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‘Red’ marks Swift’s passionate return

Country crooner turned pop princess Taylor Swift delivers again with her fourth studio album, Red, by far her most versatile album to date. Red takes on styles none of her previous records dared to and embraces risks only Swift can afford to take — and it pays off.

Previously known for writing all her own songs, for Red she decided to co-write with some of the best names in music, including Max Martin, the producer behind Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and Pink’s “So What.” Martin produced the three major bubblegum pop smashes on the album: the fun and carefree anthem of the summer, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” an auto-tuned youth celebration, “22,” and a popping dance song with a taste of dub step, “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The album also includes a soft-spoken duet with British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran titled “Everything Has Changed” and a harmonious but heart-wrenching collaboration with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, “The Last Time.”

Though Taylor had help with six of Red’s 16 tracks, each song seems to reflect her thoughts and preoccupations. The opening track, “State of Grace,” is a stadium-ready rock ballad capable of captivating any crowd with its big beat and meaningful lyrics.

The singer goes back to her acoustic roots with “All Too Well,” a beautiful tell-all about remembering lost love — with a certain Jake Gyllenhaal perhaps? — singing, “I know it’s long gone and that magic’s not here no more.”

Then there’s “Starlight,” a “Love Story”-style track that is devoted to Ethel Kennedy and tells of “the night we snuck into a yacht club / pretending to be a duchess and a prince”. Although catchy, the tune doesn’t quite live up to the lyrical quality of Swift’s older fairy-tale type songs. Another song along this line is the title track “Red,” which has a catchy chorus but disappointingly drab lyrics.

Because of the stark differences between this album and Swift’s other three, it’s very difficult to compare Red to anything she’s done before. The differences make this album great. Some may be upset that Swift has made the transition from country to pop, but the truth is that the music has grown with the artist. The general attitude of the album is more mature, with adult themes and less “fairy-tale ending” ideals. For the fans of classic Taylor Swift, tracks such as the acoustic “I Almost Do” and the happy, ukulele-filled “Stay Stay Stay” should please them.

Red is an instant multi-genre classic that works as both pop and country, with a little folk in the mix. Those who have not listened to Swift beyond her popular singles should take this opportunity to start. They’re in for a good surprise.