I want to highlight some great writing from my Country Universe colleagues Jonathan Keefe and Zack Kephart that has been recently published.
Taylor Swift recently released her third Taylor’s Version, this time for her self-written album Speak Now. Jonathan Keefe has reviewed several new and re-recorded Swift albums for Slant, and his take on Speak Now is essential reading:
My original review of Taylor Swift’s Speak Now ended with this: “[It’s] an album that finds Swift getting a lot of difficult stuff right, and it makes it clear what she still needs to develop in order to refine her craft even further. That every song on the album sounds like a viable radio single should buy Swift another couple of years to develop an even more mature, less me-first-all-the-time perspective and, hopefully, to work with a vocal coach.”
Ultimately, it’s the broadening of Swift’s POV as a songwriter and the refinements in her vocal technique that have made each of her subsequent albums so essential, and the same is true of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). The previously unreleased “from the vault” tracks expand the album’s narrative scope, and her more mature voice elevates most of its original songs.
Over at The Musical Divide, Zack Kephart’s flagship site, he’s been working backward through the nineties and identifying the best singles from each individual year of the decade. Each individual entry is worth reading, and now he’s outdone himself with the finale of the series, which ranks his fifty favorite hit singles of the decade (with a few honorable mentions, too.)
I can’t promise to say that every prominent name or classic song will be featured here, or that it will please you, dear reader. I’m also not calling this a “best of” list for the decade that encapsulates every layer. I can, however, promise you that this is an honest examination of what connected with me most this decade. Besides, it’s hard to come up with an outright bad list for this decade, right?
In case you aren’t already doing so, make sure to check out The Musical Divide on the regular, as it strikes a perfect balance between reviewing new music and delivering research-based historical content. And if you dig in to Keefe’s work at Slant, you’ll discover some of the best music writing of the past two decades. They’re both so damn good!