There’s precocious and then there’s Taylor Swift. At just 19, Swift finished 2008 as the biggest selling artist in America with both her self-titled debut and this follow-up finishing inside the top ten selling albums of the year. The latter has since spent 11 non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200, offering solace to an American music industry in dire need of a new pop superstar.
With her golden locks, sweet voice and country-tinged songs, Swift is the antithesis to the current crop of electro-pop goddesses parading around in their lycra pants, leaving little to the imagination. There’s also the sense of a real talent emerging, with Swift co-writing and co-producing all of the fourteen songs on the album. For someone so young she generally manages to avoid cliché, creating well-structured, memorable melodies and lyrics that appeal to a broad demographic.
White Horse is a stately, poised rumination on the flaws of fantasy, backed by cello and acoustic guitar. First single Love Story (currently at number two in the UK) deals with a similar theme, with Swift playing the part of a princess who longs to run off with her prince. It’s guff, but it’s sweet enough to win you over on repeated listens, Swift’s conviction and the polished production creating the kind of guilty pleasure a certain Shania Twain made her calling card.
Musically, the album sticks to the radio-friendly country-pop that has seen the likes of Faith Hill, Dixie Chicks and of course Shania Twain stack up multi-platinum albums. Guitars are there to be lightly strummed or fingerpicked, the odd string arrangement dancing in the background, but nothing is allowed to intrude on the voice or the lyrical content. On Tell Me Why the pace is increased slightly with the introduction of a sprightly banjo figure and some drumbeats, but on the whole there’s nothing here to scare the horses.
Until recently Swift was in a relationship with Joe Jonas, one third of the God-bothering, Disney-endorsed music trio, The Jonas Brothers. Their relationship made them tabloid fodder in America and ended abruptly when Jonas started dating a relatively geriatric actress aged 22. Having seen what happened to a certain Britney Spears following the break-up of her relationship to fellow teen superstar Justin Timberlake, you’d be forgiven for fearing the worst.
Fearless, however, is the sound of sheer determination in musical form, a precision-tooled collection of catchy, wide-eyed pop songs made by a young lady who wants nothing more then to be the next big superstar. Nothing’s going to stop her now, let alone stupid boys.