Monday, November 15, 2010

Taylor Swift, "Back to December"

Don't be fooled by that sweet and cheery disposition or by that hair-flipping stage exuberance.  When Taylor Swift gets into that recording studio, she will show no mercy in admonishing each careless boy who has dared to break her heart.  We've seen her take down Joe Jonas, John Mayer, and many others.  But this time, Taylor's songwriting pen is aimed at an entirely different target - herself.

On her current single "Back to December" Taylor openly lays bare her mistakes and regrets surrounding her breakup with Twilight hunk Taylor Lautner.  She begins by describing an uncomfortable meeting with her former flame, in which they attempt to act like old friends, pushing the bitter memories out of their minds.  But Taylor observes that his "guard is up," and makes no attempt to sugarcoat the reason why, bluntly stating "You gave me roses, and I left them there to die."

Taylor then declares that she is swallowing her pride, and saying she is sorry for the hurt she has caused.  She goes on to describe the void that has been left by the relationship's end, realizing that "freedom ain't nothin' but missing you."  She is not saying "Baby, I'm sorry - I gotta have you back!"  She's saying, in effect "I know I've made mistakes, and I will accept the consequences, but I want to you know that I am sorry."  She doesn't seem to hold high hopes of being given a second chance, instead concluding that "If the chain is on your door, I understand."

"Back to December" is a far cry from the teen crushes and rivalries that much of Taylor's previous material consisted of.  With its effective portrayal of the hurt, anguish, and regret surrounding such a breakup, it ranks as one of Taylor's most mature single offerings.  Though she has taken some tough criticism for her vocal weaknesses, "Back to December" finds Taylor in a vocal range that seems to work well for her.  This is possibly the best she's sounded on record, with her delivery rising from a restrained whisper to a plaintive warble, backed by strings and mandolin.

Besides being Taylor's strongest single since "Fifteen," "Back to December" marks another step in the right direction for Taylor.  It's another sign of progress in her journey from teen pop starlet to adult entertainer.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)