Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Taylor Swift took the county world by storm with her huge selling debut and its five hit singles. With a huge marketing push and myspace, Swift was on her way. Kind of like an Avril Lavigne for the teen female country set.
Sophomore slump? There's no indication of that. Swift once again writes her material - all 13 songs here with help sometimes from Liz Rose, Colbie Caillat and John Rich. Swift writes of what she knows about - relationships and teen love come and gone in songs speak to her fans. Doing so makes perfect sense given that Swift is 19 in December. Her hit, Love Story, is a Romeo and Juliet kind of tale. Fifteen is about her best friend Abigail, while The Best Day is a nod to her mother. One can easily hear her teen fandom singing along with very word.
Swift maintains a hands on approach from co-producing with Nathan Chapman to being involved in the booklet design. Like her debut, the sound is guitar-based pop with occasional country nods (mandolin on the title track, a bit of banjo, pedal steel). The songs tend to pick up the intensity as they develop, although Swift turns fast-paced from the get go with Breathe with help from Caillat. She gets Lavigne snarly on Forever & Always.
The biggest problem remains that Swift's vocals are thin at times (the title track and Hey Stephen) and a bit pitchy. The lack of vocal ability is most apparent when Swift sings softly.
Swift has not taken any great leap forward in direction with her soph effort, which veers away from her more countryish debut. The material stands up well in a slew of catchy songs as she continues telling teens what life is like through pop (very nominally country) songs.