Swift stretches musical limits on Red
Taylor Swift will always be connected to her interrupter Kanye West if only because their approaches to multi-platinum superstar success are so completely different.
West is all about pushing every artistic envelope as far as he can. Swift is about pulling all her disparate influences — music and famous ex-boyfriends included — into her very specific point of view.
Her fourth album, Red, plays like a meticulous musical scrapbook of her eclectic adventures. She comes across as some sort of Lady Bono on the U2-inspired anthem “State of Grace.” There’s a dubstep-inspired drop in the bouncy “I Knew You Were Trouble.” And by now we’re all familiar with the Max Martin-produced pop chant-along “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” so willful that you can practically hear Swift rolling her eyes as she talks about the breakup.
Though she’s traveled so far from her country roots, even teaming up with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody on “The Last Time” and British up-and-comer Ed Sheeran on “Everything Has Changed,” when Swift returns to familiar ground it’s actually a thrill. The banjo makes the charming “Stay Stay Stay” even sweeter. The alt-country ache of “All Too Well,” which seems to conjure up details from her breakup with Jake Gyllenhaal filtered through Patty Griffin wisdom, is the album’s high point — both in drama and execution, with Swift’s vocals at their most emotional and her lyrics at their sharpest.
Her mastery of a broader range of musical tools and styles on Red only solidifies her position as music’s unassuming girl-queen.
The Beach Boys
50th ANNIVERSARY: GREATEST HITS/GREATEST HITS: FIFTY BIG ONES
The Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary reunion tour was one of this year’s big music events. The tour, like summer, wasn’t endless, but Capitol Records, the band’s longtime label, has released two new Beach Boys collections and re-released 12 of the group’s studio albums.
The single-disc 50th Anniversary: Greatest Hits contains the group’s original run of hit singles and the title song from the band’s 2012 reunion album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
Greatest Hits: Fifty Big Ones, offering 25 songs on two discs, digs deeper into the group’s catalog. Disc one concentrates on the early Beach Boys, songs about surfing, girls, cars, Honda scooters, the general fun-in-the-California-sun theme that filled that period in the band’s history. Even here Brian Wilson’s musical ambition shows, especially in 1964’s elaborately arranged, harmony-filled, “Don’t Worry Baby.”
Disc two of Fifty Big Ones moves into post 1965, including Wilson’s experimental “Heroes and Villains,” a favorite from 1973, “Sail On, Sailor,” and a rare, moving lead vocal performance by the late Dennis Wilson for 1970’s “Forever.” Four songs from the album considered to be Wilson and the Beach Boys’ creative peak, 1966’s Pet Sounds, plus the band’s post-Pet Sounds landmark hit single, “Good Vibrations,” make a knockout final five tracks for the 50-song set.