Of course, Taylor Swift is singing about love and heartbreak on her upcoming fourth album, Red, but this time she’s tweaking her winning formula just a bit. Her new direction is evident on the first single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which is a departure from her country-pop sound with a somewhat hip-hop-inspired beat. And the risk is paying off: the track sold a record-breaking 623,000 digital downloads in its first week alone.
But it wasn’t a smooth ride to get there for Swift, 22. “I went through a few roller coasters,” she tellsRolling Stone of the romantic relationships she’s had over the past two years since she releasedSpeak Now. “Trying to chronicle each step of the way was challenging, because you go to some really dark places with the lyrics. Then in the next track, you’re talking about how amazing it is to meet somebody new.”
For Red, which will be released on October 22, Swift decided to work with other songwriters for the first time and joined forces with Max Martin, who has worked with Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, and Adele collaborator Dan Wilson in both Nashville and Los Angeles in between stops on her world tour. The result was nearly 40 songs, which she has since whittled down to just 16. “I felt like an apprentice,” Swift says of her talented writing partners. “They taught me so much about melodic sense, and they let me do what I love, which is the lyrics.”
Swift, who began a whirlwind romance with 18-year-old Conor Kennedy this summer, also credits the evolution of her own musical tastes … to hip-hop and R&B. After all, she collaborated with rapper B.o.B. on the hit “Both of Us,” which went to No. 18 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. “I have so many playlists full of Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown,” she says. “I love Wiz Khalifa.”
But though the sound of her songs may have changed, the core of every Taylor Swift song remains the same: “I know general things about love,” she tells Rolling Stone. “How to treat people well, what you deserve, and when to walk away. Other than that, love is a complete mystery — and that’s why I like to write about it.”