Taylor Swift: Speak Now Reviews - Portrait Reviews

Taylor Swift: Speak Now
Review by: Emily

Speak Now, the third installment from country superstar, Taylor Swift, is one of the most anticipated albums of 2010. The album features fourteen songs, or “confessions,” written solely by Swift. The Target deluxe version includes three more songs.

“Mine,” the leading single, is a song that tells a story about how a relationship could have gone if Swift hadn’t been afraid to jump into love. It’s a fun song that tells a good story. After hearing the rest of the album, it’s not my favorite, but it is still a strong first single.

For die-hard Taylor Swift fans, “Sparks Fly” is one of the best on the album. Some fans have been waiting for the song for years ever since she sang it at a concert back in ’07. After a few changes, and a more upbeat-tempo, “Sparks Fly” officially has a studio version. While a lot of the album seems more mature than Fearless, “Sparks Fly” reminds us of the fairytale-loving Swift from her last album. The song is one of the more liked on the album, even if it’s not the best.

“Speak Now,” the title track, is a catchy, upbeat song that differs from Swift’s usual sound. It is about the moment in a wedding where one should “speak now or forever hold their peace.” While this isn’t one of my favorites, either, I think it’s a great way for Swift to show another side of her. The song is more sarcastic and sassy than her usual songs. It is one of the less serious songs on the album.

The album also features slow songs, including “Innocent” and “Back to December,” which is the first song in which Swift apologizes to a boy, ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner. The song is beautiful and emotional. It is one of the best on the album.

Something “Back to December” and “Innocent” have in common is they both address the “Kanye incident” from the VMA’s. “Innocent” is another emotional song that Swift debuted at the VMAs. She addresses the incident from 2009 when Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech on stage. In the song, she sings to him, and tells him even after all he has done, he’s “still an innocent.”

“Mean” is the perfect opportunity for Swift to go back to her country roots. The song is one of the more country-sounding songs since Taylor Swift, if not the most country sounding song Swift has released. It is her way of dealing with the criticism she receives, especially from one critic in particular. “Mean” proves to be one of the most relatable songs on the album, especially when Swift sings “why you gotta be so mean?”

“The Story of Us” is about seeing an ex (John Mayer) at a public place (the CMT Awards). It’s another song on the album where you realize Taylor isn’t just country or pop. The upbeat song is about how awkward it is seeing an ex in public, especially after you thought you would be together for a long time. Many people either dislike the song or love it. If you’re used to the soft, sweet songs from Swift, this song may shock you.

“Haunted” is the most dramatic song on the album. It starts off with violins and other string instruments. The song is about after a break up, and involves Swift demanding that the guy to “finish what he started.” The song is one of the best on the album, and leaves you wanting more at the end. It is one of the more mature sounding songs on the album.

“Better than Revenge” is the fast paced, “get back at the girl who stole your boyfriend” song on the album. Swift takes a stab at an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend in this song, singing, “She’s an actress, she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” The song starts off with Swift demanding that the girl “go sit in the corner and think about what she did.” It’s different from Swift’s usual songs, but it is still fun. It shows us a new side of Taylor. It’s like the next level to “Picture to Burn,” “Should’ve Said No,” and “Forever and Always.”

“Never Grow Up” is a sweet lullaby. Swift’s voice has a bit of a country accent in the song. While it’s not the best on the album, it isn’t bad. She sings “I won’t let nobody hurt you, won’t let nobody break your heart.” The song talks about the hardships on growing up. It’s not one of the favorites off of the album, but it is still lyrically strong.

“Enchanted” is about meeting a guy you believe is special and wondering if he’s with anyone, and if he likes you back. It is one of the most romantic songs on the album. The end leaves Taylor sounding vulnerable when she begs the guy to “not be in love with someone else.” It is rumored to be about Adam Young from the band Owl City (because the secret message is Adam). “Enchanted” is my favorite on the album. It’s one of the best on Speak Now, and is one of the most favorited.

“Last Kiss” is the heart wrenching break up song on the album. The song is rumored to be about ex-Joe Jonas. Swift’s voice sounds rawer on this track than on most of the others. If you listen to this song too often, you’ll find yourself crying, especially if you can relate to the song. “Last Kiss” is about after a break up you weren’t expecting, you realize you have had your last kiss, even though you never thought you would have it with that person.

“Long Live” (also known as “We Will be Remembered”) is about Swift’s past two years, ever since she released Fearless. It is about her band and her fans that have helped her get to where she is today. The song wasn’t my favorite when I first listened to the album, but it started to grow on me. Now, “Long Live” is one of my favorites and most listened to. My favorite line from the song is “the cynics were outraged, screaming this is absurd, cause for a moment a band of thieves in ripped up jeans got to rule the world.”

One of the best tracks on the album, and certainly one of the most emotional, is “Dear John.” The six and a half minute song is about John Mayer. The song is about being manipulated and betrayed by someone you loved. It shows us a vulnerable Taylor, and despite its length, it is one of the best songs she has written.

The Target Deluxe version also includes three more new songs, “Ours,” “Superman,” and “If This Was a Movie.” All three are great songs, and are worth buying.

Speak Now presents us with a new side of Taylor Swift that we haven’t seen before. This album is more personal, and the songs are like entries from her diary. Swift is also more honest in these songs. Swift doesn’t just reveal things in her lyrics. She also reveals a lot in the lyric booklet. Since Taylor Swift, she has put hidden messages in the written lyrics of her songs.

If you weren’t convinced songs like “The Story of Us” and “Back to December” were really about Mayer and Lautner, all you would have to do is “decode” the secret messages.

The album also offers a new sound. There are some songs that are more rock and pop. The songs are longer and her lyrics are more mature, but they are still relatable. My favorites on the album are “Dear John,” “Enchanted,” “Long Live,” “Haunted,” and “Back to December.” All of the songs are strong, and they all seem like they belong on the album.

In its first week of sales, Speak Now sold over a million albums. It’s safe to say Taylor Swift is officially back to take over 2010 and 2011.

Taylor Swift: Speak Now
Review by: Amanda

Easily one of the most talked about albums of the last year, Taylor Swift's Speak Now is a collection of confessions. The songs make up a list of things she has never said, things she wishes she could take back, apologies she wishes she could make. Each song was written with a specific person or event in mind. And it's probably her most personal album yet. Yes, each of her previous albums have tracks that were based on her own life, lyrics penned by her that took aim at boys that hurt her, or about relationships that never really got off the ground. This time around though, Taylor's life is more public than it has ever been, and many of the messages in the tracks are easy for even the most casual fan to decipher, despite her refusals to confirm or deny the suspicions of her listeners. And it's definitely her best album yet.

Mine is a lot like some of Taylor's previously successful singles “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” in both sound and story, so it was a very wise decision to make this the lead off track, as well as the first single from the album. It's one of those country songs with enough of a pop feel to it that it gets played on Top 40, Country, and Adult Contemporary radio. It's an easy listen with a catchy chorus that perfectly demonstrates Taylor's gift for story telling as she sings.

Sparks Fly is a track that's been floating around in the heads of Taylor Swift's fans for a couple of years now. She sang it at a concert, but it didn't show up on her album. So, fans waited. And waited. The thing about Taylor Swift though, is that she seems to write songs at the drop of a hat, which means there are a lot of songs out there that aren't on any discs. I have this vision of her paging through piles and piles of notebooks when she works on selecting songs for an album, so I wasn't sure this would ever actually make it on to a CD. But I'm so glad it did. It's an up-tempo track that allows Taylor to really have fun with her song. It's got one of those catchy choruses, like the first track, that get stuck in your head.

Back to December starts off what feels like the string of more serious songs. It's the one time that fans have ever been allowed to hear Taylor Swift apologize to an old boyfriend. (By now, you probably know which one, though she won't come right out and say it in interviews. Like I said, her life's a lot more public than it used to be.) A lot of her songs are about regret, about lost love, but there aren't any that act as a direct apology. And it's a very pretty apology. The music has a great ebb and flow to it, a softness, and it's a great contrast to the next track.

Speak Now has a great sarcastic start to its lyrics before Taylor really gets into the “day dream” part of the song. It's a song about the fantasy that plays out in a slew of romantic comedies. At a wedding, someone in the gathered crowd stands up to stop the ceremony, pouring out their heart. Taylor, reportedly, wrote this for a friend who watched someone they cared about marry someone else. And it has this great, sweet, sound to the music and her voice that really sells the song. You want the person telling you this story to have the guts to interrupt the wedding ceremony. You want them to get that happy ending, even if it creates chaos for everyone else.

Dear John, rumored to be about another famous singer (his name is in the title), is the longest track on the album, and the one track that acts most literally as an open letter to the person it is about. It's one of Taylor's better written tracks, I think. There's a sweeping feel to the music that is reminiscent of old school country-blues songs, and her lyrics are fantastic. There's a part of me that feels badly for the subject of the song, knowing that he's probably got a legion of Taylor fans who want to cause him as much pain as he caused her, but there's another part of me that agrees with Taylor's refrain at the end of the song: you should've known. Taylor has made no secret of where she finds inspiration for her songs, and this one is superb.

Mean, like the previous song, has an old school feel to it. This one is more like a rockabilly track though. It's a toe tapper written to a bully, and will probably be an anthem for teenage girls getting picked on, or anyone else for that matter. In a time when bullying has become front page news in a lot of places, it's a timely track. But it's fun. It's so fun to listen to, in fact, that I think I let it play through three times when I sat down to review this CD.

The Story of Us is the song that's most like the tracks on her previous album. It has the country-pop feel Taylor's so well known for, and it's actually very similar, in terms of content and story, to a track from her last album, “Forever and Always.” I think it's safe to say the two songs are not about the same relationship, but the feelings of regret, of not understanding how a relationship could be breaking down, those are the same. I like the conceit of a story used throughout the song, tying the whole track together nicely. It's very well done.

Never Give Up reflects on childhood in a slow, winding, song. Some of the lyrics sound a little awkward on the first listen through the track, but that's probably because some of the lines to the songs are so long, that it isn't something we're used to. It's definitely something that causes your own memories to crop up as you listen to Taylor's experience though, and it's easy to sympathize with the feelings she had when she wrote the song, right after moving into her own place and officially leaving that piece of her childhood behind.

Enchanted is a sweet song about a simple meeting. There's no real love story to be had here. The entire track concerns the singer meeting someone at an event that she clicked with, and the feelings the experience left her with. I love that Taylor is able to compose such a pretty song on something that seems so simple. It's in contrast to some of the other tracks that concern long romances, or the unexpected end to a relationship. It's not my favorite track on the album, but I really enjoy the idea of the song, and I think it would actually be a great addition to almost any romantic comedy soundtrack.

Better Than Revenge is, by far, one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs ever. I think it's because it shows such a different side to her. We're used to her singing about the boys who break her heart, but this time, she takes aim at a girl who took the guy away, saying “she should keep in mind/there's nothing I do better than revenge.” Some people have even speculated they know which “actress” the lyrics refer to, and if they're right, she should probably watch out because the lyrics are pretty scathing throughout. I wouldn't want to be the person on Taylor's mind when she began to pen these words. Set to a quick beat, with a rapidly told story, Taylor gets your attention from the first line. And she holds your attention through the whole song. It's not a love song. It's not a break up song. It really is all about the revenge. Some might say it's vindictive. I say it's honest. And it's great.

Innocent was the first track Taylor performed on the awards show circuit this year, and she did it at the MTV VMAs. Some might refer to it as the scene of the crime, since she wrote the song in response to the actions of Kanye West at the same show the year before. And it's interesting, because, while the song is pretty, I don't think it's hit as well with listeners considering what big news the interruption had been the year before. It really isn't one of the best songs on the disc either. It's pretty, but for some reason, I don't find myself connecting to it as well as the majority of the other tracks.

Haunted is a bit more rock that the rest of the disc, and rock is always an intriguing way for Taylor to go. She has such a sweet sound to her voice that it's hard to really plop her down in the middle of a rock song, but with the country trimmings, it can't truly be rock anyway. This is another song that I like, that's well done, but for some reason, I just don't connect to it. It's more of a passive listen for me, which is weird because it has the harshest sound of anything on the disc.

Last Kiss is such a sad song, and Taylor captures the emotion of missing someone, but not having them miss you back, perfectly. Like “Dear John,” it also has an older feel to it, like it's a country song from an earlier generation. And it's refreshing that Taylor's able to conjure up that sensation in some of the songs on her disc because her earlier efforts have usually felt like pop songs with a country accent. Here, her music sounds like country songs that happen to have some pop flavoring. There isn't really a big change to her sound, but the feeling is slightly different, and it demonstrates a gradual growth in her song writing, not to mention recording.

Long Live acts as a great closing track, especially since the song is a message to her band, reminding them of how hard they have all worked to get to the point they have reached. I think it's easy for us, as an audience, to give Taylor all of the credit for churning out chart topping singles or giving an emotion evoking performance, but she has an entire team of people who work alongside her, and it's really sweet to get a track that reminds us all of that fact. They all deserve a bit of recognition as well.

Like I said way back up there at the beginning, this is Taylor's best album yet. There are only two out of the twelve tracks that lag behind the rest, and that's only because the others are simply outstanding. Now, if you can't get enough of Taylor, the Target version of the disc has additional tracks that are exclusive to that version of the CD, not to mention video footage. And though that isn't the version I listened to, I say, if you can, spring for the version with the extras. Because, really, can you ever have too many Taylor Swift songs to listen to? Each of her songs tell us stories that captivate us, entertain us, and make us understand exactly what she was feeling when she was writing them. And that's a gift that deserves to be shared.