Billboard asked five writers to argue for one of Taylor's first five studio albums as her best. Here, Richard S. He makes the case for 2014's "1989", Swift's fifth album, and her most successful pop crossover to date.
By Taylor Swift's fifth album, her coming-of-age stories had already been told. When you're in your mid-twenties, once you've survived first love and heartbreak, all you're left with is yourself.
"1989" captures the feeling of having grown into your adult self, when all that's left to do is announce it to the world.
With her singles from 2012's "RED", Taylor Swift had already made the unequivocal leap to pop radio. But two years later, with "1989",
Swift set out to record her "first documented, official pop album" - and that distinction made all the difference. The essence of Swift's songwriting, her effortless ability to vocalize the
listener's intimate emotions, is still intact. But "1989" pushes everything further: Using fewer words, Swift embraces more adventurous melodies, moods, production.
Country music is about storytelling, but being a pop star means embodying the art through your image, videos, and everything you stand for. So even without any overt country songs,
"1989" is the definitive Taylor Swift album. If "RED" was the turning point of her career, "1989" is the culmination.
"Welcome to New York," the album's opening track, reaches past Taylor's earliest role models (Carly Simon, James Taylor, Shania Twain) to Bruce Springsteen. On 1984's "Born in the U.S.A.", The
Boss - another lifelong singer-songwriter - moved past traditional guitar-rock, embracing pop without compromise. "Welcome to New York," like "Born in the U.S.A.," opens its album with
unapologetically glossy synths, the sound of a clean break from the past.
And like "Born in the U.S.A.", "1989" had seven singles (counting Target-exclusive bonus track and fan favorite "New Romantics"), each of which couldn't be more different from the last. Six were
collaborations with modern pop maestro Max Martin, who's worked with every star imaginable. But Swift is one of the rare few who's a confident enough songwriter to push him to new