Sound — 8
As Taylor Swift releases more and more albums, she drifts away from the country-tinged sound of her first album, and into a more pop-oriented direction. This actually works very well on this album. While some songs such as "Stay Stay Stay" keep the vibe she had earlier, some songs caught me by surprise. The bass drop in "I Knew You Were Trouble" and the very poppy chorus of "22" is quite different to what she has done in the past. I think it was done quite well, and I enjoyed these songs, but people who prefer her earlier work might not like these songs.
Apart from the obvious pop influence on some songs, much of the album is standard Taylor Swift. The guitar playing is simple, and in a lot of cases, not very original, probably a turn-off for many people on this site, but that isn't the focus of the album. Some songs do get a little boring with the simple chord strumming formula that Taylor Swift often follows, but in others, she manages to create a lot of atmosphere. The acoustic version of "State Of Grace" (from the deluxe version) is probably the best example of this. Overall, the songwriting is better than previous albums. It's a bit catchier, better sounding, and definitely improving.
Lyrics — 8
Taylor Swifts lyric writing ability has really improved. This album still features far less very cheesy and immature lyrics that sometimes marred her previous albums. There are far less "Love Storye"-sque songs, and in it's place, a lot more sincerity and maturity. There were still a few cringe-worthy moments (Most of "22"), but overall this album featured better lyrics than her previous albums. As usual, almost all the songs on the album revolve around love and relationships.
Some of my favourite lyrics on this album are from the song "The Last Time" (featuring Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, who gives a great vocal performance on this song):
"This is the last time I'm asking you this
Put my name at the top of your list,
This is the last time I'm asking you why,
You break my heart in the blink of an eye, eye, eye..."
If you liked the lyrics on her previous albums but thought they were a tiny bit too cheesy, you will most likely love the lyrics on this album. If you absolutely hated her lyrics from previous albums, still give this a try and see if it changes your mind. She isn't a master lyricist, and parts of the album aren't very memorable, but it's more than made up for by some excellent lyrics at other parts.
The singing on this album is basically the same as all her previous work. If you didn't like her vocals before plain, this record certainly won't change your mind. If you're not a fan, her voice is a bit plain, but she does give a very even performance, and I really like the sound of her voice.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, I was quite pleased with this album. It does begin to drag a little bit at the end, but at 65 minutes long, I don't blame her. There were enough highlights and quite impressive moments to keep me interested. "State Of Grace" and "The Last Time" are definitely my two favourites from the album. I enjoyed the more pop influences, the atmosphere she managed to create at times, and quite touching lyrics. The downside of the album is definitely the lack of any really interesting guitar playing. It's all quite adequate, but nothing amazing. If this bothers you a lot, you should probably avoid this album, but otherwise, I'd definitely give this an album a chance. If it was lost or stolen, I'd get it again in a heartbeat.