Taylor Swift (Mercury)

The huge billboards trumpeting the arrival of Taylor Swift aren’t unusual. The US has sold us its female pop stars before, with great success. Swift, though, is different. She is a country singer. And with the exception of Shania Twain, the UK has about as much time for country singers as the US has for Test match cricket.

Swift was 18 when this, her second album, was recorded last year. It shows. Fearless documents a teenage girl’s joys and struggles with high-school life, from cheerleader jealousy (You Belong With Me) to stepping out with the blue-eyed quarterback (Fifteen).

On paper, then, Fearless sounds nauseous. But on disc it’s tremendous – chiefly because Swift, who writes her own songs and is clearly pop-smart far beyond her years, has a brilliant ear for a melody and a turn of phrase to match.

Cynical ears will recoil at the sentimentality. Their loss: this is as crisp, as pure and as flat-out likeable a pop album as we’ll hear this year. WILL FULFORD-JONES