Three years ago, a 13-year old Taylor Swift set out to be a star and moved from Reading, Pennsylvania, to Nashville. By 14, she had a publishing deal, and by 15, a recording contract. In these days of Bianca Ryan (and before her, Tanya Tucker and LeAnn Rimes), many are called, but few are chosen. Swift, it appears, is one of the chosen ones. Her vocal talent is modest, though sweetly affecting, her style seemingly influenced by the radio hits of early Sheryl Crow and Michelle Branch, and perhaps Cyndi Thomson. And at times, her youthfulness shows--she encoded messages in the lyrics of her CD booklet, starting with the name of the boy who cheated on her from "Should've Said No" (the album's strongest offering). But in writing or co-writing all 11 songs on this debut, Swift demonstrates remarkable maturity, particularly in crafting a hooky, radio-ready chorus. Though she sounds ridiculous looking back from the perspective of an 87-year old woman on "Mary's Song," to her credit she mostly writes about what she knows--unrequited high-school crushes ("Teardrops on My Guitar"), teenage angst ("Tied Together with a Smile"), and complete immersion in starry-eyed romance (her breakout hit "Tim McGraw"). Swift has such wistful charm and tunefulness that only a curmudgeon could dismiss her, and in fact, more than 60,000 fans lined up to grab this CD the first month of release. No wonder Rascal Flatts and George Strait added her to their tours. Look out, Carrie Underwood--there's a new kid in town.
(Find more artists' picks on our main Music You Should Hear page, http://www.amazon.com/mysh)
Taylor's List of Music You Should Hear
Nothing Left to Lose, Mat Kearney 'This is probably my favorite album right now, just because the lyrics are so universal and poignant. They're simple, but so true. I think lyrics are what define a song, and to me that's the most important thing. My favorite song on the album is called "All I Need" and it builds so beautifully. The cool thing about this album is the way Mat felt no rush to bringing the band into the song. In the most of the songs, there really isn't much bass or drums until the end of the song. I think that's a really cool thing.'
Jimmy Eat World (Bleed American), Jimmy Eat World 'I love this album! It came out a few years ago, and I remember just falling in love with the melody of "The Middle". And I never really understood the meaning of the song "Hear You Me" until it was played at the funeral of an 18-year-old girl I knew, who had died in an accident. I think great music has a way of having so many meanings. This song was definitely that way for me.'
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Miranda Lambert 'There's this song on this album called "Gunpowder and Lead" that I blast in the car every time I drive.. It's actually about killing an abusive boyfriend. It's one of those songs that makes you say "Did she just say that?". She's Miranda Lambert. Yes, she most certainly did. Ha. Love her.'
Fefe Dobson, Fefe Dobson 'I think this album is amazing. It's got sort of an 80's flare to it. To me, it's pop-rock at it's coolest. There's a song on here called "Revolution Song" that helped me get through so much.. It's got lyrics like "In my dream I break the chains that hold this place together/But in my dream the consequences would be so much better/Than they are". I just love the honesty of her lyrics.'
How to Save a Life, The Fray 'I think The Fray has such a cool sound, and I first downloaded "Over My Head" right when it came out, and it had a really slow build on the charts. So when I first told my friends about this group, they were all like "uhhhhhh well I've never heard of them". Then a year later they're the hippest thing out there. It's kind of pathetic, but I take ownership a little bit because I was the first one of all my friends to become obsessed with this album.'
Tough All Over, Gary Allan 'I'd recommend this album just because of the song "Promise Broken". I think this is the coolest Gary Allan song I've ever heard, and it wasn't even a single! It's got words that kill like "Well I get pushed aside/As you move on with your life/But I'll stand the test of time/In your heart and in your mind/You'll think about me now and then/Wonder how your life might have been/But I will leave you never knowing/I'm a promise broken." Love it.'
For the Ride Home (Bonus CD), Josh Kelley 'I'm going to be honest, I liked his music before I became obsessed with Katherine Heigl, but I really became obsessed with Josh too after I started loving Grey's Anatomy. He's got an awesome voice, and he's a great singer songwriter. "Amazing" is.. well.. Amazing.'
Love, Pain & The Whole Crazy Thing, Keith Urban 'This album is just awesome. Every song is great, and Keith is such a rock star. "I Told You So" is probably my favorite song he's ever released.'
The Spirit Room, Michelle Branch 'I think Michelle is such a great writer and this album captured such an amazing moment in time for her.. I loved the vulnerability of this album and how much she let everyone in. After you listened to this album, you felt like you knew her. Now that's an accomplishment.'