On the night of Oct. 26, millions of fans flocked to hear the opening notes of Taylor Swift’s newest release: “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” The album crashed both the Spotify platform and global records, garnering upwards of 180 million first-day streams on Spotify alone. Like many fans, we thought that the album was the rebirth of a snazzy, stunning pop “wonderland.”
The sensational production of the album extends to the cover artwork as well. While the original album cover depicts Swift’s red lips and a shirt with five seagulls, the re-recorded version shows Swift’s full face with a wide smile — and the same red lipstick — as five seagulls circle in the sky. To us, the birds represent the “flight” Swift has taken since the original release of “1989,” further elevating her personal voice and status in the music industry. The five seagulls also represent the five albums she released since “1989,” excluding any re-recordings: “Reputation,” “Lover,” “Folklore,” “Evermore,” and “Midnights.”
Following the album’s release, Swift reclaimed all of her original “1989” pop songs. Aside from the already-released singles, “Wildest Dreams” and “This Love,” which were re-recorded earlier in 2021, Swift released nineteen new versions. Co-star Kendrick Lamar joined her re-recorded version of “Bad Blood,” adding a fiery, gut-punch rap verse about betrayal and revenge.
While her re-recorded tracks contain the same lyrics, there is a slight difference in Swift’s vocals and background instrumentation. For example, “Style” and “Shake it Off” open with less breathy, more controlled vocals, especially in the higher registers. Moreover, “I Wish You Would” has crisp backdrops with more synthesized beats. Swift’s improved vocal technique allows for a cleaner listening experience, but loses a bit of the original version’s passion.
Many Swifties feel partial to the original recordings. Others insist that it is a matter of comfort and that with time, the newly recorded album will have the same magical effect as the original. The battle between fans continues on whether or not the album has surpassed their expectations. In our eyes, with almost a decade of separation, the two albums are individualized works that can be appreciated in their respective nuances.
To complement the re-recordings, Swift has committed to revisiting previously scrapped songs and releasing them as “vault” tracks in her “Taylor’s Version” albums. Needless to say, Swifties are “enchanted” by them.
A favorite of the two of us, the first vault track ‘“Slut!,”’ is a dreamy encapsulation of falling in love while being cognizant of the misogynistic dating scene in the entertainment industry. Swift describes the intense turbulent sensation that makes her “lovestruck” and “lovesick” simultaneously, as well as referencing the necessity to keep her sentiments hidden due to scrutiny by the media. The light-hearted beats sustain through the forlorn lyrics that hint at the effects of paparazzi: “And if they call me a slut / You know it might be worth it for once.” The undertone of sexism lurks in the background, and Swift intentionally addresses that she is the one who will face negative attention instead of her lover. This song encapsulates Swift’s power as a singer-songwriter, portraying her strength and ability to rise above the backlash that she endures. There is an indescribable emotion attached to the song: one that can only be understood through listening to the track’s enrapturing tune.
Another favorite is “Now That We Don’t Talk,” a collage of longing thoughts after a breakup. The steady synth beats gradually build throughout the first verse to a boppy chorus, and the lyrics transition from woeful wonderings about the other person’s life to gaining clarity on the flaws in the relationship which were previously overlooked. Various Easter eggs in the lyrics are vast seas to dive into, such as Swift’s reference to her split from Harry Styles after their trip to the British Virgin Islands in a “mega-yacht.” The song’s airy “your loss” mentality is an empowering reminder to not overthink or agonize over failed relationships.
The mood becomes more somber in the vault track, “Say Don’t Go.” The lyrics begin with a reference to a metaphor from “Getaway Car” to describe an uncertain relationship. Rich imagery displays the fragility and precariousness of an increasingly one-sided relationship. While she waits anxiously in solidarity, her lover remains unresponsive, painting a picture of their relationship’s approaching doom. In one last attempt to find a reason to stay, the lyrics implore for any sign of a simple, verbal assurance. A music theory Easter Egg we noticed was that “Say Don’t Go” ends on a V chord (B) in the key of E Major, which does not resolve the song and gives a feeling of unfinished business.
“Suburban Legends” is a severely underrated vault song that many fans claim to be underwhelming. Despite its lack of popularity, the song is a sparkling and transcendental anthem that celebrates nostalgic feelings of yearning and belonging. Lyrics such as “I am standing in a 1950s gymnasium / And I can still see you know” create an indecipherable sentiment of lost wishes, regretful wishes, and lost promises.
The final vault song, “Is It Over Now?,” quickly skyrocketed to be a fan favorite. The song’s despairing lyrics present an image where Swift recalls past moments when she questions the integrity and permanence of her relationship. Lyrics like “Blue dress on a boat / Your new girl is my clone” utilize slant rhymes to craft whimsical devastation. Swift has an impeccable ability to inspire a feeling of relatability within her lyrics, juxtaposing despondency with nostalgia.
From the visuals of the cover artwork to the songs themselves, the album dazzles. “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” presents an opportunity to return to Swift’s anthems of the past through the lens of her talent and perspective today. The artist’s everchanging musical landscape and continuous ability to grow define her as the artist of our generation. We can guarantee that this is “a new soundtrack,” and that you most definitely can — and will — “dance to this beat.”
Christopher Nunez is a contributing writer for The Prospect from Point Pleasant, N.J. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Chloe Lau is a contributing Features writer for the ‘Prince.’
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