1989 (Taylor’s Version) reimagines Taylor Swift’s most iconic era.
Taylor Swift released her fourth re-recorded album, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), on Oct. 27—exactly nine years after the release of her original studio album, 1989.
Swift’s fifth album, released in 2014, marked a transformative stage in the star’s career as she made the transition from country music to pop—changing not only her career, but the music industry forever.
1989 marked the beginning of Swift’s long collaboration with producer Jack Antonoff, who would later go on to produce her subsequent albums Reputation, Lover, Folklore, Evermore, and Midnights.
The re-recorded version features the original 16 tracks and five tracks “From the Vault”—previously unreleased songs from the time of each album’s creation.
The album itself can be described as a synth pop dream with a fresh sound. However, unlike Swift’s other re-recorded albums, there’s a stark contrast between 1989 (Taylor’s Version) and the original.
With the re-recorded tracks, Swift invites us into her world with a new level of maturity and self-assuredness. At first listen, the re-recorded album sounds the same as the original when it was first released nine years ago. However, any self-proclaimed Swiftie can easily tell the re-recorded version is slightly softer and a bit less punchy.
Her vocals have obviously matured within the last nine years, but that’s not the only thing separating the re-recorded version from being a perfect replica of the original.
Like Swift’s reproduction of Red, the album doesn’t see the return of Swedish producer Max Martin, who co-wrote and produced most of the record, and who helmed some of the album’s biggest hits: “Blank Space,” “Style,” “Shake It Off,” “Bad Blood,” and “Wildest Dreams.”
Instead, Martin has been replaced by producer Christopher Rowe, who worked alongside Swift throughout her other re-records. Although the result is a very close match, Martin’s absence is felt throughout the album—specifically in “Style” and “New Romantics,” both of which fall somewhat flat.
Songs not originally produced by Martin fare much better. “Out of the Woods” and opening track “Welcome to New York” remain the same as, if not better than, the originals, both with an added layer of depth.
Though still a beautiful tribute to post-breakup survival and one of my personal favourites, “Clean” is now a near-duet between Swift and Imogen Hope, who co-wrote and co-produced the original track. The re-recorded version prominently features additional vocals by the latter, adding a new layer to the song.
In addition to the 16 re-recorded songs, there are five new tracks uncovered from the original 1989 recording sessions. The most anticipated Vault track, “Slut!” is slightly deceiving based on the title.
The song itself is gentle and airy. Swift sings about trying to conceal a relationship to avoid negative media attention: the lyrics read “If I’m all dressed up/They might as well be looking at us/If they call me a slut/You know, it might be worth it for once.”
“Say Don’t Go,” on the other hand, is more percussive, and has a much punchier chorus. Co-written by legendary songwriter Dianne Warren, the track could easily fit into Swift’s latest original album, Midnights. “Now That We Don’t Talk” has the gentle synth and pop-suspense feel found in the previous album’s “Mastermind.”
Although the song isn’t bad, “Suburban Legends” is by far the least memorable of the Vault tracks. The song itself is slightly wordy and lacks rhyme, with lyrics like “I am standing in a 1950s gymnasium/And I can still see it now” evocative of some of Swift’s later albums.
The final song on the album, “Is It Over Now?” sounds a bit like a 2023 version of “Out of the Woods.” It’s by far the most memorable of the Vault tracks, with many fans speculating the song is in reference to Harry Styles, who Swift dated in 2012.
Though Swift’s style has changed dramatically in the past nine years and the Vault tracks don’t entirely match the original production and sound of 1989, they’re good, nonetheless.
So, turn up the volume, dance like nobody’s watching, and let 1989 (Taylor’s Version) remind you why Taylor Swift is, and always will be, a true musical genius.
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