Lets start with the positive, seeing as I usually go the other way around. The first track on this album kills. You could not get someone who hates Tim McGraw more to actually like a song about said man, but here it is. What could be a very corny song, as Swift has a tendency to do, instead becomes something very meaningful in all of the high school drama that it is. Two young lovebirds love Tim McGraw and will always think of each other when they hear him. Sounds so juvenile and yet so grown-up at the same time, and it's done well. Hats off to Taylor as well for having the guts to open with slow simmer of a number instead of, say, the rousing hoot-n'-holler that is next song "Picture to Burn" In all fairness, Picture is just as good as Tim. It shows more of Swift's humor and willingness to poke fun at the pop-country genre she is stuck in.
Breakthrough single "Teardrops on my Guitar" is good yet may suffer from too-many-choruses. The song is overdone in so many ways and in many ways parallels "Tim McGraw" without matching the meaning of the opener, instead going for the more melodramatic and juvenile version of that song. Closer "Our Song" does what Swift does well time and time again, which is to take the corniness of her genre and high school problems and use that to her advantage. When she belts out "'Cause it's late and your mama don't know..." she not only sounds like she's having more fun than half the singers out there but she means it as well. Like she'd be fun to hang out with.
Oh but how I wish I could say the same thing about the rest of the album. There's just too much here that goes nowhere. Most of the songs on the album state what they're about in the title alone. This method works in reverse too. When I listened and didn't know the name of the song I was listening to, I waited until the chorus rolled around and just figured whatever line was at the very end or sang the most was probably the title I don't think I was wrong once. The songs that make up the bulk of the album are well-constructed and do their job, but none are nearly as memorable as the songs I've already mentioned. This is where Swift's youthfulness and inexperience show that more is needed to really hold up so many songs. She hits all the marks one should (Ballad: check. Fast song: check. Sad song: check) but does nothing to imbue any new creativity to said songs.
I admit that I'm happy she doesn't lean into Carrie Underwood style of country pop, relying on the genre so much that you're no longer talented in any way in it, but help is needed. "Tied Together With A Smile" has some of the worst analogies I've heard in some time ("but he leaves you out like a penny in the rain"? Please), "A Place in this World" is entirely forgettable, and I don't even remember the final tracks of this album. "Stay Beautiful" at least changes up the tempo mid-way through that the variation makes for variety, despite that it comes off as clunky. Swift has got the skills to pay the billz all right, but right now we're looking at some great work coming out of a mediocre album. Swift also suffers from the common theme of young female singers, that of singing with such an over strained voice that it makes the listener argue if you're trying to whisper or you're losing your voice. Just sing! And try not to be boring.
Standout Track: "Tim McGraw"
Overall Rating: 5.8
2."Picture to Burn": Date Nice Boys
3."Teardrops On My Guitar": He Will Never Know
4."A Place In This World": I Found It
5."Cold As You":Time to Let Go
6."The Outside": You Are Not Alone
7."Tied Together With a Smile": You Are Loved
8."Stay Beautiftul": Shake 'N Bake
9."Should've Said No": Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam
10."Mary's Song (Oh My My My)": Sometimes, Love is Forever
11."Our Song": Live in Love