Admittedly, Taylor Swift’s experience of moving to New York is probably a bit different than those of us out-of-staters who have had to make the post-college pilgrimage to the big city; while Swift perkily admires how “the Village is aglow,” she doesn’t remark on the subway rats or waking up in closet-sized bedrooms. Still, her view of the Big Apple understandably comes through rose-colored glasses, both in the context of her personal travels as a superstar as well as through the smooth pop prism of her 1989 era. “Welcome To New York” is an unapologetically chipper way to start off Swift’s new album, but following the brushing-off-the-haters sock-hop of “Shake It Off” and the hopeful electro-pop epic “Out Of The Woods,” the opening track naturally arrives with a warm grin slapped on the first carnival-themed synthesizer. Compared to two other Swift songs -- her last two album openers, “Mine” from Speak Now and “State of Grace” from Red -- “Welcome To New York” is sunny and conflict-free, an uncomplicated NYC greeting straight out of the opening montage to That Girl.
That’s not a knock against the song — the chorus, in which Swift plants her feet on a bed of electronics and cries, “Welcome to New York/It’s been waiting for you!,” carries the type of whimsy that the singer is aiming for here. Rather, “Welcome To New York” is a step down from the first two songs released from 1989 due to the fact that the lyrics feel slipshod, especially when Swift and co-writer Ryan Tedder try to capture the energy of the city. “Everybody here wanted something more/Searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before,” Swift concludes about New Yorkers; elsewhere, she admires the fact that “You can want who you want/Boys and boys, and girls and girls!” The lines lack the lived-in feel of Swift’s previous material, and fail to prop up the joyful hook with the right amount of substance. “Welcome To New York” unfolds with ace melodies and a slick hook, but needs the whip-smart turns-of-phrase and devastatingly insightful observations that make Swift a musical treasure, regardless of the genre in which she is operating.