“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is the fourth re-recording that Taylor Swift has completed in the last three years, in a series of regaining ownership of sound recordings bought without her knowledge in 2019. The original album, released in 2014 and titled with a nod to her birth year, featured a series of pop-synth beats that classified Swift as an official “pop star.” The commercial success of the album was unforeseen as it took both Grammy nominations and pop culture success rates by storm, thus bridging the gap between her status as a country singer/songwriter and newfound pop stardom.
New fans of the “Swiftie” fandom tend to associate Swift with wordy lyricism that unveils introspective details of the inner workings of her mind and her relationships with others. This was a detail many thought “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” could lack. However, Swift has shown an incredible sense of range in her work. She has employed slow ballads with largely dense patches of intimate poetry in albums like “Folklore” and “Evermore,” yet can revert back to a pop-star diva that tells her haters to let loose and “Shake It Off.”
Swift brings back a sense of profound reflection in her five, previously unreleased “vault” tracks. Anticipating the album’s release, fans online were intrigued by Swift’s first vault track “Slut!”—a moving commentary about Swift’s emergence into the limelight and response to society’s constant criticisms of dating in her 20s. Written in tandem with Jack Antonoff, Swift uses this track as a sort of cathartic release where criticisms should not be taken too heavily because she will receive them either way. Swift is utterly entranced with her lover; she is, as she describes, “love-struck” and “lovesick.” Here, Swift draws comparisons to her most commercially successful “1989” album hit “Blank Space,” and tackles misogyny by responding directly to her critics in a manner that preserves her refined demeanor.
Another vault track that has received considerable attention is the album’s closer “Is It Over Now?” It wasn’t the track’s undeniably rhythmic beat and close resemblance to the album “Midnights” that garnered attention from audiences online, but rather fans’ connections to Swift’s 2014 relationship with singer Harry Styles. Fans took to the internet archives and found paparazzi photographs of Swift from her “1989” era that seem to speak synonymously with her carefully crafted lyrics, “ blue dress on a boat” and “red blood, white snow,” which fans speculate is about their snowmobile accident from late 2014.
The record truly begins to shine with a personal favorite of mine, “Clean.” In this rerecorded version, Swift employs louder echoes and intricate breathy pronunciations, bringing the listener into her confounded rumination, “The rain came pouring down I was drowning / That’s when I could finally breathe.” Swift ponders on all that brings her down as a natural response to adversity until she takes a step back and realizes she is finally clean. Acceptance—Swift’s virtue or burden—is traced extensively throughout her repertoire; it is a tunnel that continues to narrow as she gathers further explanation for her experiences. Here, Swift is abandoning a relationship that no longer serves her budding identity, demonstrating the difficult balance between dwelling on past situations and yearning for something greater.
Swift also makes it a point in her re-recordings to demonstrate her growth as an artist in songs that helped develop her fame. Take “I Know Places,” where Swift features a moment of angst channeled into stark vocalization, or the infectious beat of the deluxe track “New Romantics.” Through her re-recordings, Swift demonstrates her ability to consistently evolve as an artist, seamlessly weaving through genres and doing so even better than before.