Taylor Swift, SPEAK NOW

Taylor Swift certainly knows her audience. The semi-country pop singer, now 20, is still singing about young love and young heartbreak on Speak Now, her third album. Fortunately she manages to make these familiar topics pleasant, even tossing in a few surprises here and there.

Most of Speak Now is about romance, either starting or ending. The romantic songs are largely sweet, where everything is glorious and sweeping. (The exceptions are the single "Mine" where financial troubles enter the mix, and the title track that has possibly the worst time to tell someone that you love them.) The breakup songs are surprisingly even, with Swift as much as the instigator as the victim of the failed relationships.

The album's liner notes say all the songs are about times Swift wished she had spoken up in her life, and fans can wonder how much of the songs are autobiographical. Is "Mean" about the Kanye West incident? Maybe -- or it could just be a response to all her haters. Is "Better Than Revenge" (which has enough percussion and electric guitar to be a Paramore tune) about her then-boyfriend Joe Jonas getting stolen from her by actress Camilla Belle? Probably. In any case, Speak Now continues to make Swift the girl next door who knows about longing and heartbreak (even while she's on the cover of magazines and dating celebrities).

Forutnately, Speak Now works very well as a pop album. Taylor Swift has a very nice voice, and she can handle quiet songs as easily as upbeat singles. The album has very consistent quality, and the Target exclusive (I no longer work there, so no more disclaimers. Woot!) has three new songs, two acoustic versions, one pop remix, plus the music video for "Mine." Taylor Swift's music still targets the young female audience, but Speak Now is good enough to warrant Swift's mainstream appeal.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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