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Reviews

Rolling Stone  By Jody Rosen
Taylor Swift has defied a lot of conventional wisdom. In the midst of a recording-industry implosion, she sold 3 million physical copies of her 2006 debut. At a time when Nashville is dominated by Stetson-wearing male singers in their 30s and 40s, the 18-year-old emerged as country's newest superstar with a repertoire full of girly songs aimed at teens. She is a blond, blue-eyed, amazonian starlet who — unlike nearly every other person who fits that description — writes her own songs, plays an instrument, answers to no Svengali and doesn't rely on high-priced studio ninjas and trendy producers. Britney she ain't.

With her second album, Swift aims to extend her dominion beyond the country-music-loving red states. Songs like "Fearless" and "The Way I Loved You" are packed with loud, lean guitars and rousing choruses. The only overtly country-ish things about Fearless are Swift's light drawl, the occasional reference to a "one-horse town" and a bit of fiddle and banjo tucked into the mix.

Swift is a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture that, in singles like the surging "Fifteen," calls to mind Swedish pop gods Dr. Luke and Max Martin. If she ever tires of stardom, she could retire to Sweden and make a fine living churning out hits for Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry.

For the foreseeable future, though, she's concentrating on her own quirky teen pop. She sings one vaguely political anthem, the string-swathed "Change," filled with pronouncements about "revolution" and a singsong chorus of "hallelujahs." And then there's "The Best Day," a goody-two-shoes ode to Mom and Dad: "Daddy's smart, and you're the prettiest lady in the whole wide world," Swift croons. But she mostly sticks to her favorite topic — boys, boys, boys — in songs filed neatly under "love-struck" or "pissed off." In the latter category is the infectious "Tell Me Why": "I'm sick and tired of your attitude/I'm feeling like I don't know you."

It's hard not to be won over by the guilelessness of Swift's high-school-romance narratives ("She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts/She's cheer captain, and I'm on the bleachers"), with their starry-eyed lyrics about princesses and ball gowns and kissing in the rain. For Fearless to feel any more like it was literally ripped from a suburban girl's diary, it would have to come with drawings of rainbows and unicorns in the liner notes. The lyric sheet to "Forever & Always" even reveals a hidden message in the form of an acrostic, clearly intended for a young man of Swift's acquaintance: "If you play these games, we're both going to lose."

And therein lies the peculiar charm of Taylor Swift. Her music mixes an almost impersonal professionalism — it's so rigorously crafted it sounds like it has been scientifically engineered in a hit factory — with confessions that are squirmingly intimate and true. In "Fifteen," Swift confides, "Abigail gave everything she had to a boy/Who changed his mind/And we both cried." Swift's real-life best friend is a girl called Abigail — the singer's not afraid to name names. It's safe to assume that the titular love object in the lilting "Hey Stephen" is, well, some dude named Stephen that Swift has a crush on. And she has a question for him: "All those other girls, well, they're beautiful, but would they write a song for you?"



Billboard
  By Ken Tucker
Those who thought Taylor Swift was a big deal after the release of her first record should be prepared:  She's about to get way bigger. Though they're written by a teenager,  Swift's songs have broad appeal, and therein lies the genius and  accessibility of her second effort. The insightful "Fifteen" ("In your  life you'll do greater things than dating a boy on the football team")  will connect with teens looking for hope and with adult women looking  back, while the sparse "White Horse" will appeal to anyone who's  experienced love lost, which is to say, everyone. "Hey Stephen" ("All  those other girls, they're beautiful but would they write a song for you")  displays Swift's confident sense of humor, and "Breathe" (written with Colbie Caillat, who sings on the track) is a love-gone-wrong song suitable  for women of all ages.



Entertainment Weekly  By Leah Greenblatt
A button-cute blond teen with a pocket full of hits — sounds like the early aughts all over again, no? But aside from sharing, possibly, a box of Clairol, there is nothing remotely Britney- or Christina-esque about Swift, the Pennsylvania-born country-pop wunderkind who conquered both Nashville and the mainstream with her 2006 debut. In fact, she does something rarely seen from stars in either market: write or co-write all her material. On Fearless, Swift is once again a storyteller; her songs are narratives set to music, albeit mostly ones that concern love. Some boys are dreamy (see: ''Fearless,'' ''Love Story''), some are dolts (''White Horse,'' ''Tell Me Why''), and others just very hard to catch (''Hey Stephen,'' ''You Belong With Me''). Her supple, lightly twangy vocals fit the album's lilting melodies (most of the slick, radio-friendly instrumentation here is purely functional), and her sentiments, though sometimes naive, are refreshingly age-appropriate. When she sings about sexuality, she sounds like a real teen, not some manufactured vixen-Lolita, as on the beautifully crafted ''Fifteen'' (''Abigail gave everything she had/To a boy who changed his mind''). For now, her primary fan base will probably remain the young girls she speaks to so well — but it will be exciting to watch her precocious talent grow.



Associated Press  By Tom Gardner
"When an unknown teenage artist and an upstart label both come from nowhere to sell well over 3 million albums, the question is: What do you do next? With Taylor Swift's sophomore album Fearless, the answer is: You get even better.

There's still the teen angst of love wanted and love rejected from her self-titled debut, which produced such hits as 'Tim McGraw,' 'Teardrops on My Guitar' and 'Our Song,' but the 18-year-old Swift isn't in high school any more and there's more thoughtful maturity in her writing. And some anger.

For the latter, there's the Joe Jonas breakup song 'Forever & Always,' cut for the album at the last minute and cryptically written in lower case except for the upper case letters that spell out a high school classroom note code: 'IF YOU PLAY THESE GAMES, WE'RE BOTH GOING TO LOSE.'

Swift wrote seven of the 13 tracks on the album and co-wrote the rest. Along with 'Forever & Always,' some are quite personal. On 'Fifteen' -- a song with musical overtones reminiscent of Janis Ian's 'At Seventeen' -- she writes of her best high school friend, 'Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind and we both cried.'

Her sweet unassuming voice takes on an edge with such songs as 'Forever & Always' and 'Tell Me Why,' as she sings: 'I took a chance, I took a shot and you might think I'm bulletproof, but I'm not. You took a swing, I took it hard and down here from the ground I see who you are.'

The album is rich in vocal variety and tempos. The accompaniment ranges from acoustic with a quiet B-3 in the background on 'Hey Stephen' to full strings on 'Breathe' (not the Faith Hill version) or the powerful album closer 'Change.'

But the glory of this CD is Swift's writing and how it complements her unique style of singing as she pauses unexpectedly mid-phrase just to emphasize the next word.

Her first album, Taylor Swift has spent most of the past two years in the Top 10 on Billboard's country chart and produced five gold or platinum singles. Fearless, which already has the huge hit 'Love Story,' appears headed for the same success.

As a singer-songwriter, Swift is at her poignant summit in 'The Best Day,' a charming recollection of nostalgic times with her mother -- 'I grew up in a pretty house and I had space to run, and I had the best days with you.'"



Blender  By Rob Sheffield
Boys, boys! Won’t you leave Taylor Swift alone? Can’t you see the poor girl already has too many teardrops on her guitar? Too late—all over her fantastic second album, the country phenom gets bedeviled by the boyfolk, making the thrills and spills of a two-week teen romance sound as torchy as one of Patsy Cline’s marriages. She is put together to fall apart, the kind of gal who applies her mascara with great care because she plans to cry it all off in the parking lot. In “Fearless,” she wails about getting caught in the rain “in my best dress”—like she’d wear anything else to go ride around in a storm. This girl likes to make a scene.

Since she’s only 18 and has been a hard-working full-time country megastar for the past two years, it’s a marvel she has so much romantic roadkill under her wheels. But Swift has the personality and poise to make these songs hit as hard as gems like “Tim McGraw” and “Our Song” from her smash debut, and, once again, she wrote or cowrote them all. The music drives hard enough to keep up with her tingling pheromones—when she slows down for the drippy piano ballad “You’re Not Sorry,” she reminds you what a smart job she normally does of keeping the tempo jumping.

As for her boys—oh, the carnage. She makes mincemeat out of these hapless critters. She wipes her boots with boys who treat her kind and, uch, “talk business with my father” but don’t get her hot (“That’s the Way I Loved You”), and with boys who get her hot but don’t treat her kind (“White Horse”). She even meets a boy who falls in love with a different girl (“She wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers”), but rest assured, that doesn’t happen often. “15” takes a big-sisterly tone to advise younger girls not to get hung up on marrying their freshman-year boyfriends, but that’s as much adult restraint as Swift allows. In “Hey Stephen,” she coos, “All those other girls, well they’re beautiful/But would they write a song for you?” Not as good as these songs, that’s for sure.
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