West is all about pushing every artistic envelope as far as he can. Swift is about pulling all her disparate influences -- music and famous ex-boyfriends included -- into her very specific point-of-view.
Her fourth album, "Red" (Big Machine), plays like a meticulous musical scrapbook of her eclectic adventures. She comes across as some sort of Lady Bono on the U2-inspired anthem "State of Grace" There's a dubstep-inspired drop in the bouncy "I Knew You Were Trouble." And by now we're all familiar with the Max Martin-produced pop chant-along "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," so willful that you can practically hear Swift rolling her eyes as she talks about the breakup.
Though she's traveled so far from her country roots, even teaming up with Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody on "The Last Time" and British up-and-comer Ed Sheeran on "Everything Has Changed," when Swift returns to familiar ground it's actually a thrill. The banjo makes the charming "Stay Stay Stay" even sweeter. The alt-country ache of "All Too Well," which seems to conjure up details from her breakup with Jake Gyllenhaal filtered through Patty Griffin wisdom, is the album's high point -- both in drama and execution, with Swift's vocals at their emotional and her lyrics at their sharpest.
Her mastery of a broader range of musical tools and styles on "Red" only solidify her position as music's unassuming girl-queen.
BOTTOM LINE We will never, ever, ever doubt T. Swift again. Like, ever.