Why do I get the feeling that Taylor Swift is trying too hard to be quotable? Her latest promotional song ‘State of Grace’ sounds like a teenage girl’s Tumblr page, and no doubt it now is one thousand times over. It’s also sounds so much like something a band like U2 would produce, I suspect she’s listened to ‘Beautiful Day’ more than once.
So the genre is a pop version of stadium rock. As a song, with the heavy drums (heavier than she’s ever produced) and a ringing electric guitar riff that sounds a little familiar, and the catchy, soaring vocal melody line, mixed with your casual key change to keep people interested in this nearly 5-minute song, it’s not bad. It feels a little weird coming from Taylor Swift, however. Her voice doesn’t sound bad on the track (although she’s notorious for using some vocal enhancers in the studio). Having said that, it sounds like something she could sing pretty well live, as a lot of the vocals are sung slower than her other songs, and if you sing you know it’s easier to sing things slower. You can get a better production on each note as opposed to rushing it. It’s perfectly within in her range in most parts and it seems to be one of those shout-friendly songs so she’s safe there. Not being horrible about her, but we all know her vocals aren’t perfect, and perhaps that’s what attracts so many people to her, as she seems far more ordinary, I suppose.
It does drag on a bit, but it’s split up with different sections such as verse, pre-chorus etc which differ more than they would in an average pop song, and therefore it can sustain your interest. As it consists of a fairly unchanging musical base throughout, however, it can build an atmosphere that the length of it helps to sustain.
As for why this song? Well, I’m very interested in the choices they made as to what to release when. WANEGBT is a bouncy hit guaranteed to take over Call Me Maybe’s slot as cheesy-song-you-can’t-resist-of-the-year, Begin Again, well it was to gather the attention of the more country-orientated fans, who maybe weren’t so initially interested in the lead-up to her album, and thereby it makes them interested, and buy every promo song. Red, well it was a different sound, but closer to that pop/rock amalgamation that we’ve come to expect from Taylor in songs such as Story of Us, and tapped into her usual heartbreak lyrics that prove so popular, so it was a safe choice. I Knew You Were Trouble, to shock people but allow them time to get used to it before the album came out, or I don’t think as many people would have bought the album in the first week (seems to be the record that her label always try to break, for some reason). State of Grace, well it’s another sound entirely, but it’s been written as a live anthem clearly, is very catchy and positive-sounding, you could even say feel good. This gives a very positive view for purchasing the album on 22nd October. However, Taylor has stated that she wanted to leave some surprises for the album. At an extortionate SIXTEEN songs, and still 11 that we haven’t yet heard, I perfectly believe that there is much more to come from her.
The only issue I have been having is that the songs don’t really relate to each other musically, and it feels rather disjointed and disparate so far. Artists want to experiment in order to push their own musical boundaries, those of their fans, and to ensure that listeners to not get bored with the album and continue to listen all the way through again and again. But, it can mean that the album comes across as messy, with no real theme. A successful album needs to show variety and yet have a unity that is rather difficult to construct. When an album is long, it can lose its sense of unity because by the end you have forgotten what happened at the beginning. We shall see, though. This is a test of Taylor’s skill.
I have digressed slightly. ‘State of Grace’ is a good track that I haven’t minded having on repeat throughout the writing of this review, but I fear that she’s so desperate to explore multiple ideas and genres in her music with every new release that she’s losing sight of a unifying ‘Taylorness’ that every artist needs to display their identity. Perhaps it’s simply the lyrics. It’s love, it’s heartbreak, it’s really happy at a relationship or really distraught at a break-up, it’s increasingly quote-worthy and emotional and thoughtful and descriptive.
I have been hard on Taylor in the lead-up to this highly anticipated release, but in the wave of praise piled on her and her music, I feel like we’ve needed a sense of reality and critique to sift through the 14-year-olds declaring their undying love for her. A stereotype, maybe, but usually accurate. As they say, ‘the proof is in the pudding’, and I only have two days to wait until I can chow down.
Monday 22nd October.
Buy ‘State of Grace’ here.