Directions Taylor Swift Could Go On Her Next Album
The music made the occasional nod to country, but, with super-producers Max Martin and Shellback on board, the biggest singles, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble," were cross-genre pop blockbusters. The former landed Taylor her first No. 1 single ever. Red sold 1.2 million copies in its first week, the highest one-week total of any album since 2002. By January, it was certified quadruple platinum.
So, now that she's conquered country, won over detractors and claimed pop as her domain, what's left for Taylor Swift to accomplish? Recently, in an interview with the Associated Press, she announced that she's starting work on her as-yet-untitled fifth album. While details remain scarce, we do know that Taylor will be aiming higher, and that she's not content to put out a retread of anything she's already done.
"I think the goal for the next album is to continue to change, and never change in the same way twice," she told the AP. "How do I write these figurative diary entries in ways that I've never written them before and to a sonic backdrop that I've never explored before? It's my fifth album, which is crazy to think about, but I think what I'm noticing about it so far is it's definitely taking a different turn than anything I've done before."
A new direction for Taylor Swift's new album, then, is guaranteed. The only question is what that might entail. Here are five directions she could go:
1) Go 100% Pop: Taylor Swift rules the music world when it comes to album sales. Her tours are the hottest tickets around. Her relationships may be the subject of ongoing gossip, and her lyrics may be perfect Facebook status and meme material alike. But Taylor has never galvanized the national conversation in the same way that Miley Cyrus has. She hasn't secured her place in the pop star canon like Beyoncé. And she has a long way to go before she matches Katy Perry's run of five No. 1 singles from the same album. Right now, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is Taylor's only song to top the Billboard Hot 100. Does anyone really think the relentlessly competitive Taylor Swift, the girl whose trophy case looks like Smaug the dragon's lair, is content with that?
Taylor's ready to go full Madonna, full Michael Jackson. She'll be bringing in the big guns to make sure this album sounds so massive that Katy Perry's brand of bubblegum will taste like stale chiclets from the 25-cent machine at a highway truck stop. She's going to make sure people from Jakarta to Johannesburg think of Nashville instead of New York City and Hollywood when they picture the U.S. She's going to be so big the Super Bowl will be the halftime show at her concert. Expect nothing less than five classic singles and a year 2014 in which the top song on the radio for all 52 weeks is Taylor. You want pop? You knew Taylor was trouble when she walked in.
2) Go Yeezus Experimental: Taylor told the AP that she doesn't yet know who her main collaborators for the upcoming album will be, but she did give a hint as to what she looks for in a producer or songwriting partner, explaining, "I love people who have endless strange and exciting ideas about where music can go." She also noted that Max Martin and Shellback, her most sought-after collaborators on Red, were the types to ask "What if we made it weirder? What if we took it darker?" If Taylor liked the weird directions people like Max Martin and Shellback — wildly brilliant producers, yes, but pretty much the image of conventionally effective pop — pushed her, she can definitely go weirder and darker.
Even within the same realm of mega-producers, there's room for a collaboration with electronic troublemakers like Diplo or Skrillex, either of whom could add some serious low-end and raucous energy to her sound. She could follow Miley Cyrus' lead and work with hip-hop's champion of slowed-down hits, Mike Will Made It, or she could enlist hip-hop's maestro of the Taylor Swiftian wounded relationship song, Drake's right-hand man Noah "40″ Shebib. But if she really wants to go weird and dark, she might as well go all the way, tapping the heavy, lurching sounds of people like Kanye West collaborators Hudson Mohawke, Evian Christ and Arca, or flirting with the beat nerd underground of artists like Kingdom and Flying Lotus. You think "I Knew You Were Trouble When You Walked In" seemed edgy with its almost-dubstep interlude? You haven't heard Taylor deconstruct drum n' bass, post-dubstep and electro house yet. Just wait. See three more possible directions here.
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