Swift’s re-recording project has been a record-breaking success since the beginning. With the release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” Swift has beaten her own Spotify record for most streams for an artist in a single day and set a new record for single-week vinyl sales since 1991. The reintroduction of “1989” brings back the bright pop sounds of Swift’s shift away from country music, a style which would define her career for years to come. Swift’s ‘1989’ Era brings back the melancholy nostalgia of the teen years and girlhood they left behind.
“Welcome to New York” starts the album off by dragging you back to the flashy and bright sounds of “1989.” The song, which in 2014 received stark criticism as it was described as a surface-level tribute to New York, sets the tone for the remainder of the album. For an artist who faced unmitigated criticism for her choice to lean into pop music, this song is courageously optimistic. While in 2014, this song reflected Swift’s move to New York and the shiny new life it presented; “Welcome to New York (Taylor’s Version)” is an unashamed victory lap.
The second track, “Blank Space,” was a defining song on the original “1989,” and it remains so on the re-recording. This song was such a clear slap in the face to running commentary on Swift’s personal life and the day-to-day harassment women get for having the gall to be a twenty-year-old woman who dates. While the clean and sharp sound of this song remains unchanged, “Blank Space (Taylor’s Version)” reminds people that some lyrics hit just as hard even as time passes.
One of the most highly anticipated songs on the re-release, “Style (Taylor’s Version),” thought to be about pop sensation Harry Styles, was exactly what audiences expected of Swift. Slight differences in the intro made for a softer, more aged sound. This is the song of someone who lived and learned, unlike the 2014 version, which carried less perspective.
In the criminally underrated “All You Had To Do Was Stay (Taylor’s Version),” Swift recombines the angst and desperation of “Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)” with the upbeat electronic music of “Shake it Off (Taylor’s Version).” “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” finds itself with a clearer voice when standing up against the seemingly weathered tone of the previous iteration. As with the entirety of this album, there is a lighter undertone, and Swift’s voice seems less weighed down. Whether that has to do with her actual voice or the press attached to this album is hard to tell.
As Swift has done with her previous re-releases, she has attached five songs “From the Vault.” These are songs that were written for the original album but didn’t make it when the record was released. The first and, arguably, most eye-catching track of this album, “Sl*t!” was not the rocker, screaming-in-the-car song the title would have you expecting.
In fact, this song might just be one of the most heartfelt love songs of a generation. It feels like falling in love with the most sickly sweet dream-induced haze. This song falls in sharp contrast to certain songs in Swift’s “1989” repertoire, though it bridges the gap between this era and the evolution of “Folklore,” “Evermore” and “Midnights.” The message falls right in line with the tracks of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” as Swift resigns herself to the trappings of fame and decides to live her life anyways.
The second vault track of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” “Say Don’t Go,” is another one for the delulu girlies as Swift laments the hopeless hope of begging someone to care about you. There’s an undertone of humiliation in Swift’s lyricism as she sings, “Why’d you have to lead me on? / Why’d you have to twist the knife? / Walk away and leave me bleedin’, bleedin’? / Why’d you whisper in the dark / Just to leave me in the night?” There’s something so haunting about a song that reminds you that being with someone who makes you feel alone is worse than actual loneliness.
“Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version)” starts with Swift’s voice singing prose as the melody fades into the background of her words. This felt like a callback to “New Year’s Day,” a re-release I await with anticipation, as Swift sings, “Please don’t ever become a stranger / Whose laugh I could recognize anywhere.” The pop icon portrays the strangeness of being a stranger to a person who was once central to your life with the skill of someone all too familiar with it. Post-release, the lyrics of this song have become a popular TikTok trend as women describe the people they had to pretend to be for their significant others, and they might not be far off.
“Suburban Legends (Taylor’s Version)” has a rocket fizz vibe to it while calling back to the classic 80s feel of Swift’s inspiration. It undeniably feels like a precursor to “Mastermind” that shouts out the ephemerality of youth and the people that mark your childhood while also reminding us of the impact they’ll still have despite their absence.
The final track of the album “Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version)” is a galvanizing song that has fans wondering if Swift was holding back in 2014 about her break-up with Harry Styles. Whether or not that’s true, the song is a devastating heartbreak in and of itself. Swift writes, “Oh, Lord, I think about jumpin’ / Off of very tall somethings / Just to see you come runnin’,” and for every girl in a relationship with an emotionally unavailable man, this was all too relatable. This song does not take the high road; in fact, it airs out dirty laundry and demands the right to be angry and petty. The throbbing pulse of this song has the peppy air of “Welcome to New York” with lyrics on par with the emotional destruction levels of “Haunted (Taylor’s Version).” In this song, Taylor Swift holds true to her own words, “You don’t have to forgive, and you don’t have to forget to move on. You can move on without any of those things happening. You just become indifferent, and then you move on.”
Verdict: “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” surpasses all our wildest dreams, remaining the classic album it was at its inception. The “From the Vault” tracks add depth and lyricism that fans wouldn’t have dared hope for and that we never could have imagined if Swift hadn’t found the audacity to own herself.