Redbrick Music Writers and Editors review tracks from Taylor Swift’s re-recorded version of 1989
Welcome To New York
The opening track, ‘Welcome To New York’, is a synth-pop classic written as a love letter to the Big Apple. The song encapsulates Swift’s newfound sense of freedom after moving to the city from Nashville; the beautifully playful synths and drum beats placed over affectionate lyrics reflect how Swift overcame any intimidation and embraced her new home. The endearing charm of the original track is most definitely translated in Taylor’s Version, with producers Ryan Tedder and Noel Zancanella returning and maintaining the song’s youthfully effervescent appeal. Swift’s vocals are more mature on this rendition, which in my opinion adds a whole new level of meaning to the track: having accomplished so much in her life since the original release of the record, she is able to look back fondly on a period in her life that was so new and full of hope. Overall, ‘Welcome To New York (Taylor’s Version)’ is a great opening to her latest re-recording, maintaining the euphoria of moving to the big city whilst attaching new layers of nostalgic meaning to the track.
When 1989 was originally released the album was absolute pop perfection, but ‘Blank Space’ undeniably takes the cake when it comes to cultural impact. Releasing a satirical song to mock the ‘serial dater’ image that the tabloids gave Swift is a moment that went down in pop culture history, and rightfully so. The chanting chorus lyrics make a mesmerising mockery of the media’s portrayal of Swift.
It would be an outrage to talk about ‘Blank Space’ without mentioning the masterpiece that is its music video. The video is the epitome of female rage and thanks to the hours I spent watching it at age nine, it is safe to say it shaped me into the woman I am today. Who wouldn’t want to watch Taylor Swift destroy a man’s fancy car with a golf club?
Now that 27th October has come and gone, the ‘Magic, madness, heaven, sin’ of ‘Blank Space’ has been reclaimed and renewed in Taylor’s Version. With nine years gone, the track now carries the weight of an old grudge. The time passed has provided a new maturity to the song as Swift’s vocal ability has only grown with her stardom. The re-recording has refreshed a well-known classic perfectly, so grab your golf clubs and enjoy ‘Blank Space (Taylor’s Version)’.
‘Style’ is a classic pop hit which took the world by storm when it was released as 1989’s third single in February 2015. The new release of ‘Style (Taylor’s Version)’ charts something exciting and refreshing for Swifties as they truly see how Swift has matured into her own sound whilst keeping up with current trends in the pop sphere. ‘Style’ received many awards for its unique sound, including being certified gold in the U.K.
There have been many speculations around who the song is truly directed at. ‘You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye / And I got that red lip classic thing that you like’ connotes that her muse has a similar, dreamy look to James Dean as well as a bad reputation, which is highlighted throughout the rest of the songs of 1989.
‘Style (Taylor’s Version)’ still has the perennial essence which every Swiftie adores, including the unforgettably iconic melody and riff. Taylor’s Version makes the song even dreamier and I have no doubt you will be putting this on repeat and dancing around to it in your room.
Out Of The Woods
If 1989 was the soundtrack to my year six experience, then ‘Out Of The Woods’ was the title track. Whilst the depth of the lyrics were lost on me, the power of the bridge was not. As a ten-year-old, I screamed the lyrics with my heart, and nearly ten years later I find myself doing the same. Rediscovering this song within 1989 (Taylor’s Version) has me ruminating on the lyrics in my mind, musing on the complexities of relationships rather than romanticising them. It is a song that lends itself well to interpretations: ‘the woods’ is not context-bound and can be thought about through the lens of mental health rather than romantic relationships. The song begins with a powerful, addictive beat which carries through its run, working with the pleading voice and constant questioning (‘Are we out of the woods?’) to emulate the feelings of anxiety Swift sings about, adding a sense of franticness to the song. The repeating chorus is easy for any beginner Swiftie to sing along to, and it is hard not to join in when ‘Out Of The Woods’ comes on.
All You Had To Do Was Stay
Swift’s re-recording of ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ is as dreamy and anthemic as ever. Despite the track’s big synths and pulsing melody, ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ is one of the most lyrically sombre on the album. Inspired by a dream, Swift tells a vulnerable story in where she is yearning for a past lover to stay. The chorus is built around the high-pitched, operatic delivery of ‘stay’ which sounds much bolder on the re-recording. Swift sounds desperate throughout the bridge, fueling the song with pure emotion as she sings ‘You were all I wanted / But not like this’. ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ is so deeply rooted in the sounds of 2010s pop music that listening to Taylor’s Version feels like entering a nostalgic time capsule. The re-recording sounds like an almost-perfect copy of the original version, Swift packing the same punch as she did in 2014. ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay (Taylor’s Version)’ is a strong pop track and undeniable earworm.
Shake It Off
If the general public was asked to name a Taylor Swift song, many will think of the bouncy, bubblegum lead single of 1989: ‘Shake it Off’. Despite its mixed reception across the Taylor Swift fanbase, it is an irresistible pop song with a pulsing drum beat and saxophone chorus, an earworm of a hook and a scathing, defiant bridge which has drawn people onto dance floors for the past decade.
The song has been criticised for its lack of depth beneath its uptempo rhythm but not enough attention has been drawn to its message. Nine years on, I recognise it as an anthem encouraging resilience and determination when faced with negativity, being yourself when the world wants you to change. Swift highlights the difficulty navigating the attention of the world’s media when she was scrutinised and criticised for going on ‘too many dates’ and ‘staying out too late.’ This song encapsulates Swift’s journey since 2014: she has defied her critics and rebirthed as a pop icon whose songs will be celebrated for years to come.
I Wish You Would
The seventh track on 1989, ‘I Wish You Would’, is sandwiched between what are (for me, at least) two skips: ‘Shake it Off’ and ‘Bad Blood’. Between these more unabashedly generic and frequently played songs lies the anthemic, powerful ‘I Wish You Would’. Swift conjures up a specific kind of yearning with this track that constantly pulls in and out of passion and restraint, seeming hesitant in re-committing to a ‘crooked love’. In Taylor’s Version, Swift comfortably slips back into the playful vocalisations typical of the original album. Although her voice is clearly more mature on this re-recording, she still has fun with this youthful, whimsical love song, darting between the high-pitched backing track that could inspire a shimmy in anyone (‘I-wish-I-wish-I’) and the belt of the chorus. The original recording doesn’t hesitate to pack a punch; Swift’s compelling commands to an invisible lover in the bridge portrays her frustration at her powerlessness in this fling. Taylor’s Version in comparison feels anti-climactic, its final chorus falling a little flat. The re-recording is sparser, less frustrated, and less eager to revel in the childish hopefulness of a wish. Despite this, ‘I Wish You Would’ remains a timeless and incredibly well-crafted track that promises a foot-tap at the very least.
Luke Pierce Powell
One 1989 track that has been garnering attention from the vault tracks has been the re-release of ‘Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar)’. Initially unleashed in 2015, this powerhouse remix dominated airwaves and online platforms alike, catapulting it to number one.
Fast-forward to today, and the original does not hold up as much as some fans may wish. Whilst tracks like ‘Style’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ still deliver timeless pop anthems, ‘Bad Blood’ felt like an awkward outsider on 1989, causing slight discord amongst listeners. Yet as a single, it is far from lacklustre, especially with Lamar’s enriching presence; a feature that elevates each verse lyrically and rhythmically. Anticipation was palpable after news of the elusive rapper’s return to the track, but the vault version crumbles beneath its own weight.
What was once a tapestry of crunchy bass notes and pounding drums now feels hauntingly empty, and Kendrick’s re-recorded verses lack their original fervour. While retaining their essence, Swift’s choruses suffer from spacey production that strips any grit and edge the song once flaunted. However, despite production hiccups, Lamar’s involvement acts as testament to a belief in Swift’s artistry as both a lyricist and musician – a partnership which, though not flawlessly executed, underscores the cross-genre appeal of both artists.
Following a surge in popularity of her Lana Del Rey-esque ballad ‘Wildest Dreams’ on TikTok in 2021, Taylor Swift released ‘Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)’. Needless to say, I was thrilled: ‘Wildest Dreams’ is one of my favourite songs from 1989. I really admire the track’s sense of maturity in the lyrics. After a series of dramatic breakups and heartbreak, ‘Wildest Dreams’ presents Swift as more aware of the probable transience of romantic relationships. In the song, Swift predicts that her current relationship will not last forever, but is determined to enjoy it while it lasts and asks her lover to remember her fondly after they break up. ‘Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)’ is faithful to its original, but also takes everything good about the song and makes it even greater. I always admired Swift’s powerful vocals on this haunting, bittersweet ballad, but here she takes them to a new level: they are even stronger and more emotional than before. ‘Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)’ thus encapsulates the best of what Swift’s re-recordings have to offer.
How You Get The Girl
1989’s tenth track, ‘How You Get The Girl’, is a quintessential Taylor Swift-Max Martin-Shellback collaboration. Glossy synth-pop production complements Swift’s emotive verses, building to an infectious chorus. The track is sweet but never saccharine, and in retrospect, sounds like an early predecessor to Lover’s ‘Paper Rings’. Swift’s skill in translating the semantics of romantic relationships shines on this song. She instructs her subject how to win back their girlfriend as breezily as if she is telling them how to bake a batch of her famous chai sugar cookies. However, lyrics like ‘Remind her how it used to be / Pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks’ lend a retro sentimentality to the song which has only become more nostalgic after nine years with a faithful re-recording. Even in 2023, every time I hear ‘How You Get The Girl’, I am transported back to the 1989 World Tour, dancing around in the stands of a lit-up stadium.
My favourite, and in my opinion possibly one of the most underrated tracks from not only 1989 but Swift’s entire discography, is ‘This Love’. Swift treated fans to her re-released version of the track in 2022 in the trailer for Amazon Prime’s The Summer I Turned Pretty, well before the announcement of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). It is a bittersweet song, perfectly striking the balance between melancholic and wistful. Opening with the soft strum of a guitar, Swift draws on the ocean to construct a central metaphor for her relationship and its cyclical nature. The bridge (‘Your kiss, my cheek / I watched you leave / Your smile, my ghost / I fell to my knees’) reflects the fragmentation of the relationship as Swift invokes the age-old, ‘If you love something, let it go’, and her lover does.
‘This Love’ is hauntingly beautiful, an ethereal masterpiece that I believe perfectly encapsulates the core themes of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). While it is the slowest on the album and lacking the synth that appears in so many songs, it conveys the intense passion and devastating heartbreak that underpins the album.
I Know Places
In the intricate tapestry of Taylor Swift’s musical career, ‘I Know Places’ stands as a testament to her lyrical prowess and storytelling finesse. Released as the twelfth track on 1989, this song is an ode to the art of secrecy and escape. With its haunting melodies and cryptic lyrics, Swift beckons us into a world where love is a clandestine affair and finding refuge in the arms of a lover is a daring act. Swift’s lyrical genius shines as she crafts a vivid narrative of a love pursued in the shadows. The lyrics draw us into a secret realm where the media’s prying eyes and the world’s judgments cannot reach. The bridge’s thunderous drum beats and whispered verses, intensifies the sense of urgency, as if they are running from something far more sinister than the paparazzi.
Swift’s songwriting skills shine through in her ability to evoke emotions and paint a vivid picture, inviting listeners into her world. ‘I Know Places’ resonates not only as a love story but also as a reflection of Swift’s personal journey in dealing with the unrelenting public eye.
Swift does not hold back when it comes to sharing her romantic experiences and ‘Clean’ perfectly displays the process of getting through a heartbreak. Teaming up with singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, Swift delicately plays with metaphors of addiction, drowning, and sobriety throughout the track. Swift carries us through the aftermath of breakup and the final relief of feeling set free from one’s own emotions.
‘Clean’ does not only act as an ode to independence, many have applied the lyrics to various obstacles they are attempting to overcome. I would argue that Swift’s elegant chorus ‘when I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe’ conveys the track’s most significant message, offering a positive viewpoint on our most difficult trials. Swift brings forth the idea that perhaps the most crucial time for healing and freedom comes when we feel like we have reached our lowest point.
A fresh interpretation of ‘Clean’ is provided by 1989 (Taylor’s Version), alluding to her recent master’s dispute and the process of creating her own version of the album. Keeping Imogen Heap on the rerecording serves as a perfect example of how wonderfully two elegant female vocals can harmonise to give listeners a sense of healing and courage through lyrics alone.
When 1989 was initially released, it quickly became one of my favourite albums, and Taylor’s Version was no less of a triumph. ‘Wonderland’ follows a couple who are ‘too in love to think straight’ and fail to recognise that their relationship is not as perfect as it seems. Instead, they become so embedded in the fantasy of having an idealistic relationship, that they create a visionary world in which they choose to ignore the warnings from others. As the title suggests, the song is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In relation to both its influences and overall style, Swift exceptionally presents the appealing nature of being ignorant to the truth. There are multiple uses of contradictory language, as in ‘life was never worse but never better’. She then reflects this onto her listeners as despite the song being centred on a turbulent relationship, the upbeat tone of the pop song encourages its listeners to sing along, glossing over the impact and significance of the lyrics. Overall, it is a beautiful song which manages to romanticise a tumultuous relationship through the fantastical setting of Wonderland.
You Are In Love
In an album full of fan favourites, ‘You Are In Love’ can be overlooked for some of its louder and sassier counterparts. The track is one of the best love songs Swift has ever written. It does not have the tumultuous ride or the promise of only too relatable heartbreak that many of her other songs do; what it does give us is a simple portrait of true love.
The song starts with gentle synths, reminiscent of waves hitting on shore. Immediately it pulls you into the idea that this is a very intimate experience, that you as a listener are eavesdropping on a private moment between lovers. So, when the drive does kick in, the growing energy created gives the impression of an inevitable force pulling them together. It makes you truly believe that this couple are falling for each other with no way of stopping. Swift demonstrates her storytelling prowess by flooding the listener with intricate details of this love story, from ‘buttons on a coat’, to ‘pictures’ in downtown offices. ‘You Are In Love’ is a quiet and understated demonstration of falling in love.
A true masterpiece, and my personal soundtrack to the mid 2010s, ‘New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)’ is, in my view, one of the most anticipated and sensational pop anthems crafted by Swift. I know many of us can relate to ‘We’re all bored / We’re all so tired of everything’ even more in 2023 than in 2014, making this a likely viral hit this time around. The lyrics perfectly articulate the New York imagery that this album encapsulates. Swift also incorporates the 70s term ‘New Romantics’, representing the escapism in music and pop culture but thematically draws it back into the 2010s. Over the last nine years, the song has become something of a fan favourite. The freedom in her voice emphasises her attitude towards the press, relationships at that time, and coming full circle in her fame today. Melodically the build of the song is sensational as well as the breakdown for the bridge, creating a journey that portrays Taylor breaking out of the box she was put in by the media, reminiscent of the tone in ‘Blank Space’. ‘New Romantics’ is a pop anthem that will certainly skyrocket post-27th October.
When Swift released the titles for the hotly anticipated 1989 vault tracks, all of them intrigued me, but ‘“Slut!”’ particularly grabbed my attention. It was during the 1989 era that Swift started to address the intense speculation about, and criticism of, her dating life. Therefore, I predicted that ‘“Slut!”’ would explore these slut-shaming attitudes and discourses, as well as Swift’s personal feelings about them. Given the exclamation mark in the track’s title, I also expected a fast-paced, energetic song with a strong beat.
Disappointingly, ‘“Slut!”’ did not end up being any of these things. The song itself is a slower ballad about a new romantic liaison and Swift’s reflections that maybe this time the relationship will be worth being called a ‘slut’. The song itself has some strong, emotional lyrics (‘Got lovesick all over my bed’) and a dreamy quality to it; it does grow on me the more I listen to it. However, I think that the title is misleading – a song called “‘Slut!”’ gives the impression that the track is going to be a hard-hitting, feminist, pop powerhouse of a song. Personally, I think ‘Drunk in Love’ would be a more fitting title for this song.
Say Don’t Go
In Taylor Swift’s ever-evolving discography, ‘Say Don’t Go’ stands out as a poignant jewel. As the second vault track in the re-released edition of 1989, the song delves deep into the intricate labyrinth of human emotions, offering a profound exploration of the intricate nuances within a relationship poised on the precipice of uncertainty. The line, ‘We’re a shot in the darkest dark,’ adeptly encapsulates the relationship’s fragile nature.
This song presents a narrative of yearning and heartbreak, enveloping the listener in a whirlwind of emotions – sorrow, anxiety, and an insatiable yearning for a love slipping through trembling fingers. Her lyrics deftly conjure vulnerability, immersing the audience in the protagonist’s poignant plea for the other person to want them to stay, even as the relationship appears to unravel. The melody sets a melancholic tone that reflects the lyrical theme. ‘Say Don’t Go’ is a testament to Swift’s songwriting prowess and her unparalleled ability to forge an emotional connection with her audience, resonating with anyone who has experienced the agonising pain of love slipping away.
Now That We Don’t Talk
The most exciting thing to me about 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is that we are given the gift of some amazing songs which we may have otherwise never had the chance to hear. My favourite of these ‘From The Vault’ exclusives is ‘Now That We Don’t Talk’, a short but memorable two-minute song reflecting on the relatable turmoil of going no-contact after a breakup. Taylor perfectly summarises the mixed emotions of this experience, from the sense of regret and longing thinking about the what-ifs, to bitterly trying to convince yourself ‘I’m better off without them’. This song illustrates the honest and raw emotions that come with a break-up, feeling resentment at seeing your ex change and missing how things used to be, despite some feeling of relief – in Swift’s case, of no longer having to pretend to ‘like acid rock’, a favourite lyric of mine.
I find the track to be catchy, authentic, witty, and know I will be playing it on repeat for at least the next couple weeks. I am extremely grateful that Swift finally released this gem from the vault.
The vault track ‘Suburban Legends’ is immediate. From the press of a play button, Swift launches into a scene of a partner receiving calls from unmarked numbers. Over the course of its less than three-minute duration, the song runs at a steady clip through a series of technicolour images. As I heard the track unfold upon my first listen, a million iconic 1980s film stills flashed through my mind. Rather than having the Polaroid-like whimsy found on 1989’s other songs, many of these visuals in this track are cinematic and urgent. Swift sings ‘I am standing in a 1950s gymnasium / And I can still see you now’ at a near-shout among a chorus of passionate harmonies. At the end of the song, you can almost hear her shaking her head in disbelief as she sings ‘I always knew it / That my life would be ruined,’ words which invoke the spirit of the ‘cardigan’ line: ‘But I knew everything when I was young’. While it is one of the more vivid vault tracks, ‘Suburban Legends’ has an air of director-like distance, which makes it stand out amongst its company.
Is It Over Now?
‘Is it Over Now?’ is the final vault track on 1989 (Taylor’s Version) and, arguably, Swift left the best for last. It has hit number one on the ‘Top Global Songs’ chart on Spotify, as well as number one on the Official Singles Chart Top 40 for the week of 3rd November. Since Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was announced in 2021, the vault tracks have been the most anticipated part of the Taylor’s Version re-releases. ‘Is It Over Now?’ is no different, and has quickly become a fan favourite due to speculation about its inspiration as well as the relatability of some of its lyrics. TikTok, in particular, has popularised the lines ‘I think about jumping / Off of very tall somethings / Just to see you come running / And say the one thing / I’ve been wanting, but no’. If there is one thing you can count on Taylor Swift for, it is relatable lyrics and feelings, and I think this is why it is one of the most well-received songs of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) and my personal favourite vault track.
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