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Swift's music contains elements of country, country pop, pop and pop rock. She self-identifies as a country artist. Rolling Stone asserts that, "she might get played on the country station, but she's one of the few genuine rock stars we've got these days." Swift's own definition of country music "is really pretty simple. It's when someone sings about their life and what they know, from an authentic place ... One guy will write about how he grew up on a farm and fell in love and raised kids on that same farm. Some people sing about how, when they get sad, they go to the bar and drink whiskey. I write songs about how I can't seem to figure out relationships and how I'm fascinated by love." She has said there will be "a huge temptation" to make an alt-country record as her career progresses. The New York Times notes that, "There isn't much in Ms. Swift's music to indicate country – a few banjo strums, a pair of cowboy boots worn onstage, a bedazzled guitar – but there's something in her winsome, vulnerable delivery that's unique to Nashville." The New Yorker believes she is "considered part of Nashville's country-pop tradition only because she writes narrative songs with melodic clarity and dramatic shape—Nashville's stock-in-trade."] The Guardian has said that Swift "cranks melodies out with the pitiless efficiency of a Scandinavian pop factory."
Swift's voice has been described as "sweet but soft." In studio recordings, the Los Angeles Times identifies Swift's "defining" vocal gesture as "the line that slides down like a contented sigh or up like a raised eyebrow, giving her beloved girl-time hits their air of easy intimacy." Rolling Stone, in a Speak Now review, remarked: "Swift's voice is unaffected enough to mask how masterful she has become as a singer; she lowers her voice for the payoff lines in the classic mode of a shy girl trying to talk tough." In another review of Speak Now, The Village Voice noted that her phrasing was previously "bland and muddled, but that's changed. She can still sound strained and thin, and often strays into a pitch that drives some people crazy; but she's learned how to make words sound like what they mean."