WHO IS SHE? You gotta be kidding. OK, I’ll play along. She’s the squad leader. The pop-chart Queen Midas. The woman who dances like nobody’s watching at every awards show (even though she knows everybody’s watching), and then acts all surprised when she wins a trophy for, like, the zillionth time. What else? Oh yeah; she’s the woman who was voted most likely to rule the world in high school — and pulled it off. She’s the ex who told everyone your most embarrassing secrets after you broke up. And she’s the woman you know who desperately wants to be universally loved — but always seems to be feuding with somebody.
WHAT IS THIS? Her seventh studio album and first release on her new label — which presumably makes it the only one she won’t have to re-record now that nemesis Scooter Braun owns her old masters. (See? Feuding.)
WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? In the musical sense, about what you’d expect — another hour-long juggernaut of unstoppable electro-pop singles expertly crafted by Swift, frequent foil Jack Antonoff and ringers like St. Vincent and Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie. In the lyrical sense, it’s a little more thoughtful and grown-up than much of her earlier work. But it still covers all her usual bases — romantic pop songs about her latest beau, snarky breakup numbers about old ones, topical anthems, confessional ballads, yadda yadda yadda. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
WHAT WOULD BE A BETTER TITLE FOR THIS ALBUM? More Than Enough Love to Go Around — And Still Beat This Year’s Grammy Nominations Deadline.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN TO IT? With grudging (if not glowing) admiration. Whatever you might think of Swift’s music, personal life or politics, you can’t deny her impressive ability to convert her thoughts and feelings into stiletto-sharp hooks, earworm melodies and lyrics that resonate with millions of listeners. It’s no accident she’s worth a reported $360 million — or that she presold a cool million copies of this set at a time when the album is basically an endangered species.
WHAT 10 WORDS DESCRIBE IT? Stylish, sophisticated, poised, personable, candid, confident, romantic, confessional, clever, self-centred.
WHAT ARE THE BEST SONGS? If you like her tart-tongued barbs, start with I Forgot That You Existed and You Need to Calm Down. If it’s romance you want, go for Lover, London Boy and Paper Rings. For outsized anthems, try The Man and Me. And for a true heartbreaker, there’s the Dixie Chicks collaboration Soon You’ll Get Better, about her mother’s cancer battle.
WHAT WILL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY SAY? ‘Is there any part of her life she can’t turn into a hit song?’
HOW OFTEN WILL I LISTEN TO THIS? It doesn’t matter — you’re virtually guaranteed to hear at least one of these tunes every time you turn on the radio, watch TV, go to the movies, surf the Internet or visit a store for the next six months.
IF THIS ALBUM WERE A STORE, WHAT STORE WOULD IT BE? Forever 21.
SHOULD I BUY, STREAM OR STEAL IT? She has $360 million. Do whatever you think is right.