Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Big Machine, 2006


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


From the “no shit, Sherlock” files: I am not a “Swiftie.”

I don’t dislike Taylor Swift; I’ve heard enough of her music over the years to have an appreciation of her talent. But, let’s be honest: I, as a middle-aged man, am hardly the target audience for Swift or her music.

So, why am I here listening to her self-titled debut effort (and, as of late April 2024, one of the only two albums Swift recorded for Big Machine that she hasn’t re-recorded as part of a rights dispute)? Simple: no one else (as of today) has reviewed it, and I wanted to get an idea of just where the seeds were planted for the artist who is to today’s audience what Michael Jackson was in the ’80s.

Swift tried to market her music to the country world—and there are certainly aspects of country music interspersed within these 15 tracks. But, Swift really wasn’t a country artist at heart; there is more than a strong vein of popular music coursing through these tracks. If anything, Swift comes off as someone in the model of Carrie Underwood, in that the end result is not pure country music (whatever the hell my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 that would be seen as, nowadays), but had enough crossover sense to appeal to country and pop audiences.

While Swift gets quite a bit of assistance in the songwriting department, she did have a hand in all 11 songs on the original album (as well as any on the deluxe editions). And, when remembering she was still a teenager when these were recorded, there is a surprising amount of maturity in these songs. From the lamentation of lost love on the album opener “Tim McGraw” to the most-definitely country-tinged “Our Song,” Swift quickly shows she has the sensibilities of a well-seasoned songwriter—and that’s something even her harshest critics have to give her credit for.

If Taylor Swift has any real weakness, it’s that some of the songs that non-Swifties would call “lesser known” tend to blur together a bit too much. It’s not that tracks like “Cold As You,” “Should’ve Said No” and “Stay Beautiful” are bad; it’s just that they tend not to differentiate from the stronger tracks like the oughta-be-a-rock-song “Pictures Of You” or “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My).” The overall result is pleasant, but does suggest that Swift hadn’t established the level of confidence she would on later albums.

Interestingly enough, the 2008 deluxe edition shows surprising growth in Swift’s songwriting (as well as in her vocals), and one can definitely hear her music veering closer to the world of pop music than, for lack of a better term, popular country. (Yes, “A Perfectly Good Heart” still has a country orientation.) Why these tracks weren’t included on the original disc, I don’t know; all I do know is they make the product better. (Even a second, poppier version of “Teardrops On My Guitar” only adds to the intrinsic value of the original album—though I’d have dropped the echo on Swift’s vocals.)

Taylor Swift is a fairly solid first step into what has proven to be a solid career, and while it is a bit tentative in areas, clearly showed that Swift was going to be a force to be reckoned with in the musical world. Take it from a non-Swiftie: this one is indeed worth checking out.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2024 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Big Machine, and is used for informational purposes only.