Taylor Swift’s Mind Behind 1989
Written and Media by Kayla Parker.
“Independence and Freedom” in 1989
Taylor Swift’s 1989 album was crafted in two years. In light of moving to New York City, “independence and freedom” was conveyed in her lyrics. In an interview with The View, she disclosed that all of the proceeds for “Welcome to New York” went to New York City public schools. The multiple themes that she intentionally placed in her songs have to do with polaroids, neon lights and pastel colors. While the songs are storytelling based, the production aspect drew inspiration from the late 80’s synth-pop era.
From Country to Pop
In an interview with CBS This Morning, Swift talked about how her style slowly changed from country to pop over the years. She stated that she wasn’t worried about hurting feelings in Nashville because “I Knew You Were Trouble” was a “warning flare” that she was leaving country behind. Her record label wanted one or two country songs on 1989, but she felt like she would be “exploiting an entire genre” since the goal was to make the album “sonically cohesive.” Swift explained, “If I were to put a fiddle on a version of ‘Shake It Off’ and service it to country radio, that would have completely shattered the entire idea that this album was going to have its own sound.” Swift wanted her album to be unique.
The Writing Process: “Blank Space”
In an interview with Ryan Adams, Swift opened up about her writing process and where the inspiration from a few of her songs on 1989 came from. According to Swift, she is constantly pre-writing even when she is not actively writing an album. She does this by typing her lyrical ideas on an “endless notepad” on her cell phone. For example, when she was writing the chorus of “Blank Space,” she searched for “overdramatic, luxe” lines on her notepad and found “darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.” When Swift wrote 1989, she didn’t have intense drama and was living for her friends in exciting New York. To access emotions that had to do with heartbreak, she watched John Hugh’s movies and imagined what the characters were thinking to give her perspective. Her writing process varies.
The Writing Process: “All You Had To Do Was Stay” and “Shake It Off”
In the interview with Ryan Adams, Swift revealed that she dreamt the high-pitched “stay” before she wrote “All You Had To Do Was Stay.” When her ex showed up at her door in her dream, she wanted to find the perfect thing to say, but instead, all that came out was a high-pitched chorus of “stay,” which was meant to be “sassy.” She also opened up about where her inspiration from “Shake It Off” came from. Swift said that she “wanted to help people get through the day.” In talking to her fans online, she found that they were going through similar challenges just on a different scale. In the beginning of her career, she was “personally offended and wounded” when the media reported lies about her, but she learned to laugh it off because it’s purely a “money thing.” For example, Swift wrote “Blank Space” as a joke about how the media portrays her as a “crazy, serial dater” who is needy and manipulative. “Shake it Off” is another song on the album that empowers her fans to not let outside opinions define who you are.
Before 1989 was released, Swift invited 89 of her fans over to her mother’s house for a “secret session.” This “secret session” was a mini house party where her fans got the privilege to listen to the album before it hit the market. Her fans got to meet and greet, take pictures with her, and spend quality time with her while there. In the interview with CBS, Swift said she has a lot in common with her fans, and that’s why she takes the time to get to know them. In an interview with Good Morning America, Swift mentioned that even though 89 of her fans heard the album a month in advance, none of them leaked it. To continue the strong bond with her fans, she included three voice memos from her cell phone on the Deluxe version of her album so they could see part of her writing process.
“Sonically Cohesive” Album
This “sonically cohesive” album was meant to take Taylor Swift’s music in a fresh direction with “freedom and independence” highlighting her new life in New York City. Her lyrics are still storytelling based but contain an 80’s synth-pop feel in the production aspect. Swift is constantly writing even when she is not making a record, and her process is a little different for every song. Her ideas could range anywhere from dreaming songs, word blurbs on her cell phone, to watching John Hugh’s movies. Throughout the process, she was intentional about including her fans. To show her appreciation, she organized a “secret session” so they could hear the album before it was released. Taylor Swift knows how to sell an album and connect with her fans.