In any review, the phrase “more mature this time around” — or something like it — is probably going to be mentioned somewhere. This is a review. Let’s only discuss Taylor Swift’s maturity.
On the immediate surface, Speak Now is pretty predictably similar to her last album, Fearless. There are plenty of orchestral strings, glittering choruses and cheesy love songs. In this sense, she hasn’t grown much. She is now, however, much more self-aware on record than she has been before.
Swift acknowledges her own remarkable naïveté in “Dear John” and her weak singing voice in “Mean.” She’s also much more personal with Speak Now than one would expect from a world famous pop star. As she boldly states in a Target commercial, “I'm naming names.”
Lately, Swift has been in her share of celebrity relationships, including ones with Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner and, more controversially, the 32-year-old blues rock master John Mayer. All three make appearances on Speak Now.
Sadly, “Dear John”, unmistakably about Mayer, is the most listless song on the album. It’s her shot at Jonas — or rather his ex, Camilla Belle — in “Better Than Revenge” that packs a real punch. “She's not a saint, and she's not what you think. / She's an actress. / She's better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” Someone’s bitter.
As expected, there’s the longing for innocence in “Never Grow Up,” one of the most touching and best-written numbers in Swift’s body of work, as well as the epic love fantasies in the single and title track, “Speak Now.” Both are equally endearing.
Overall, Swift may not be breaking into new territory with Speak Now, but she’s writing better than ever. This is not just an album of hollow pop songs. It’s Taylor Swift writing all of her own songs in full for the first time, and succeeding at it.