August 17, Taylor Swift (Deluxe Edition) by Taylor Swift
Total Number of Tracks: 15, including the 11 songs from the standard edition, three exclusive songs, and an additional “pop version” of “Teardrops on My Guitar”
Songs you might know:
– “Tim McGraw”
– “Picture to Burn”
– “Teardrops on My Guitar”
– “Should’ve Said No”
– “Our Song”
My prior relationship with the album: Taylor Swift first burst onto the scene in 2006-7ish when I considered myself too cool to listen to country music. However, kids in the neighborhood really liked her so I was exposed to “Picture to Burn,” and “Teardrops on My Guitar” more than I would’ve chosen to be on my own. I’m not sure I really disliked these songs, and I at least preferred them to the mainstream pop of that time, but I also didn’t really see what the hype was about. From where I stood, Taylor might be making catchy country songs, but she wasn’t really bringing anything to the table that other country acts weren’t. And as someone who wasn’t really a country fan, Taylor wasn’t my cup of tea.
Over the years, my tolerance for this album has increased. Maybe that’s because my tolerance for country music in general has increased. Maybe it’s because Taylor’s career trajectory made me miss her simpler, humbler music of days gone by. Now, I would probably say that it’s my favorite of Taylor’s country albums.
My impression this time around: I’ve listened to this several times this week and I must say it’s grown on me even more. As far as I’m concerned, this is the ONLY album Taylor has ever made where she was 100% unashamed of being a country artist. She was completely unafraid of banjos and fiddles. She was not attempting to pander to anyone outside the country market, and that’s to the album’s credit. There’s just a little bit more grit and rawness here than on a song like “Love Story” from Fearless, and that little bit of grit goes a long way.
Taylor Swift benefits from the fact that Taylor hadn’t quite figured out her formula yet. Of course she’s known for love/breakup songs, and certainly there’s some here. But some of the strongest tracks here are the ones that have nothing to do with boys, such as “A Place in This World” and “The Outside.” I also don’t ever remember liking “Tim McGraw,” “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My),” or the deluxe bonus track “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” as much as I did this time around, even if they ARE about relationships.
One thing that makes Taylor Swift special is that pretty much every song here is bringing a slightly different flavor to the album, which is something I don’t typically say about Taylor’s albums. Sure there’s breakup songs, but they range from the angry (“Picture to Burn” and “Should’ve Said No”), to the sad breakup song (“Cold as You”), to the nostalgic, reflective breakup song (“Tim McGraw”). The songs about crushing on boys range from sad (“Teardrops on My Guitar”) to affectionate and hopeful (“Stay Beautiful”). Meanwhile “Our Song” is the sort of creative take on a love song that showcases how good Swift can be when she’s at her best. I’m not sure there’s another album where Taylor does an equally good job of owning her strengths and sticking to them while still mixing things up just often enough to feel unpredictable.
Some of my least favorite songs on here happen to be some of its biggest hits. “Picture to Burn” and “Teardrops on My Guitar” are tolerable I suppose, but let’s just say you can tell they were written by an inexperienced teenager, and they don’t strike me as exceptional improvements songs other inexperienced teenagers with Nashville dreams threw together in their bedrooms. Maybe for some that’s part of the charm, but I can’t help but think that omitting these two tracks to make room for “I’m Only Me When I’m With You” and “Invisible” on the standard edition would make for a stronger album.
I also can’t stand the pop version of “Teardrops on My Guitar” and I think it’s quite odd that the song that got this ‘pop version’ treatment was ALREADY one of the least country sounding songs of the album, and certainly the least country sounding single. The result is me listening to one of my least favorite songs twice, the two versions not really being different enough to justify both being present on the album.*
Who would enjoy it? If you have even the slightest tolerance for country music, I think it’s worth giving the full album a chance, even if you didn’t vibe with the singles.
*As a general rule, I don’t really like when artists make their bonus tracks new versions of standard edition songs. Taylor and/or Scott Borchetta do not seem to share my views on this. This will be a recurring theme during Taylor Swift week.