strongly as Swift -- people either adore or despise her vocals, and perhaps the only people undecided about her voice are those who have never heard it. In Speak Now, Swift does little to change people's minds about her voice. Although the album features material that showcases both Swift's softer and louder singing abilities, her limited vocal range remains apparent throughout the listening experience. While it may be considered constructive criticism to point out her limited voice, many critiques of Swift's singing go far beyond what can be considered valid commentary. A host of online comments, ranging from degrading to hateful, seem to follow in the wake of everything Swift does, and it is difficult to believe that this has had no impact on the singer over the past two years. For someone whose trademark style is writing material about her own life, it seems not only understandable, but necessary, that Swift would address this topic in an album. While a professional critic like Lefsetz may make a convenient target for the song, it seems reasonable to interpret Swift's message in a broader sense that applies to everyone who propagates hateful speech.
Similar concern has been expressed over the impact of Swift's rise to stardom on a related attribute of her music: its universal appeal. Having built her career upon music that presents her as an average person who experiences the same things as her listeners, would leading the high-profile life of a celebrity cause her to lose perspective and create distanced music that no longer resonated with her core audience? The fact that most of the songs on Speak Now are directed at celebrities with whom Swift has been involved over the past two years might seem to speak to this point, but a more open-minded approach to the music is advisable. While "Mean" may be a personal rebuke directed at someone who has demeaned Swift in the past, does that prevent listeners from applying the scenario to their own lives? Surely Swift is it not the only person who has dealt with someone speaking cruelly about her. Similarly, Swift may apologize for her own relationship mistakes in "Back To December", but even though she has been involved with celebrities, Swift still keeps the song's message in simple, human terms -- someone loved her, and all she did was reject that affection. If Swift's latest batch of songs are any indication, she has been able to transition into the public eye without letting the attention derail her ability to reach out to regular people.
Of course, no album can rely on lyrics alone; a record depends on lyrics to send a message, but music is necessary to set the tone of that message. The music of Speak Now is perhaps the album's most intriguing quality. Swift's musical choices are nothing short of eclectic: from power ballads, to acoustic guitar renditions, to electric guitars combined with full orchestras, Speak Now covers a musical range that far eclipses her previous works. Swift's compositions have arguably advanced so far from the simple tunes of her first album, that having instrumental versions on the deluxe edition of Speak Now would have been a welcome surprise.
Despite this advancement in her musical repertoire, Swift's followers from the country scene may be disconcerted that the one musical style which is under-represented on the album is country. For someone who has cited country stars like Faith Hill as her inspiration for becoming a musician, it is somewhat perplexing that Swift would take her musical style in such a direction. On one hand, it is refreshing to see a musician who is unwilling to compromise her artistic vision to satisfy the expectations of specific genres, as some of the album's most impressive compositions would not exist on a traditional country album. On the other hand, the album's style may be a let down for those who hoped Swift would return to the country production of her eponymous debut album. The decision to stray further from a traditional country sound may cause some of her supporters to question whether Speak Now qualifies as a country album at all, and when compared to the few country acts who adhere to a more traditional sound, such questions may be valid.
It is, however, important to be objective when considering how an artist fits into the tapestry of a genre that has become as broad as country music. The days of country consisting almost exclusively of banjo, fiddle, and steel guitar have apparently passed (for better or for worse), and a great number of country artists have expanded their musical palette to include more popular sounds of electric guitar, increased percussion, and other elements previously underrepresented in the genre. When considering the entire gamut of songs on country radio, Swift's musical choices are perhaps not so out of place. In a climate where traditional country artists who sing about tractors like Jason Aldean can perform on the CMA Awards with mainstream artists like Kelly Clarkson, is it truly fair to label Swift's compositions as "not country enough"? While it would be refreshing to see Swift return to a more classic sound in a future album, it is important to acknowledge that her unique style of country has brought more listeners to the genre than that of any other artist in the last decade. Without Swift, many people would never have been exposed to the artists who have a more traditional sound, so even if her musical style strays from typical country fare, as long as she is able to enlarge the base of country music listeners, she deserves recognition alongside the genre's more traditional acts.
Even so, the fact that the music on Speak Now is more mainstream than either of her previous two records is perhaps the album's most prominent vice, even though the music also showcases the progression of Swift's capabilities as a composer. For someone who has defined a distinct lyrical style for herself, it is disappointing to see Swift emulate other mainstream musical styles instead of putting her immense talent towards defining a sound that she can call her own. This is not to say that the music of Speak Now is inherently deficient; indeed, the album contains many stellar compositions. It is rather to express a wistful desire to know how much more country the album could have been if Swift's skill at composition had been focused in that direction.
With these observations in mind, does Taylor Swift's latest offering have what it takes to be considered a great country album? Despite her deviations from the genre's traditional sound, Swift continues a proud country tradition of writing personal songs about real life, and by refining her craft for yet another album, she has proven that she has long-lasting promise as one of the genre's finest introspective lyricists. Swift has managed to expand the boundaries of her skill as a writer and composer once more, and only time will tell how her genre-defying musical choices settle with her core supporters in the country scene. While it remains uncertain whether Taylor Swift will return to a more traditional sound or continue to expand the boundaries of what is considered country music in the future, one thing is certain: Speak Now is a work of art.