Back in 2014, “1989” changed pop music and Taylor Swift’s career in unimaginable ways. The album marked Swift’s shift from country singer to fully-fledged pop star, and the album was both a critical and commercial success, earning her three Grammys, three No. 1 Hot 100 hits and a world tour that grossed over $250 million. Her re-recording of the album, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” (2023), a continuation of Swift’s efforts to reclaim her stolen work, is no different and has once again proven to be a huge success.
A mere two weeks since its release, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” has already broken records. Within a week, the album became the best-selling album of 2023. The album also became Swift’s 13th No. 1 album, marking the biggest opening sales week of her career and of any album since Adele’s “25” (2015). Additionally, thanks to Swift, there were no men present in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart last week. Swift first accomplished this feat when “Midnights” (2022) dominated the entirety of the top 10, but this time she was in the company of SZA’s “Snooze” (2022) at No. 8 and Doja Cat’s “Paint the Town Red” (2023) at No. 4.
Records aside, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is quite possibly her best re-recording yet and much of the credit for that has to go to the “From The Vault” tracks — which is likely a popular opinion considering all five vault tracks charted in the top 10 of the Hot 100. The first vault track sparked much excitement among the Swiftie fandom from just the title alone: “‘Slut!’” The song is similar to “Blank Space” (2014) in how both call out the media for labeling her as a crazy “serial dater.” The chorus of the song, “But if I’m all dressed up/ They might as well be lookin’ at us/ If they call me a slut/ You know it might be worth it for once” is clearly a reference to the media’s consistent slut-shaming of her, but it also shows how Swift does not care about what the media writes about her.
“Say Don’t Go” is yet another heartbreak pop hit from Swift. The song beautifully captures Swift’s longing for a past lover while also grappling with the pain they caused her. In the song, Swift raises the questions “Why’d you have to lead me on?” and “Why’d you have to twist the knife?,” emphasizing her feelings of betrayal. What makes the song so great is the way Swift’s lyrics perfectly capture the complexities of relationships.
“Now That We Don’t Talk” puts a more positive spin on a breakup. The song expresses a sense of relief and acceptance in regards to a breakup, especially with the final lyrics, “Guess this is how it has to be/ Now that we don’t talk.” While the “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” vault tracks are definitely the best compared to the tracks of her last three albums — “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” (2021), “Red (Taylor’s Version)” (2021) and “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” (2023) — “Suburban Legends” is the weakest of the five on this album. There is nothing wrong with the track; it is a fun pop song with a solid beat, but the lyricism is just not as strong as the other vault tracks.
The final track on the album, “Is It Over Now?,” is arguably one of her best vault tracks, featuring Swift’s sassy side, reminiscent of songs like “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)” (2023) with a classic immaculate bridge. Lyrics like “You dream of my mouth before it called you a lying traitor” and “If she’s got blue eyes, I will surmise that you’ll probably date her” have a certain bite that makes you want to scream them at the top of your lungs. The song is the perfect way to end the album, and it makes one wonder, how did this song, and the others, not make the original album?
In addition to the vault tracks, other changes made to the album make the songs even better than they were on the original. Ballads like “You Are In Love” and “Clean” sound more mature and there is an ever-deeper sense of emotion in the tracks while classic fan favorites like “Blank Space” and “Style” retain the same feel fans have come to love with some minor production changes. Perhaps one of the most exciting additions to the album was “Bad Blood (Taylor’s Version) [feat. Kendrick Lamar],” which was not originally included on the tracklist and was released the following day on the deluxe edition. Not only is the track another fan favorite, as evidenced by Swift’s thousands of fans screaming Lamar’s line “You forgive, you forget, but you never let it go” at The Eras Tour, but it is also heartwarming to see fellow artists support Swift’s journey of reclaiming her music by re-recording these songs with her.
“1989” changed Swift’s life and in its rebirth, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” continues to do so. The now-billionaire continues to dominate the music industry, and her latest release can be summarized in her own words: She never goes out of style.