Taylor Swift - Fearless (Mercury)
Nineteen-year-old Nashville native Taylor Swift has been a big deal in the US for the past three years. This, her second album, was released in November and outsold Britney in full comeback mode.
Those who have never heard her brand of pop-country before could, depending on their point of view, be put off by the high-gloss, airbrushed cover. Swift looks like yet another American Idol product, armed with a crack team of songwriters and a multi-million dollar, fail-proof investment behind her.
But appearances can be deceiving. Swift wrote most of the songs here, with co-writes on everything else. She also apparently has complete autonomy on how she is marketed and what songs make the final cut. Not many teenagers on the books of one of the four majors are in such independent control.
And that control has been put to exemplary use. You will struggle to find another album this year full of so many potential hit singles. Swift's ability to fashion the sort of song that could be a global smash is uncanny.
No exaggeration is intended, but perhaps 10 of the 16 tracks here could work on day-time radio.
That's an astonishingly high strike rate by anyone's standard.
Fearless is concerned with what life is like for a teenager today — as seen through an actual teenager's eyes, rather than those of a much older songwriter.
And for this very reason, the songs seem more authentic, more honest.
Fifteen is an especially affecting song about the trials and tribulations of being that age — in and out of love, questioning your appearance, struggling with confidence issues. It's also a really great modern pop song — the sort of tune that should push prejudices to one side.
You Belong With Me is another slice of effervescent pop with appeal way beyond the teen audience that will identify with it most.
“She wears short skirts/ I wear T-shirts/ She's cheer captain/ And I'm in the bleachers/ Dreaming about the day when you wake up/ And find what you're looking for has been here the whole time.”
Unrequited love and lust — it will always fuel the songwriter's imagination.
Taylor Swift may be saying nothing we haven't heard countless times before, but her tales are wrapped in the loveliest of melodies. On the evidence of this album — her second, remember — she looks set for a very bright future.
At the risk of sounding like Louis Walsh, this lady is going to be huge.
Burn it: Fifteen; You Belong With Me