Taylor Swift has been on a creative frenzy. She has released three full albums since August 2019, an unprecedented amount for any artist, especially one of her caliber.
Her career has been marked by a lot, but one of the most cohesive themes in her music is that it always seems to change. She started her career with a brave country pop mix that quickly launched her into the limelight. She then made a dramatic change and fully walked through the pop music scene. As fans began to feel comfortable with the supposed “New Taylor,” she switched brands again.
Swift’s second pronounced gender shift started with her July 2020 album Folklore, which took a slow folk approach, but still had its pop elements. However, Swift cemented herself in the folk pop genre with the December 2020 album. Always. Always built on the foundations that Folklore created by diving deeper into stripped-down instruments and production. Always is more sure of what he wants to be, while Folklore was busy distinguishing between genres.
While Swift may venture into new styles, she does tackle all too familiar themes. The main concern of all songs from Always have to do with relationships, mostly romantic, just as his previous three albums have focused only on.
She diverged somewhat, however, with songs such as “happiness” and “dorothea” in the middle of the album. While relationships are still important in these areas, they focus more on the emotions behind the relationships and not just the relationships themselves.
A high level of emotional maturity can be seen in the lyrics to “happiness” where Swift realizes that even though there was happiness because of her romantic relationship, there will always be happiness afterward. While the themes of the relationship are a bit too cohesive for comfort, signs of a deeper emotional discourse and deeper understanding are also evident throughout.
The majority of tracks begin with a stripped down instrumental of a guitar, piano, or both, then slowly percussion, strings, and backing vocals join together throughout the song’s progression to add layers. While successful in most, if not all, tracks, the charm and appeal wears off by the end of the album.
There are more upbeat instrumentals that come a little deep into the second half of the record with songs like “closing” and “long story short”. However, these songs are still quite low-key compared to his past exploits.
Overall, Always is a solid album that has improved over its predecessor in almost every way. Always is an album that is coherent, sometimes wrongly, thematically and musically and is discreet listening. While enjoyable listening and a further complement to the pop / folk genre she created, more diversity would have been appreciated.
Disclaimer: Some songs on the album include explicit language.