Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Taylor Swift: Fearless [Big Machine, 2008]
"You have to believe in love stories and prince charmings and happily ever after," declares the 18-year-old Nashville careerist. You can tell me that's worse than icky if you like; I believe in two of the three (prince charmings, no), and I think it's kind of icky myself. But I'm moved nevertheless by what can pass for a concept album about the romantic life of an uncommonly-to-impossibly strong and gifted teenage girl, starting on the first day of high school and gradually shedding naiveté without approaching misery or neurosis. Partly it's the tunes. Partly it's the musical restraint of a strain of Nashville bigpop that avoids muscle-flexing rockism. Partly it's the diaristic realism she imparts to her idealized tales. And partly it's how much she loves her mom. Swift sets the bar too high. But as role models go, she's pretty sweet. A-