Taylor has called 1989 her “first documented, official pop album,” but her sharp pop instincts have been fully fledged since the beginning of her country crossover career. Swift’s new album is named both for the year of her birth and to signify an era in music, and she has cited Annie Lennox and Madonna as inspirations for her new direction. And while 1989 is explicitly an ode to late-’80s pop, it is also referential of late-’80s rock. Taylor’s interest in the time period — related to her general obsession with cusps — is reflective of the idea of a time when the lines between genres became more blurred than ever.
Even though it is a “pop” album, what 1989 really recalls is the ’80s genre known as AOR: Adult Oriented Rock.1 The exact definition of what constitutes the AOR genre is disputed, but to me it means heavily produced rock songs from the ’80s and early ’90s in which synthesizers augmented or entirely replaced guitars.