Released October 2010 by Big Machine
Few top level artists have responded to critics with the ferocity and fearlessness that Taylor Swift expresses on her third studio album Speak Now. Her songwriting skills have taken another significant step forward in sheer power. Her music is more diverse stylistically than ever, and her singing is credible and up to par. Taylor Swift has stated that each song is styled as a confession to a particular person, and that intimacy reads as a rare glimpse into the true life of a young pop star at the top of her game. This album is a powerful artistic triumph.
Taylor Swift wrote all of the songs on Speak Now with no co-songwriters. She says, "It didn't really happen on purpose, it just sort of happened. Like, I'd get my best ideas at 3:00 AM in Arkansas, and I didn't have a co-writer around and I would just finish it." Frequently, the barriers and filters come down in the wee hours of the morning. On the songs here that amount to settling scores, it is obvious that Taylor Swift was not interested in holding back. She mentions no full names in the songs, but many fans and gossip experts have pieced together the likley subjects from what we do know about the life of the songwriter.
"Dear John" adapts the bluesy style of John Mayer in a song most feel is addressed to him. It is a powerful explication of a relationship best summed up in the song's final line, "Don't you think I was too young? You should have known." On "Better Than Revenge" Taylor Swift dives headfirst into a power pop rush to strike down the other woman who, "Took him faster than you can say sabotage." For those who wish bullies a final comeuppance there is "Mean" which takes on one perpetrator, but the words are truly universal in scope.
Compassion and Sentimentality
Lest you think Speak Now amounts to an album-length screed against those Taylor Swift thinks have done her wrong, there are also songs of impressive compassion here. She responds to the notorious Kanye West confrontation with words of comfort and identification that he is still an "Innocent." The song "Never Grow Up" bathes in a sentimentality that avoids being cloying. In "Back To December," a song many believe speaks about her relationship with actor Taylor Lautner, Taylor Swift apologizes among words of respect and joy for the best parts of their romance. Speak Now closes with perhaps the most powerful song here "Long Live" where she exclaims, "Long live all the mountains we moved, I had the time of my life with you."
Top Tracks on 'Speak Now'
- "Back to December"
- "Speak Now"
- "Better Than Revenge"
- "Long Live"
Taylor Swift, the Artist
The primary conclusion after listening to Speak Now is that the album amounts to an impressively honest and open portrait of Taylor Swift as one of the most promising young artists in popular music. The collection of songs and performances deserves a five star rating due to the immediacy of the songs perfectly matching the experiences and concerns of a celebrity musician on the cusp of moving from starry-eyed teen to an adult with varying experiences of joy and pain. She finds her way into varied musical styles from power pop to banjo fueled country that keep the album from dragging or alienating any specific group of fans. Speak Now is a landmark album. Is it Taylor Swift at her most powerful and compelling? Or is this simply the beginning? Only time will answer that question.