She plays guitar, writes her own songs and is a hit factory off the strength of her first record. Oh, and she's 17. At an age when most worry about the SATs, Swift cobbles tunes that reach right through the radio and plug into even the most padlocked-hearted listener. Whether it's the wistful remembrance of the bygone sweetheart (the big hit "Tim McGraw"), the unrequited longing for a friendship to catch fire (another hit, "Teardrops on My Guitar") or the heady giddiness of the new love ("Our Song"), Swift channels it all into sing-along-worthy gold nuggets.
It's the songwriting that the real revelation. Swift puts such spot-on details in her lyrics that the teen diary poetry you might expect is traded for elevated, memorable lines ("the moon like a spotlight on the lake"). In some kind of terrific mystery, she never lets you forget her high school perspective ("Picture To Burn" shows it best), while putting a much more mature artist's take on the quality of the song's balance, melody and shape.
Many may have already bought this record when it was released last year, but give that copy to your uncle for Christmas and put the Deluxe Edition on your list for Santa. The two-disc repackaged set includes extra tracks, and a DVD with all of Swift's lush videos. In an age when artists are stars solely because they're young and pretty, it's a welcome entry to both country radio and the teen scene to finally have a real songwriter.