Taylor Swift's New Album Hints at Exes

PEOPLE's music critic says Swift's new release has more pluses than minuses


For the record, Taylor Swift did not name her fourth album, Red, after the bold color of lipstick she’s been rocking.

In the new press bio she wrote herself – just because she’s Taylor like that – she explains: “I called it that because of the tumultuous, crazy adventures in love and loss that it chronicles. . . . In retrospect, it all looks red.”

Red comes out painting love in all sorts of hazy, even dark shades that are a long way from “Today Was a Fairytale.”

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“Loving him is like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street,” Swift sings on the title tune, one of many cuts that may have you playing Guess the Ex. Meanwhile on the melancholy “Treacherous” and the deceptively bouncy “I Knew You Were Trouble,” she confesses her own weakness for bad-news boys.

The latter is one of three collaborations with pop-rock hitmakers Max Martin and Shellback, and that shift in sound extends elsewhere. (Swift, after penning all of Speak Now solo, also shares some writing credits this time.)

But Red – an overlong (16 tracks, 65 minutes) and sometimes overreaching set that still hits more than it misses – is not all disillusioned: Moments like the open-hearted closer, “Begin Again” (probably the most country song here), keep hope alive for that happily ever after.

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