Taylor Swift’s iconic 2014 album, 1989 has just been released as a re-record into Taylor’s version with 5 new vault tracks. In case you needed a recap as to Taylor Swift’s intricate lore, this is part of an astonishing (almost complete) feat to owning back all her masters which were sold by Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta, who sold it to label executive, Scooter Braun.
1989’s impact was extremely vital to the world of pop music and represented Taylor’s keen ability to reinvent herself as a pop artist, as this was her first album she branded as pop.
The album’s sound is precisely 80s influenced (hence the title) with lots of percussion and electric guitar and insanely memorable hooks (most notably on “Style,” “Blank Space,” and “New Romantics”) and a surprise re-record from Kendrick Lamar on his remix of “Bad Blood."
Since most of the world has heard the original album, let's talk about the vault tracks.
Coming in first is “Slut!,” a song with a dreamy sunset backdrop and her experience with the media’s criticism of her always being in a relationship. Taylor delves into a personal account about being under intense scrutiny from the media but taking the good with the bad when it comes to her very public love life. “But if I’m all dressed up / They might as well be lookin' at us / And if they call me a slut / You know it might be worth it for once / And if I'm gonna be drunk I might as well be drunk in love,'' Swift grapples with the catch 22 of falling in love and being judged harshly by the media for it, which is a common message she’s explored through her music. Here she’s comfortable accepting whatever the media wants to brand her as, as long as she’s happily in love.
“The sticks and stones they throw froze mid-air / Everyone wants him, that was my crime / The wrong place at the right time” here, Taylor brings a metaphor to describe the paparazzi’s judgement of her and her failed relationships (ok and maybe this one is about Harry Styles). This track was reportedly cut from the original “1989” instead of “Blank Space” which was extremely well received. The songs are similar in concept as they both explore the media’s probing of her relationships and the sexism that comes along with it. However, where Blank Space accomplishes this execution in a tongue and cheek angry pop infused tone, “Slut!” surprisingly handles this in a mellow nostalgic dreamlike approach, an incredible way to juxtapose the dichotomy of her experience and emotion being held under such trivial standards.
With a notable co-write from hit songwriter, Diane Warren, Swift vividly describes the pain of being led on and not feeling like she is enough for the person she is currently in love with. The song uses upbeat melodies but the chorus stings with emotion, “Why'd you have to lead me on? / Why'd you have to twist the knife? / Walk away and leave me bleedin', bleedin'? / Why'd you whisper in the dark? / Just to leave me in the night? / Now your silence has me screamin', screamin' / (Say) Say (Don’t) Don’t (Go) Go.”
“Strike a match, then you blow it out / oh no, oh no / it’s not fair / Cause you kiss me and it stops time / and I’m yours but you’re not mine,” the metaphorical language is exemplary as Swift describes a match being blown out as unrequited love and a long silent pause after “you say nothing back”.
This is definitely going to be a fan favorite. It’s Taylor’s shortest song she’s ever made at just a little over 2 minutes. It’s catchy earworm quality, it feels short but will reverberate in your head long after.
“I call my mom, she said that it was for the best / Remind myself, the morе I gave, you'd want me less / I cannot bе your friend, so I pay the price of what I lost / And what it cost, now that we don't talk.” Swift takes some serious shots at her ex (rumored to be about Harry Styles again) in this song, the “you grew your hair long” line raising some serious eyebrows.
The outro – “I don't have to pretend I like acid rock / Or that I'd like to be on a mega yacht / With important men who think important thoughts / Guess maybe I am better off now that we don't talk,” expresses the pop star’s frustration with having to pretend to be interested in obscure music or people please with powerful men just for the sake of a relationship that was probably doomed from the start. For such a short song, Swift’s message cuts pretty deep.
This track definitely has “folklore” vibes with a strong storytelling arc and vivid details - “You’d be more than a chapter in my old diaries with the pages ripped out / I am standin’ in a 1950s gymnasium and I can still see you now.” Dave Portnoy (BarStool Sports President and a huge Swiftie) ranked this song his favorite of the 1989 vault tracks.
“I didn't come here to make friends / We were born to be suburban legends / When you hold me, it holds me together / And you kiss me in a way that's gonna screw me up forever.” This song doesn’t have the classic ear candy hook and glittery aura of the rest of 1989 but it has magical nostalgic value and biting lyrics - “I broke my own heart ‘cause you were too polite to do it.”
This is the last track on the album, an obvious nod to the album’s close in the title. A psychedelic intro and detailed recount of a skiing accident (“Whеn you lost control / Red blood, white snow”)(with maybe Harry Styles again) this is definitely a standout track.
“Let's fast forward to three hundred takeout coffees later / I see your profile and your smile on unsuspecting waiters / You dream of my mouth before it called you a lying traitor / You search in every maiden's bed for somethin' greater, baby / Was it over when she laid down on your couch? / Was it over when he unbuttoned my blouse?” In these lyrics there’s noticeable melodic similarities to “Out of The Woods” and “I Wish You Would” and intense sensual lyricism perfectly describing the passion and drama that comes with an unfaithful lover.
“And did you think I didn't see you? / There were flashin' lights / At least I had the decency to keep my nights out of sight / Only rumors 'bout my hips and thighs / And my whispered sighs / Oh, Lord, I think about jumpin' / Off of very tall somethings / Just to see you come runnin' / And say the one thing I've been wanting,” here Swift’s vulnerability extends to a borderline suicidal lyric expressing how deeply unseen she feels by her lover (*cough cough* Harry Styles).
Overall, Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) lays out the same 80s style glitter pop, vocal glamor and creative lyrical merit as the original, only this time with 5 hidden (now revealed) tracks. The vault tracks add more to the story and mystery of Taylor Swift’s original albums creating questions like - why were these tracks cut? Who are these new (but old) songs about? Increasing the stamina and size of Taylor Swift’s vast and rich discography.
The five added vault tracks on 1989 definitely add more emotion and narrative but sometimes feel like a separate piece of work which is most likely why they were cut from the original. This doesn’t make them any less exceptional but sometimes feels closer in genre to her newer work (Midnights and folklore) and like Jack Antonoff’s handprints are all over them, which is typically a blessing but feels repetitive at times. Fan favorites will definitely be “Slut!”, “Now That We Don’t Talk” and “Is It Over Now?”.
1989 is a monumental album in Taylor Swift’s career because she was able to demonstrate her versatility and her incredible talent as a pop star while doing what she does best: confessing her vulnerabilities in her very public relationships, reflecting on the media’s disapproval of her using that to fuel her prodigious songwriting and smash hits. Taylor’s version is a manifestation of Swift’s ability to reclaim her power and continue to exhibit her authenticity as an artist.