Taylor Swift's '1989 (Taylor's Version)' will never go out of style
Taylor Swift just released her re-record of her album “1989,” and as a major Taylor Swift fan, I was so excited to listen to 1989’s “From the Vault” tracks, which are brand new songs added to the original “1989” album. The first release of “1989” was released on Oct. 27, 2014 and the re-recorded version was released on Oct. 27, 2023. As many “Swifties” know, Swift started re-recording her songs so she would own her own work, meaning she would own the masters of the re-recorded songs. She has six albums that were originally owned by the recording company Big Machine. Swift has re-recorded “Fearless,” “Red,” “Speak Now,” and most recently “1989.” These re-recordings were a huge power move on Swift’s part, and I have a lot of respect for her as she continues to build her brand. She’s an incredible business woman, even though some people hate her — “haters gonna hate, hate, hate,” I suppose. With each re-recorded album, Swift adds brand new songs — From the Vault tracks — that she didn’t include in the original album. As the re-release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” approached, I couldn’t wait to hear the From the Vault tracks and they did not disappoint! As a disclaimer, I am not the type of Swiftie who obsessively scrolls through Twitter trying to find the most up to date conspiracy theories or updates. With that in mind I’m so excited to share my opinions and commentaries on the From the Vault tracks.
Not to start out on a negative note, but I was originally very underwhelmed by “‘Slut.”’ One of my friends was so excited to listen to this song, and within my circle of Swifties it was hyped up a lot. My own expectations of the song most likely affected how I felt about it the first time through. It didn’t appeal to me much apart from the beginning line, “flamingo pink.” I was expecting something very fast paced and pop-ish. “1989” is a pop album and I had anticipated that my expectations would be met, but “‘Slut!”’ did not do that at all. However, once I overcame my initial disappointment, the song really grew on me. It was a slow process — slow as in approximately 24 to 36 hours — but like many songs that I first listened to, I started processing the lyrics and appreciating them. I really enjoy the beginning, because it’s reminiscent of “Invisible String” — a song found on the album “Folklore.” Both songs begin with including colors, which adds a visual component to the lyrics. The opening lines of “Invisible String” are: “Green was the color of the grass where I used to read at Centennial Park.” I love this entire song, but I think Swift’s use of colors brings her lyrics to life. In the case of “‘Slut!”’, her choice of “flamingo pink” and “aquamarine,” are similar as she endeavors to bring her lyrics and story to life. Particularly with “‘Slut!”’, the vibrant colors named in the opening lines fits with the overall story of the song, which is all about drawing attention and being confident about it. A line goes, “But if I’m all dressed, they might as well be lookin’ at us.” There is a certain glamor and confidence that this song exudes and visuals of the “flamingo pink” boulevard and the “aquamarine” swimming pool create this amazing image and vibe that brings the song to life for me.
“Say Don’t Go”
On my first listen through the vault tracks, this was the song that stood out the most to me, mostly because I love the chorus. It’s so heartbreaking, but very catchy. The lyrics go, “Why’d you have to lead me on? Why’d you have to twist the knife?” Absolutely devastating, but Swift has a history of writing very sad things hidden behind a catchy song — “Death By A Thousand Cuts” for instance. As with most songs, once you have gotten passed the humming along phase, then comes the analysis of the lyrics.
As some know, Swift has certain phrases or lyrics that she embeds in multiple songs. An example of this is “Rosé” found in both “the 1” and “Maroon.” In “Say Don’t Go,” there are two — and probably more — references of past lyrics. In “Say Don’t Go” a line goes, “Strike a match, then you blow it out.” In “Getaway Car” a line reads, “I struck a match and blew your mind.” Both of these songs discuss the ending of relationships, although in different ways, so I really like that both songs utilize this visualization of striking a match. It draws a parallel between the two songs in both lyrics and the overall story. The same can be said with “mirrorball,” as a lyric goes, “I’m still on that tightrope / I’m still tryin’ everything to get you laughing at me.” This imagery of a tightrope explains the pressure that the narrator of the song feels about pleasing those around her. These feelings are also found in “Say Don’t Go” as the narrator struggles with accepting that she may not be enough to keep her partner — so heartbreaking. There is also a reference to a tightrope in the song: “I’m standin’ on a tightrope alone / I hold my breath a little bit longer.” I love the parallels that Swift draws between her songs, and “Say Don’t Go” has so many of these references.
“Now That We Don’t Talk”
When I first heard this song, I neither liked nor disliked it. It didn’t stand out in any real way. Although the lyric “I called my mom, she said that it was for the best” reminded me so much of the lyric in “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” The lyric is, “and here’s to my mama, had to listen to all this drama.” I know that many of Swift’s recent songs allude to her break-up with Joe Alwyn, but I think the closing lyrics of “Now That We Don’t Talk” blatantly refers to it. The lyrics go, “Now the only way back to my dignity was to turn into a shrouded mystery / Just like I had been when you were chasing me.” So, as many Swifties know, in 2017 Swift stayed away from the public eye, but had already started dating Joe Alwyn. Then, of course she came out with “reputation,” which was an amazing entry back into the public eye. In “Delicate,” Swift wrote the lyrics, “My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me.” Essentially, when she started dating Alwyn, her public image was not amazing, so disappeared. As “Now That We Don’t Talk” says, she turns into a “shrouded mystery.” The “you” in the lyrics “when you were chasing me” can represent the beginning of Swift’s and Alwyn’s relationship. Not to get too far into the debate, but I was so sad when they broke up. I understand that people like Travis Kelce, but I miss the idealized Joe-Taylor relationship.
I also felt lukewarm about this song on first listen. It was not until the second or third time through that it began to grow on me. This song is all about unpacking a past relationship and reminiscing on both the beautiful and challenging times. I think this is possibly my favorite song out of all the “1989” vault tracks in terms of story and message. I think the way that the song accomplishes the story of a powerful relationship and the ultimate ending is very nostalgic. There is something very sweet and innocent about this song as the narrator looks back at this impactful relationship she had in high school. The title “Suburban Legends” represents the short lived romances that happen in high school, but still linger with people because they were nostalgic and impactful.
The song references diaries, star signs, and gymnasiums, which remind me of high school, and it paints a very vivid picture of the small town romance that this song relates. Additionally, like many high school romances, there was always an understanding that the relationship wouldn’t last. A lyric goes, “You don’t know anymore, and I always knew it, That my life would be ruined.” The romance was always doomed, but it still held a lot of weight for the narrator. A lyric goes, “And you kiss me in a way that’s gonna screw me up forever.” I love these lyrics so much. It encapsulates all the angst and complications of young love, but it also captures the powerful parts of it. I think this song tells a captivating story and does it well.
“Is It Over Now?”
Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of “‘Slut!”’ on first listen, I was similarly taken aback by “Is It Over Now?” and not in a good way. I found the weird electronic, screeching noise at the beginning so annoying. The song seemed to go on forever and I was not a fan of it. However, now it’s my favorite vault track on “1989.” I barely notice the weird noises anymore. I’m not sure if I have a straightforward answer to why I love this song so much, but it’s been on repeat ever since I got over the beginning. There is no denying that the entire song is incredibly catchy, and there is no better song to study to, in my opinion.
However, in addition to the fun chorus and verses, I really like the story. Swift has many, many songs about ending relationships and infidelity: “Should’ve Said No,” “Getaway Car,” and “illicit affairs,” to name a few. However, this song is a slightly different take on the complications of the deterioration of relationships. The song acknowledges that the relationship is over. The beginning of the song makes it clear that the relationship has died as the second line goes, “with the wilt of the rose.” In other words, the relationship has slowly died.
The song proceeds to outline the ambiguity and complications that sometimes come with breakups and heartbreak. The song title says it all: “Is It Over Now?”
Both the narrator and the ex have both moved on, but there continues to be feelings between them. Swift explores complexity in breakups. Through her discography, Swift begins with a very cut and dry, vengeful understanding of breakups — “Should’ve Said No” is an example of this — but as she has gotten older, she has shifted her ideas of breakup to have more nuance. Songs such as “Wildest Dreams,” “All Too Well” and “Is It Over Now?” are examples of more nuanced stories of breakups. I personally love all the different perspectives Swift takes on breakups, so I was happy to see that “Is It Over Now?” added an additional narrative.