Speak establishes Swift as talented songwriter

Taylor Swift’s third studio album Speak Now is a refreshing collection of songs that showcases her signature lyrical poise, youthful exuberance and confessional songwriting. It is the perfect follow up to 2009’s multiplatinum hit Fearless.

Speak Now is bursting with songs that touch on Swift’s standard themes of romance, heartbreak and regret, all delivered in her signature style of soft country rock infused with traces of twangy electric guitar, mandolin accents and fiddle. It is a formula that has worked wonderfully for her, why change it now?

Swift drew inspiration for all 14 songs from her own life, and she says so in the opening of her lyric booklet. “These songs are made up of words I didn’t say when the moment was right in front of me,” Swift writes.

The album touches on many of the public events in her life for the past two years, from the MTV Music Video Award controversy with Kanye West to scathing criticisms of her live singing voice to a string of failed relationships with other celebrities. It addresses all these issues tactfully and without naming any names, although she does provide some hints in the lyrical booklet by capitalizing certain letters of lyrics.

Her first single from this CD “Mine” is already a huge hit on the radio, and tells of her tendency to shy away from love. “Sparks Fly” is a great up-tempo song that will definitely be a big hit if she chooses to release it as a single. Speculators are convinced that “Back to December” is about her brief relationship with Taylor Lautner. In this moving song she reminisces on happier times with the Twilight actor and delivers a heartfelt apology for breaking his heart.

The title track “Speak Now” is a funny and cheerful song about breaking up someone’s wedding, fitting in nicely with the overall album. This is followed by the ballad “Dear John,” which is probably about her brief fling with John Mayer; it even contains his signature guitar twangs.

This song has her most biting remarks, with lyrics calling him out on his reputation with women. While lyrically strong, the song itself is a bit slow and gets a little boring.

“Mean” is another fun and witty song sharply aimed at all of the critics that have criticized her live singing voice and questioned her 2009 Grammy for best album of the year.

She unleashes on them in this song and the results are fantastic. “The Story of Us” is a great upbeat song similar to “Mine” and “Sparks Fly,” full of her poignant lyrics and youthful yearning.

“Never Grow Up” is another slow-tempo ballad that is regrettably a bit forgettable. Fortunately it is followed by one of the highlights of this CD, “Enchanted.” With this fun song Swift channels her inner princess and delivers a heartwarming result.

One of my personal favorites is the track “Better than Revenge,” a missile aimed at “the other woman.” Fans insist it is about actress Camilla Belle, who Joe Jonas reportedly dumped Swift for. Swift certainly had plenty of anger to let out, and she does so without apologies. The song itself is rock-powered and addictive; it will almost certainly become an anthem for scorned women everywhere.

“Innocent” is a beautiful slow ballad dedicated to Kanye West for his famous interruption of her VMAs acceptance speech in 2009. She has certainly forgiven him and is ready to move on. This song is followed by “Haunted,” a bruised rock song that is a bit haunting itself with its powerful hook.

To be honest I repeatedly skipped the next track “Last Kiss” while I was listening to her album over and over again because I tried listening to it the first time and it is way too slow for my taste. Of the three slow ballads on this album, it is the slowest and most boring.

The ending song “Long Live” is a great finish to the album, full of rousing lyrics and great up-tempo music. It is almost certainly a dedication to the team behind her, and with the lyrics, she thanks them for all their support.

This album was written entirely by Swift, unlike her first two albums, and proves that she has real talent as a songwriter. The puppy-love themes from her first album are still here, but they are mixed with more grown-up themes, reflecting Swift’s evolution from boy-crazy teenager to mature young lady. If you are a fan of Swift, go and get this CD, you will not be disappointed.

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