1989 Is Out of the Woods

Melina Kyriakopoulos ’27 in Arts | November 10, 2023

          1989, an album written by Taylor Swift, is home to songs that we all know and love, like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space,” and others that remain “hidden gems” (if such popular songs can even be labeled such). 1989 has won a slew of different awards, including the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2016, selling over 10 million copies, and cemented Swift as a true musical superstar in the pop stratosphere.

          In August, during the last night of the North American leg of Swift's The Eras Tour, Swift announced 1989 (Taylor’s Version), a re-recording of the 2014 hit, and fans have highly anticipated the new album’s release. When the rerecording of the album hit Spotify at 12:00 AM. On October 27, Swift became the most-streamed artist in a day in Spotify’s history. But this album has been out for years. Why is this “new version” so special? 

          In a nutshell, Swift does not own her first six albums due to a contract with her old label, and her Taylor’s Version allows her to reclaim her past songs. A Taylor’s Version album includes craftily re-recorded versions of her iconic songs, new visual branding and merchandise, and a handful of previously unreleased pieces of music in addition to rights for Swift over her music. These new songs, also known as the vault tracks, typically are the stars of the new album releases, and this time around, it was no different. 
There were five vault tracks in 1989 (Taylor’s Version). This includes “Sl*t!,” “Say Don’t Go,” “Now That We Don’t Talk,” “Suburban Legends,” and “Is It Over Now?”. One of the most anticipated vault tracks, “Sl*t!” artistically paints images of tropical scenes in our heads while Swift tells us the story of her publicized love. As referenced in the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) prologue posted by Swift, this song highlights the public’s reactions to all of Swift’s relationships. Many assumed and alluded to? that all her relationships were intimate. Lyrics like, “But if I’m all dressed up/They might as well be lookin' at us/And if they call me a sl*t/You know it might be worth it for once,” reflect how she felt under this microscopic view during this time period. She comes to the realization that her being in love will always come with the label of being a sl*t, and this song is her coming to terms with it. At the end of the song, screams ring out, possibly depicting the constant flow of critics voicing their opinions, disrupting the peaceful vibe of the song. “Say Don’t Go” is the second vault track, which stands out for its typical 1989 feel, catchy lyrics, and tasteful production. “Say Don’t Go” explores unreciprocated love, bringing lyrics such as, “Why'd you have to lead me on? Why’d you have to twist the knife? Walk away and leave me bleedin’.” Accompanying these lyrics come a very pop and bubbly chorus (despite the somber, resentful lyrics), that urges the listener to belt alongside Swift. Similar design elements, like cries for affection, echoing voices, and suspenseful verse instrumentals, cement this song as one of my favorites from the previously unreleased bunch. “Now That We Don’t Talk” and “Suburban Legends” come next, and both hold sounds similar to those heard prior on the album. Although these songs are truthfully less notable, with every listen, I have found myself admiring a new part of both of these songs. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) closes out with “Is It Over Now?”, a song that is very 1989 with a hint of Midnights. Sticking with the high-quality production of the other songs on this album, it does not lack seagull sounds and classic Swift vocal overlays. The buzz of this song mostly surrounds the person she supposedly wrote it for, but the fun, sarcastic lyrics themselves keep listeners encapsulated.

          Aside from the largely stylish and notable vault tracks, small changes have been made to the original songs. Some changes have been more controversial, such as the difference in guitar tone and over-perfection that takes place in the song “Style.” Other songs have gotten upgrades, such as the new, futuristic details that were added to “I Know Places.” 

          1989 (Taylor’s Version) is full of love, anger, fear, fun, and games. Reclaiming this album is an incredibly powerful move that reminds listeners of memories that came along with the original. With only two more albums left to re-recording, it is safe to say Swift’s discography has never been better.