Artist: Taylor Swift
Title: Red
Label: Big Machine Records

While music industry execs would probably label 2012 as pretty lackluster from a sales perspective, save for new albums from Mumford & Sons, Justin Bieber and One Direction, Taylor Swift is, once again, this year's homecoming queen.

To wit, her fourth album, Red, has only been out for a week now, and she's already sold more than a million copies—a remarkable feat, especially when the masses tend to have a short attention span.

Still, as popular as Swift is, one can't help wondering, if she was actually, I don't know, single for a while, would there be anything left for her to write about?

Yes, in case you didn't get the memo with the album's catchy, chart-topping first single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," she's still getting plenty of mileage—and that's putting it mildly— out of her failed romances.

Chock full of those straight-from-her-diary musings on the guys who've done her wrong, Swift wrote in the album's liner notes that "My experiences in love have taught me difficult lessons, especially my experiences with crazy love. The red relationships. The ones that went from zero to a hundred miles per hour and then hit a wall and exploded."

In fact, listening to Red often feels a lot like reading Twilight. Like Bella Swan, Swift is clearly addicted to love, which is evidenced by the fact that roughly 95% of what she's singing about involves the inevitable ups and downs of falling for a bad boy. We never get a sense of who she is, just how she deals with the heartbreak.

No doubt, the joys and heartaches of romantic relationships are often the stuff of pop songs, but the conversation still gets a little tired on Red because from a songwriting perspective, you've heard this all before from Swift. All that's different is the cast of characters involved, which is no secret to anyone who's seen a supermarket tabloid.

Truth be told, one would hope that someone who's clearly such a role model for young women would have a little more to say about life, especially since she's now 22, the age of most college graduates.

Sadly, Red is strictly one note. Whether it's her dreaming about a love that'll go the distance in "Stay Stay Stay" the first blush of attraction in "Everything Has Changed" or finding the strength to move forward after a split in "Begin Again," it's clear that love is apparently all that Swift needs.

Really, the only thing that differentiates Red from, say, 2010's Speak Now is a more adventurous accompanying soundtrack. While it's always been a bit of a misnomer to call Swift "country" when it's actually more like pop with the slightest twang, Red is even less countrified than her previous efforts and plays like Shania Twain's Up!, which successfully bridged the gap between pop and country.

Teaming up with a slew of new producers and guest artists including Snow Patrol's frontman Gary Lightbody and English singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran for Red, the songs have strong pop sensibilities that incorporate synthesizers, louder guitar riffs and only the slightest wink to modern country. In short, they're the kind of songs that'll get stuck in your head for days, whether you want them to or not.

On a couple of tracks, particularly the title track and "I Knew You Were Trouble," you almost forget you're listening to Swift. For whatever reason, she's even more Pro Tooled than usual and has lost a little of her vocal identity in the process. Strangely enough, she comes off sounding like Katy Perry on the aforementioned "Trouble," which isn't exactly a compliment.

But whatever Swift is doing, it's clearly working because her fans are onboard, nonetheless. As someone out of the key demographic, though, you still can't help hoping she'll expand her songwriting repertoire in the future.

After all, girls should know their identity doesn't have to be wrapped up in the affections of a boy—but I guess that's a lesson for another album. Fingers crossed, anyway.

*This Review First Published 10/30/2012