Photo: Taylor Swift via Beth Garrabrant// taylorswift.com
Taylor Swift is the music industry. With her record-breaking Eras Tour, her international influence, and her commitment to consistently provide new music and content for her fans, she is currently on top of the world. One of the most admirable acts of the singer is her reclaiming her stolen masters through her legendary re-recordings. She stands by her belief that all artists should have the rights to their own work. Following the success of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Red (Taylor’s Version), and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), Swift re-released her fifth album and first pop record, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) on October 27, 2023, exactly nine years after the original. Filled with massive hits such as “Blank Space,” “Style,” and “Shake It Off,” this album is one of the artist’s greatest critical acclaimed projects. Beloved by devoted fans, casual listeners, and industry tastemakers, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) may just be the most anticipated re-recordings. With five additional vault songs, the extra deluxe track "Bad Blood featuring Kendrick Lamar (Taylor's Version)", and the exclusive Target version including Sweeter Than Fiction (Taylor’s Version), originally found on the One Chance movie soundtrack, Swift once again has released an unforgettable re-recording that proves every single one of her releases are a timeless classic.
Photo: Taylor Swift via Beth Garrabrant// taylorswift.com
Every re-recording blows the original version out of the park and proves that Swift has only gotten better with time. Although many people were worried that they would take away from the charm of the originals, Taylor’s Version only enhances the already impeccable records. Every re-release is so incredibly crisp and clear, and yet maintains the integrity of the original. However, Taylor’s Version just stirs something in the listener that is impossible to bring to words. Swift outdoes herself with each release, and 1989 (Taylor’s Version) upholds this tradition. Fans got their first taste of the album in 2021, when Swift released “Wildest Dreams (TV)” and again in 2022 when she released “This Love (TV)”. Despite already hearing them, I chose to listen to the album in order as Swift intended. From beginning to end with no skipping.
While some songs, such as “Welcome To New York (TV)”, “I Wish You Would (TV)”, and “You Are In Love (TV)” sound nearly identical, with the exception of more mature vocals, other tracks somehow became stronger and more powerful. As my husband put it, Swift knew when not to mess with perfection and where she could make things even more outstanding. From the pen click in “Blank Space (TV)” to the speaking bridge in “Shake It Off (TV)”, Swift ensured these fan-favorite, memorable parts were only enhanced, not lessened. While the crisp guitar riff in “Style (TV)” gave me goosebumps, my first tears of the night were not until “Out of the Woods (TV)”, where the bridge was even more emotional. Additionally, I felt the production was much stronger and had heightened the feeling of anxiety that Swift and producer, Jack Antonoff, were wanting to convey in the song. The tears continued into the emotionally vulnerable track five, “All You Had To Do Was Stay (TV)”. As my second favorite song on the album, and the most underrated track, I was beyond excited for this one. The high “stay” was stronger and clearer, highlighting Swift’s vocal maturity over the past decade. Her strong vocals were present through other songs, such as “Bad Blood (TV)”, “New Romantics (TV)” and “Wonderland (TV)”. Furthermore, the production of “Bad Blood (TV)” was so much more powerful and intense, bringing the fiery live version to the studio. Additionally, the way the word “ghosts” reverberated in the bridge felt like an out of body experience. Then, in the classic Taylor Swift fashion, the singer surprised her fans several hours after release with the deluxe addition of the album. This version includes the highly-anticipated “Bad Blood featuring Kendrick Lamar (TV)”. Swifties everywhere were nervous that we were not going to get this version but were still hoping for a surprise drop, especially because the two artists had been seen hanging out earlier this year. Naturally, this re-recording brought out the boldness of the track and highlighted the two musicians' individual talents for one flawless collaboration. As the album continued, Swift even made sure that underrated track, “How You Get The Girl (TV)” had its time to shine and enhanced the production to be more prominent. Of all the tracks, I felt this song was more nostalgic than the others and it brought back many fond memories of the original era.
As my number one favorite song on the album, I was awaiting to hear “Clean (TV)”. I was unsure if collaborator and producer, Imogen Heap, was going to return for the re-recording. But I was pleasantly surprised as I heard the talented artist’s background vocals on the track and the distinctive production she provided on the original. This made the track even more special and powerful.
I Know Places (Taylor’s Version)
For years, “I Know Places” was tied with “Out Of The Woods” as my third favorite track from 1989. I could never choose between the two. And while listening to Taylor’s Version did not settle this debate, I did have a clear favorite of all re-recorded tracks on the album. The power that “I Know Places (TV)” holds gave me whiplash and made me pause the album when it ended to debrief with my husband. I have always loved that the song about wanting to keep a relationship hidden from the public, starts and ends with the sound of a tape recorder. This indicates that while Swift thought she was safe, telling her lover of the places they can go to hide, they were being recorded the entire time. Not surprisingly, Swift left this production piece in the re-recording. However, the vocalizations in both the intro and outro emphasize this in a way that the original had not. Her vocals have an effect on them that sounds slightly muffled and altered, as if they are being heard from a recording. While the remainder of the track does not maintain this effect, keeping it at the beginning and end emphasizes the notion that the singer was being recorded. Furthermore, I had become even more obsessed with this song after I heard the 1989 World Tour version, where the rasp and angst came out during the line “we run,” specifically in the second pre-chorus. Swift made sure that her version would stress this fiery vocal style, and strengthen the passion of the lyrics. Similar to the rest of the album, improved vocals are heard throughout the entire track, bringing an emphasis to Swift’s incredible vocal range and ability to captivate audiences with her raw, authentic emotion. While my ranking still puts “I Know Places (TV)” tied in third place with “Out of the Woods (TV)”, this new version definitely highlights the strengths of the song more than the original, making it one of my favorite re-recordings of all re-released albums.
“Slut!” (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)
When it came to predicting what a song would be about based on the title alone, I have never been more wrong in my entire life. And I know I am not the only Swiftie thinking this. While many of us theorized that the song would be an angry-fueled, “The Man” coded anthem about sexism, or a melancholic, wistful ballad about the scrutiny Swift has faced, the singer completely shocked fans with “Slut!” The first vault track is about the misogynistic judgment she has faced in every relationship prior to the current one in the song. In the chorus, she sings the heart-wrenching line: “And if they call me a slut, you know it might be worth it for once.” The moment that line hit me, the floodgates opened and the tears began rolling out. After the years of unrelenting, undeserving slut-shaming, the singer has determined that this new man may just be worth the inevitable public condemnation she will face. Furthermore, she prefaces the chorus with the lyrics: “I’ll pay the price, you won’t.” This was a deep cut that exposes the double standards in society—that a man will be praised for their extensive dating history while a woman will be crucified. As a woman, this line was nauseating to hear as it is an undeniable truth to the harsh judgment we face. And as a fan that has defended Swift for years, it was an extra twist of the knife knowing how much this has impacted her over time. It may have taken nine years, but I am grateful that “Slut!” has finally seen the light of day as it provides the listener a deeper insight on Swift’s perspective of this offensive label given to her by society.
Say Don’t Go (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)
From my very first listen, I instantly thought “Say Don’t Go (TV)” was the sister track to “All You Had To Do Was Stay (TV)”. The two songs parallel each other with very similar themes. Both tracks detail the end of a relationship and what Swift wish would have happened. In “Say Don’t Go (TV)”, she confesses that she wished her ex-boyfriend would have said “don’t go” as she was walking out for the last time. She wishes he would have fought for them. When she told him she loved him and he said nothing back, she felt her whole world shatter. While “All You Had To Do Was Stay (TV)” explores the moment her ex tries to return, and she recalls that fateful night. In my mind, I hear Swift saying, “I wanted you to say, 'don’t go,’ but you didn’t. And now you want it back and it’s too late, but all you had to do was stay.” Furthermore, the production in this new vault song contains a nod to the fifth track. In “All You Had To Do Was Stay (TV),” Swift sings "stay" in a higher register that echoes itself, emphasizing how choked up she feels and just how difficult it is to admit that this is truly over. In the new track, the hook has a similar effect after Swift sings “say don’t go” in the post-chorus. The background vocals have her urgently quiet-screaming “say! say! say! say!” When I heard this, my thoughts took me back to the former track. The desperation behind her voice as she says both “stay” and “say” is intentional as she expresses the emotional turmoil she experienced in this relationship. When listening to this song, I came to the realization that we were going down a rabbit hole of some of Swift’s most heart-wrenching vault songs.
Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)
Swift is the queen of making absolute bops that are drenched in the most devastating lyrics. “Now That We Don’t Talk (TV)” tricked me with its infectious melody and even the first few lines. I thought it was going to be a bittersweet song about looking back on the good times and being grateful for what you once had, while moving on and knowing it was for the best. Instead, Swift decided to throw in some of the most painful lyrics. The song details two exes living their separate lives and reeling from the fact that they will never know what the other is doing or how they are feeling. She knows that everything has changed and they are different now than when they were together. Swift confesses that moving on and accepting that they no longer talk has been a difficult pill to swallow. However, the outro of the song changes the tune to a more empowering outlook as she no longer has to pretend to be someone she is not or to like things she doesn’t. Instead, she is free to be whoever she wants to be and she has finally accepted that this was all for the best. Not only does the song have an unforgettable storyline that matches the theme of the entire album, but it also contains a dream-pop production reminiscent of the decade the album is named after. “Now That We Don’t Talk” fully encapsulates everything that is 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
Suburban Legends (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)
The production of “Suburban Legends (TV)” is very reminiscent of her tenth studio album, Midnights. While listening to this vault track, I felt the sound was a perfect combination of “Bejeweled”, “Labyrinth”, and “Mastermind”, while still maintaining the cohesive soundscape of 1989 (TV). The song follows the theme of the nostalgia from a past relationship and thinking of what could have been. The majority of the song contains lyrics that paint the picture of this power couple that were “born to be national treasures.” However, the outro completely rips the listener’s heart with the deeply tragic message of this love falling apart. Swift’s words pierced my soul when she sang: “I broke my own heart ‘cause you were too polite to do it.” This paints the desolate scene of Swift coming to the realization that her boyfriend no longer wanted to be with her, but he did not have the heart to break up with her. So, she had to take the step for him and end the relationship herself, despite wanting to stay. With a song of such high energy and passion, this somber outro caught me off guard and broke my heart all over again.
Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)
Swift truly did not give her fans a break with these vault songs and decided every single one would be heartbreaking. She ends the five-track run with the devastating song about wondering if it is permanently over, or if they will fall back in love. As a very heavy theme of this album, found in songs like “Out of the Woods (TV)”, “Style (TV)”, and “This Love (TV)”, it is no surprise that this subject was touched on again in the vault. However, “Is It Over Now? (TV)” goes into even more detail, as Swift explores the rebounds and distractions that both her and her muse utilize to forget the other person. Swift calls out her ex-boyfriend for the copycat girls he dates that look just like her and exposes him for his infidelity while they were still together. Then in the bridge, she drops the bombshell “Oh, Lord, I think about jumping// Off of very tall somethings// Just to see you come running// And say the one thing I've been wanting, but no.” Swift confesses her desperation to capture the attention of the one she loves, resorting to the act of jumping off a cliff just so they will run and save her. She holds out hope that they will relieve her of this aching pain in her heart and tell her they want her. But they won’t. And she will be left disappointed, broken hearted, and love scorned. The song is perfectly dramatic and passionate, in the only way Swift knows how. With this final track, she officially closes this chapter of her life while giving her fans a deeper insight of this era.
Photo: Taylor Swift via Beth Garrabrant// taylorswift.com
Once again, Swift has proven her undeniable skill and her powerful influence over the industry. The same day 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was released, the singer’s net worth reached billionaire status. She has done this based solely on her music alone—no make-up lines, fashion lines, or perfume lines. She has built her name and reputation from the ground up. Of course, money is not everything and it does not truly matter in the end. But the fact that this woman at the young age of 33-years-old has accomplished so much in the 17 years of her career, without sacrificing her morals and personality, is admirable. Swift is an advocate for her peers in the industry and a voice for smaller, independent artists. She knows that music is an art. And musicians deserve to earn their life’s work. Once Swift came forward about the despicable hostage situation her first six albums were forced into, many more artists became more aware of just how important their masters are. Now, I see artists celebrating their new record deals and partnerships with labels that allow them to own their masters. Swift’s re-recording process is not only an empowering effort to take back what is rightfully hers, but it is also a power move that influences musicians everywhere. With 1989 (Taylor’s Version) being the latest re-recording, Swift only has two more records to reclaim—her reputation and her name.
Written By Karlee Skipper
*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.