By Taylor Swift
14 Tracks, Genre: Pop/Country
Listen to Speak Now Here: https://open.spotify.com/album/5MfAxS5zz8MlfROjGQVXhy?si=7lg2-rVWT4GnohNZbXT4aQ
My Thoughts: So Speak Now is Taylor Swift’s third studio album, released in 2010, and I think it marks what can be described as the beginning of her proper transition from country to pop. Because while there absolutely are country songs on here (Mean stands out, in particular), this album is also saturated with extremely catchy pop-leaning tunes. But hey, genre doesn’t really matter all that much at the end of the day. The more pressing question is whether the album is good or not, and I personally think it is.
Right from the beginning, this album is absolutely loaded with hits. While I don’t think Mine is groundbreaking or anything, it definitely effectively sets the tone for the album, and introduces one of its strongest aspects: visual descriptions. The lyricism pops out in the best possible as Taylor sings about important snapshots throughout her relationship with this person, and each scene she depicts is both vivid and interesting. It also establishes a fantastic energy, which is only further amplified by the second track, Sparks Fly, which is one of my favorite songs Taylor Swift has ever written. It has such a great catchy feeling to it, and the bridge is absolutely spectacular as well. Easily one of the strongest tracks on the album for me.
While the energy definitely slows down some on Back to December, I think it’s handled extremely well. It’s a slow, melancholy song, reminiscing about times past and turning a hopeful, pleading eye towards the future. The chorus on this one is what sells it for me. Great stuff indeed. Next up is the title track, Speak Now, and I like this one a fair amount as well. While not as instantly grabbing as the previous three, it has a fantastic energy and sass to it that makes for an extremely entertaining listen. Seriously, some of those lines genuinely made me laugh out loud the first time I heard them, and that’s a feat right there.
It is then followed by Dear John, a sprawling six minute long song about the disastrous relationship Taylor had with John Mayer a few years before the album was released. It’s got a fantastic, quiet anger to it that really drew me in, and I found the imagery and….pain, I guess that the song evokes to be extremely moving. However, Dear John is completely overshadowed by the track that follows it, Mean. Apparently this song was written about an early critic who wrote some sort of harsh review, and holy shit not only does the message hit, but the song slaps to hell and back! That twangy banjo combined with the infinitely catchy hook make this not only the best song on the album, but one of the best songs she’s ever written. Also did I mention the attitude? The lyrics are positively scathing, and for a song about how mean that critic is, it sure does seem like she could have had a pretty solid career as a personality critic if the music gig didn’t work out. Closing out the fantastic opening streak is the Story of Us, a slightly harder, much more bitter tune about a relationship falling apart. It uses some storybook metaphors quite effectively (I quite liked the almost shouted “Next Chapter!” going into the second verse), and it’s an all around good time. Wow, that was a great opening set of songs.
Unfortunately, this is where Speak Now meets a problem that has plagued albums for as long as they’ve existed, which is being front loaded. Or in other words, all the fantastic songs are stuck back to back at the front, followed by a drop off during the second half and a whole lot of filler. And while not all of the songs on the second half of this album are bad by any means, they never recapture the feeling, energy, or catchiness that was consistently present throughout the first half.
The one exception is the closing track, Long Live, which gets back some of the catchy pizzazz some of the lesser opening tracks such as Mine had. I’ll also note that there are only two songs on here that I think is bad. The first is Never Grow Up, but that’s mostly just because I find it to be aggressively boring and uninteresting. The lyrics don’t resonate with me, and the instrumental is just a simple acoustic guitar. Nothing offensively bad, just not what I’d describe as good. The second is Better Than Revenge, and I think that’s mostly cause Taylor’s anger isn’t conveyed very well. It feels a bit too over-the-top, and several of the lyrics completely miss the marks. Not to mention, I don’t find the chorus to be very catchy either. An all around miss, on pretty much every level.
The last handful of tracks, Enchanted, Innocent, Haunted, and Last Kiss are varying level of mediocre. None of them are bad, but none of them are memorable either, and i don’t even really care enough to go back and listen to them again to properly figure out which ones I think are the better ones out of these four. They’re just whatever, and they play back to back to back to back near the end of the album.
In terms of cohesion of sound, this album is pretty good. None of the songs feel oddly out of place (except perhaps Never Grow Up), but it was varied enough to never feel like the songs were just being copy-pasted and then slightly changed. Even the forgettable ones were all distinct, even if I can’t remember what made them interesting.
So overall, I think Speak Now is a pretty solid album. The first half is frankly spectacular, and I come back to all of those tracks fairly frequently. The second half ranges from poor to decent, with a pretty good closer. I definitely think it would have been a better album if it’d been tightened up a fair bit, but at the same time, very few things on it are actively bad either. It’s a very good country-pop fusion album, and I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen. 7.5/10
Favorite Tracks: Mean, Sparks Fly, Back to December
Least Favorite Tracks: Better Than Revenge, Never Grow Up
Written on 11/29/2021