Never Forget the Essence of Your Spark

So, um, as per a request of someone on my ask.fm, I’ll be doing a series of ‘reviews’ of Taylor Swift’s albums. (‘Review’ being a loose term for a bunch of thoughts and feelings about each album, totally biased because duh I’m an unabashed fan, and written way too late to be relevant. But yeah.) (As always, if you don’t give a damn about Miss Swift, you can totally skip this one. It’ll all be under the Continue Reading tag anyway.) I’ve already reviewed 1989 previously, also by request, and somehow even if that post was scattered as hell I’ve been asked to do more! Lolwhut. But yeah—I’ll be talking about the self-titled debut album in this post, and reviews for the rest of the albums will follow chronologically. But fair warning: This whole series is likely to span months. It’s easier to form coherent thoughts about the albums that aren’t my favorites, but just thinking of going into Fearless and Speak Now and trying to review them…*shoots self in the head* It’s gonna take time. Also, me being myself, I made rules about this whole reviewing thing, and one of them is to refrain from listening to the entire album for at least a month or so before reviewing it, just to get reacquainted with fresh feelz when I do listen to it again. So yup. This whole thing’ll take a while.

Alrighty—

I actually haven’t listened to the self-titled album in ages, even prior to doing this review, because of a number of reasons, the primary one being the fact that it’s probably my least favorite of Taylor’s releases. (Although I should probably clarify that it shares that rank with 1989. Another album I don’t listen to all that much anymore.) I guess the biggest weakness of this first album, for me, is Taylor’s voice on it—I mean, honestly speaking, Tay has never been the best vocalist, but she’s improved eons now compared to where she started, and that starting point was this album. Her weak voice is really evident in more songs than I’d like (and I don’t know if something’s just wrong with my ears, but) her voice sounds inconsistent, even—in a few songs she sounds normal, in others nasal, and in some others shrill. So I don’t know what to make of it. I just like to owe it to her being super young at the time, not to mention autotune must not have been as good then. Lol.

Speaking of youth—I actually feel a little bad nitpicking this album so critically now, because this was released nine years ago (holy mother of cheese) and just the thought of someone judging my writing nine years ago makes me want to die—I wonder how Taylor would feel? Can she still listen to the entirety of this album without cringing? Her voice was raw, her lyrics were still immature at some points, and this album was more introduction and potential rather than a declaration of who she was and what she could be—which, I mean, is understandable. But truth be told, she hasn’t got much to be ashamed about, anyway; young as she was, this album still is special, and perhaps even made more special because she was so young when she wrote it. There are notable songs in the album that I’m glad she still proudly sings live to this day, because daaaamn those songs are good. And they still bring a wealth of feelings with them. And this is where this first album succeeds where 1989 doesn’t, for me—the feelings. 1989 is super jam-worthy, but if you get tired of it, as I have, and you listen to it again, it doesn’t pull you back. It doesn’t take you back to that place. And yet the Taylor Swift album literally* does that from the first song. The first strums, even. Because oh lord, country! Guitar sounds! I so love and I so miss country Taylor—the whole first album lights up with this twang she had back then—and of course country Taylor is the Taylor I fell in love with. She even had the accent, which got lost along the way to 1989 (although I am aware of the claims that she was just faking her country accent since she was not really born and raised in Nashville, but in Pennsylvania. Makes sense, actually.) So yeah, generally, getting to listen to this album again made my heart happy. Because nostalgia.

Notes on lyrics, overall: SO MUCH CO-WRITING WITH LIZ ROSE AHHH. GOOD TIMES. Also, I was seriously bothered my how much the word shined got featured in the lyrics??? I still can’t figure out if the usage is correct, but it doesn’t sound as right to my ears as shone does. :3

Notes on the album artwork: Lol browsing through this album’s lyrics booklet brought back as much feels as listening to the album itself! What can I say? It’s fetus Taylor. With the unruly curls and the sundresses and the stacked bracelets and the bare feet. And there are the butterflies and hearts and love notes and the Taylor Swift logo in the girly Satisfaction font (that would live through three album eras! Who knew?). The whole thing is pretty cute, actually, haha. I like the earthy colors with the splash of aqua in there (to match her blue eyes on the cover), and the font choices weren’t hideous. It succeeded in giving off a country girl vibe, and the design job wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, considering this was 2006. I guess I just never liked Sandi Spika’s fashion choices for her (which reflects on the album photoshoot pictures) so this was never gonna be a favorite, but ya know, not bad at all.

Anyway, enough intro. On with the songs!

  1. Tim McGraw — D’awww. Nostalgia! Oddly enough I never really thought this was radio single-worthy because it hasn’t got a notable hook, but I still really, really like this song because it features my favorite kind of storytelling-through-lyrics that Taylor does best. And I can’t help but think that the sentiment of the song is really mature, surprisingly—looking back at young love that didn’t last, and hoping that it’s the good stuff the other party remembers, not the pain. Lovely.
    • Favorite Lyrics: Someday you’ll turn your radio on / I hope it takes you back to that place / When you think happiness, I hope you think that little black dress / Think of my head on your chest and my old faded blue jeans / When you think Tim McGraw… I hope you think of me (I know that’s like the entire chorus but IT’S SO POIGNANT OKAY)
    • Side note: The hidden message in the lyrics booklet for this song is Can’t Tell Me Nothing, which is the title of the Tim McGraw song she’s referring to, and I find that really cute??? Idk lol but it’s gotta be one my favorite hidden messages in this album.
  2. Picture To Burn — So, um, problematic song alert, but I’m not gonna lie–this is still super fun to listen to. Because it’s just so hilariously angry and bitter! LOL. It’s like a song that’s still super stuck on the anger stage of grief, so I’m a little uncomfortable thinking about how this song really got released and was even a single with its own music video. We shouldn’t be proud of the things we did when we were fueled/ruled by anger, should we? (Plus the copy I have is still the one with the infamously offensive “you’re gay” line…never forget. Started from the bottom now we’re here hahaha) I just try not to think about that; instead I imagine that if I was that mad at someone, holyshit would I love jamming to this song and screaming the lyrics while chucking glass plates at a wall. Lol.
    • Favorite Lyrics: So watch me strike a match / On all my wasted time / As far as I’m concerned you’re / Just another picture to burn
  3. Teardrops On My Guitar — Oh my God. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Both. THIS is the song, guys. This is the song that made me become a Taylor Swift fan! Lol (More @ the Unnecessary Backstory bullet below). SO ICONIC. Because really, is this not THE perennial example of Tay’s ability to peek into the diary of girls everywhere?! It’s the ultimate song about teenage unrequited infatuation. It’s got it all: The obsession with the boy. The insecurity and consequent comparison of one’s self with the girl he likes. The attempts to hide the feelings. The heartbreak because he doesn’t like you back. THE SADNESS. Oh boy. The teardrops on the guitar. Every teenage girl has had a Drew experience…and Taylor just absolutely hit the nail on the head with this one. She gets it. And it was written to be more poetic than pathetic, ya know? I appreciate that. FEELZ.
    • Unnecessary Backstory: It was early 2008, and people at school were asking us juniors for suggestions for the song we would be singing/dedicating to the seniors on prom night. My sister sent me this mix CD she burned and told me to listen to My Wish by Rascal Flatts because it was the perfect song for that purpose—but the CD didn’t have any labels on it so I had to listen to all the songs track by track just to find the one she was referring to. And of course, I distinctly remember getting to track 6 and just gasping because what is this ballad and why does this girl sound like she’s singing the story of my fourteen-year-old life, omg???? And. Well. You know. I immediately grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and listened to the song over and over just to write down the lyrics completely, and basically by the time I was done I already knew the song by heart. Lol. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t just Google it! I’m not sure if internet still wasn’t popular at the time or I was just plain stupid. Lol) But yeah, basically, I had fallen in love with her songwriting before I even knew who Taylor Swift was, and this was the song that started it all. Oh what I would give to hear her sing this live.
    • Favorite Lyrics: I fake a smile so he won’t see // He’s the song in the car I keep singing, don’t know why I do
    • Side note: This song’s hidden message, He will never know, is such a personal favorite of mine. Even after all these years. (Although if you think about it, by including this song in the album, Taylor made sure that Drew would know. The irony.)
  4. A Place In This World — I always, always wanted to like this song more than I do because it was so relevant to my growing up struggles, but the chorus is just pitchy as hell, so I was never able to take listening to it any more than I needed to. I still couldn’t.
    • Favorite Lyrics: I don’t know what I want, so don’t ask me / Cause I’m still trying to figure it out / Don’t know what’s down this road, I’m just walking / Trying to see through the rain coming down
  5. Cold As You — One of Taylor’s bravest songs, in my opinion, and it’s an absolute shame that it’s so underrated. I think that it’s still a struggle for women who are in bad relationships to be able to put their foot down and say, “Oh how I have loved you, but you have been such a jerk to me,” because generally women calling out men who have hurt them has always been viewed as whiny and pathetic. Taylor’s been receiving this kind of flak right from the beginning of her career; the courage it takes to publicly sing about her feelings hasn’t been acknowledged much, until recently, so it astonishes me to this day how she was able to write this as young as she was then. It’s basically a good ol’ FUCK U but done so classily and I’ve always felt like the lyrics came from such a deep place… Ahhh. Love.
    • Favorite Lyric: You never did give a damn thing, honey, but I cried, cried for you (Fuck yes one of my fave Tay lyrics OF ALL TIME)
  6. The Outside — This song remains muddy to me even now; I know she wrote it about that feeling of not fitting in, but looking closely at the lyrics, I think she’s referencing such a specific incident (at school, most likely?) while being purposely vague about it, so it’s more difficult to grasp her meaning if you haven’t lived through a very similar experience.
    • Unnecessary Backstory: I can’t relate to this song much since I’ve never really been worried about feeling left out at school back in my early teenage years—my “not fitting in” blues weren’t because people shut me out; it was because I didn’t think I fully belonged in any group. Like there were these boxes that people didn’t seem to have any trouble being in, that I shouldn’t have had trouble being in, theoretically, but I didn’t feel like I was my complete self in just this box or that box—it’s like parts of me belonged in this box and that box and that other box, too. Which is to say: No box at all.
    • Favorite Lyrics: I didn’t know what I would find / When I went looking for a reason
  7. Tied Together With A Smile — GOSH. So so so important!!! Another song I can’t believe she wrote at just 15ish. Like. HOW. The love/change metaphor woven into the entire second stanza, like, ugh???? But he leaves you out like a penny in the rain cause it’s not his price to pay? UGH. Suicide isn’t explicitly mentioned at all but you absolutely feel it between the lines and ugh, it’s like it’s handled with such gentleness and love but the killer impact is still there. Ughhhh.
    • Favorite Lyrics: And no one knows / You cry, but you don’t tell anyone // And you’re tied together with a smile / But you’re coming undone (THE BEAUTY??????)
  8. Stay Beautiful — I don’t really have feelings re: this song. I don’t know. Like, I love the idea that she’s got such a positive disposition about her crush (but part of me really wishes she wrote this for a friend, not a romantic interest), like, “You don’t have to love me back, I just really want you to know you’re beautiful” (cus true love is NOT SELFISH!!!) (wish she still remembers this about her current friendships) (ahem, Nicki Minaj and the whole “I’ve done nothing but love and support you” passive-aggressiveness) (but apparently they’ve very publicly made up as of today) (so I digress) but still, I don’t find any pull towards this song. I don’t think I’ve listened to it more than ten times. Ever.
    • Favorite Lyrics: If what you are is a daydream / I’ll never get to hold / At least you’ll know
  9. Should’ve Said No — TOTES MY JAM. It’s such an energetic song and I always associate the ripping-off-clothes-and-singing-in-the-rain performance with it, so. JAM. As opposed to Picture To Burn, which is petty-angry, this kind of angry seems powerful, and I think that’s because we’re given context in the lyrics as to where the anger is coming from, instead of just “I am so mad I’m gonna talk trash about your pickup truck and burn all your pictures and start planing my revenge.” Which: Hello, immaturity. But really, I think there’s power in simply going “You want me? HA you should’ve thought of that before behaving like a huge douche. Bye Felicia.” ;p Also I really, really like how the word should is used in every line in the chorus—as a writer I appreciate the symmetry.
    • Favorite Lyrics: I can’t resist…before you go, tell me this / Was it worth it… / Was she worth this? / No… no no no… (THAT IS A BRIDGE, ladies and gentlemen. Boom.)
  10. Mary’s Song (Oh My My My) — I don’t think I need to say much about this; the song speaks for itself, and does it beautifully. As I keep repeating, storytelling Tay is my favorite Tay, and this song, even in its simplicity (or maybe because of it), remains one of the best ones she’s put out. It actually tells of a better love story than Love Story! And I’m still not jaded enough to refuse to believe a kind of story like this doesn’t exist in real life. Sigh <3
    • Favorite Lyric: After all this time, you and I (not a lot of standout lyrics in this song actually but it’s the kind of song where the whole is more than the sum of its parts)
  11. Our Song — UGH. Jamming to this FOREVER. Actually just realized (owing to the fact that it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to this album in sequence) that without a doubt—this is my favorite song off the album. It just has this…spirit and vibe that I think best represents the whole self-titled era. And at its core, it’s a super fun song with great lyrics, chronicling a relationship from a unique viewpoint that’s very, very Taylor Swift. Also, THIS SONG IS SOOOOO COUNTRY. Yaaassssss.
    • Favorite Lyrics: He’s got a one-hand feel on the stirring wheel / The other on my heart
  12. I’m Only Me When I’m With You — Um. So this is another song I find problematic, and the title alone makes it pretty obvious… I mean, I get it, “When I’m with anybody else / It’s so hard to be myself / And only you can tell” but the whole “my identity depends on yours and not my own” situation doesn’t sit well with me at all. And Taylor has weak vocals in this too. However, despite myself, I actually like the beat/melody.
    • Favorite Lyric: None? Oops.
  13. Invisible — Not all that remarkable for me, though I can’t deny it’s still another super on-point bittersweet song about unrequited love. Not sure if I’m down with all the comparison with the other girl, but I gotta admit we all do that and in fact I definitely had an obsessive phase about this song years ago. LOL. I really love the metaphors, though.
    • Favorite Lyrics: We could be a beautiful miracle, unbelievable / Instead of just invisible
  14. A Perfectly Good Heart — I SORTA FORGOT THIS SONG EVEN EXISTED LMAO. I deleted it from my music library! So when I was browsing through the album booklet for this review, I was like—Wait, WHAT? This song was in the deluxe edition!??! HOW????? Lol. I never liked this at all, you see, so I succeeded in making myself forget about it.
    • Favorite Lyric Lyric I found most annoying: It’s not unbroken anymore (…referring to her heart. After she already repeatedly sings of a broken heart in the choruses. C’mon, that is just lazy writing. Facepalm.)

Look out for my review of Fearless next…someday. Haha.
*misuse of the word literally was totes intended

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