By Jim Hagerty
After Taylor Swift grabbed four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, before her 20th birthday, it was natural to ponder how the followup to Fearless (2008, Big Machine) would pan out and whether it would solidify any sort of staying power. Swift had a hand in writing all 13 tracks, including No. 1’s “Love Story” and “You Belong To Me.” The album joined the eponymous debut on top of the U.S. country chart and made a crossover run to the top of the pop chart. Still, some wonder, can the innocent Pennsylvania native with the golden voice last in a business known just as well for its expulsions as its rocket ship journeys to the stars?
Swift got her chance Monday, Oct. 25, to prove Speak Now is every bit as strong as the first two efforts. Produced by Swift, Nathan Chapman and Scott Borchetta, the project is again fueled by Swift’s songwriting and assumptive, cookie-cutter pop/country swoons that never fail to get the job done. Billed as a concept record, Speak Now moves in the same direction as Fearless, telling the familiar tale of a lovesick and frustrated girl embroiled in a “please choose me” pursuit of the cutest boy in the class.
With an advanced release of the title track earlier this month, the album is charged for a promotional whirlwind that’s surely icing on a cake baked with Swift’s new pin-up girl persona and seemingly heart-wrenching breakup with Joe Jonas.
Musically, Speak Now is a solid album. While there’s only so much a 20-year-old with a literal songwriting style can reflect upon, Swift is still growing and is able to make up for a lack of substance with a voice and stage presence well beyond her years. If rating systems told the the entire story, 3-1/2 out of 5 stars is warranted, especially for a record young fans can spin with their parents on their way to soccer practice.
From the Oct. 27-Nov. 2, 2010 issue