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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

Reliving her ‘wildest dreams’

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s release of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” reminds us once again that she ‘never goes out of style’
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Republic Records
Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift smiles on the cover of her newest album, surrounded by five seagulls. On Oct. 27, the night of “1989’s” re-release, Swift took to Instagram to let out her thoughts on finally owning the masters of her most influential album in pop music. “I was born in 1989, reinvented for the first time in 2014, and a part of me was reclaimed in 2023 with the re-release of this album I love so dearly,” Swift wrote.

On Aug. 9, global superstar and decorated musical veteran Taylor Swift kicked off the final night of the U.S. leg of her Eras Tour at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles, performing in front of more than 70,000 screaming fans. The impressive large-scale show is divided into 10 different sections corresponding to nine of her 10 albums and one section reserved for two different surprise songs every night. During the show, fans were treated to new bright blue outfits for the “Speak Now” and “folklore” album eras, a color that is emblematic of her album “1989.” Then, after coming out in a blue two-piece set for the “1989” section and a blue duster for the two surprise songs, she announced what fans had been waiting for more than two years — “1989 (Taylor’s Version)”.

“1989,” named after her birth year and originally released in 2014, was Swift’s fifth studio album; more pivotally, it marked Swift’s coronation into pop music as her first holistically synth-pop record. The album was originally conceptualized after her previous project, “Red,” received criticism for attempting to introduce pop elements while still remaining a country album. However, “1989” proved various skeptical critics wrong with an impressive list of chart-topping radio singles that launched Swift to the top of the music industry and cemented her as a master of multiple genres. Featuring monumental pop producers such as Max Martin and Ryan Tedder, the tracks brought nostalgic soundscapes alongside electronic progressions while upholding Swift’s well-admired lyrical imagery, solidifying its place as a high standard for pop music to come. The album earned itself several titles afterward, including the recognition as the most-awarded pop album of all time.

The era of “1989” itself also featured one of Swift’s most identifiable periods of her career. Initiated by her move to New York City, the time period was characterized by Swift’s short hair debut, newfound street style, polaroid pictures and her prioritization of going out with friends. The stark change from Swift’s previous experiences of her coinciding private and public life left an impression of a rebirth as a pop star unbound by her relationship status. The famous 1989 Secret Sessions following the original album’s release cemented the clear emphasis on friendship connection that Swift associated with the new era, inviting fans to listen to the entirety of “1989” pre-release, alongside the star in her various homes across the world.

Despite rampant success during the original era, not everything went well for Swift during her release of 1989. While she was at the highest point of her career thus far, Swift faced extreme scrutiny from the media about her personal life. As her accomplishments grew, so did the narratives that quickly began to spin about Swift’s personal life. Swift was also facing many body image struggles at this time, as reflected on in her 2020 Netflix documentary “Miss Americana.” But, through the introduction of her re-recordings, Swift has gained a chance to revisit the last eras of her life through matured eyes and can use the support from her fans to relive the era in a much healthier way.

Fans had been waiting for the album announcement ever since Sept. 17, 2021, when Swift released “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” in response to a TikTok trend that used its bridge. The next taste of “1989 (Taylor’s Version) that fans got was on May 6, 2022, when “This Love (Taylor’s Version)” was featured in the Prime Video series “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” After that, besides speculative fan theories that often turned out to be untrue, all was silent on Swift’s front until Aug. 9, when she announced the album.

In preparation for the release, Swift collaborated with Google to create a series of trivia word search puzzles about her life during the “1989” era for her fans to solve when they looked up her name in order to unlock the names of the new “From The Vault” tracks. Eventually, her fans hit the astonishing 33 million puzzle quota and unlocked the names of the vault tracks, with the exception of “‘Slut!’ (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” whose title was given via a cryptic Instagram post on Swift’s account.

“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” released at midnight on Oct. 27th, the nine-year anniversary of the original album, with 21 tracks — 13 standard tracks, three deluxe tracks, and five never-before-heard vault tracks, written by Swift for the original album but scrapped from the final tracklist. A deluxe version of the album with the “Bad Blood” remix re-recording featuring American rapper Kendrick Lamar released later that day. 

While the objective of the album is to recreate the original tracklist as close to the original as possible, that didn’t stop Swift from adding in new embellishments or making previously unheard elements more prominent in the mix. Songs like “Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)” boast powerful vocals and pulsing synth-scapes, while other songs like “How You Get The Girl (Taylor’s Version)” and “I Know Places (Taylor’s Version)” incorporate stronger, more emotional vocal performances.

With nine years of new experiences separating the original from the re-release, many of the songs have changed meanings in the context of Swift’s life. Her quippy vocals in “Blank Space (Taylor’s Version),” a song in which she becomes the character that the media portrayed her to be, take on a new meaning after “reputation.” Now, her voice conveys a carefree nature in tone without the weight of the heightened scrutiny she faced at the time. Similarly, the introspective and ruminative lyrics of “Clean (Taylor’s Version)” include an augmented retrospective aspect after Swift’s years in and out of the spotlight, battling personal and public struggles. As she sings “10 months older, I won’t give in. Now that I’m clean I’m never gonna risk it,” the impact of the words settle into fans after following her decade-long path to stability in the spotlight. 

Despite the elevation of these tracks, not every alteration on the rerelease was met with satisfaction from Swift’s fan base. Most notably scrutinized was “Style (Taylor’s Version),” particularly with its seemingly filtered version of the guitar solo in its introduction. Throughout the song, listeners also felt less energetic vocals in the chorus and less nostalgic emotion from the electronically-produced background. Another song that was subject to scrutiny was “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)” due to its more computerized sound compared to the original, which sounded jarring at times, especially in the final chorus. 

Even with these changes, Swift has done the iconic tracks justice, with a remarkable re-recording that encapsulates the original fun and animated energy with refined production and matured vocals. After “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)” concludes, the record goes into new territory, exploring five new vault tracks. Many fans were taken by surprise that there were only five after Swift previously stated that she wrote over 100 songs for the album. However, the selective choice allowed for, in Swift’s opinion, her favorite vault tracks of all the re-recordings.

‘Slut!’ (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” is the first vault track. The song, similar to tracks on Swift’s 2022 release, “Midnights,” lives in a hazy, atmospheric production with lyrics that harken back to “Blank Space (Taylor’s Version),” with its themes dealing with public image and media scrutiny. However, in contrast, “Slut! (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” turns her image around in the context of a romantic relationship with the line, “if they call me a ‘slut,’ you know it might be worth it for once.” 

The next vault track is “Say Don’t Go (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” in which Swift brandishes her lower, fuller range in the beginning and then travels into a sparse chorus before hitting a cathartic post-chorus similar to that of “All You Had To Do Was Stay (Taylor’s Version).” Swift has always been known for creating great bridges in her songs, and “Say Don’t Go (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” probably has the strongest bridge of all the vault tracks, with repetitive, echoing callouts and a dramatic pause after Swift sings “I said ‘I love you,’ you say nothing back.” Lyrically, she juxtaposes the upbeat sound of the track with melancholic lyrics about someone falling out of love and the desperation of wanting them back, constantly repeating phrases like “I would stay forever if you say ‘don’t go.’”

The Pathfinder’s ranking of the 22 tracks on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” (Graphic by Samir Shaik and Risa Cidoni) (Samir Shaik)

Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” Swift’s third vault track, brings fans back to the punchy pop sounds of the 80s, following a reflective tale of the aftermath of a relationship. With a cadenced electronic synth beat — reminiscent yet again of “Midnights” backing tracks — the song opens up with contemplative verses in Swift’s lower register. As the kick drum background expands, the song transitions to a high-range, intense melody with heavily layered vocals and harmonies to create a breezy tone. Ending the song abruptly with the acapella line, “Now that we don’t talk,” the two-and-a-half minute song left some wanting more angsty lyrics in the bridge and a third repeat of the chorus. However, the rhythmic beat generally left her listeners bopping along, and the pensive yet bitter lyrics encompassed the mental cacophony of looking back on a meaningful relationship.

With its bright arpeggiators and four-on-the-floor kick drum, “Suburban Legends (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” represents a more mellow moment on the record, as Swift once again opts for a “Midnights”-esque feeling that is most similar to the song “Mastermind.” In the song, Swift longs for the person who she loves to love her back, paralleling “Say Don’t Go,” and explains in detail how their love story would unravel in her fantasies. The title of the song itself also seems to represent Swift’s journey as an artist. She grew up in the small town of West Reading, Pa. and moved to Nashville to further pursue her music career, dropping out of traditional high school and becoming homeschooled to put her career at the center of her focus. The themes and production in “Suburban Legends (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” are delightfully homey and feel as though Swift is completing a full circle in her career, revisiting her hometown roots after the original “1989” era.

Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” the final vault track and the closing track for “1989 (Taylor’s Version), served as somewhat of an unexpected surprise for many listeners. The standout song, beginning with a short clip of layered noise, featured a sonically-intriguing backing track with repeated siren-like sounds over hazy instrumentals. Growing into an uptempo drum beat, Swift jumps into the catchy chorus with descriptive lyricism visualizing a story of an unhealthy relationship. The second chorus, with lyrics such as “red blood, white snow,” grew fan speculation about its references to significant public events during Swift’s theorized relationship with British singer Harry Styles. From there, Swift asks a series of rhetorical questions directed at the subject of the song about if their relationship can survive even after both of them have done wrong. Overall, the song’s similarity to fan favorites such as “Out Of The Woods (Taylor’s Version)” simply guaranteed the track for public appreciation. 

In conclusion, the vault tracks are spectacular additions to the album although their sound feels slightly more nuanced than the original tracks. Each of the five songs have elements that tie back to the rest of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” creating a cohesive and fun ending to the album. These tracks should all eventually become classic pop hits of Swift’s, and, knowing her success rate on the charts so far, they will be. 

This re-recording gives us no reason to have any bad blood with Swift and her collaborators. For skillfully recreating the emotion of the original album while giving fans more to explore through new vault tracks and altered pre-existing tracks, Pathfinder ranks “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” a 9/10.

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About the Contributors
Samir Shaik, Multimedia/Sports Editor
Pronouns: he/him Grade: 11 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "The Rainbow Fish." Who is your hero? My mom. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Peaches.
Risa Cidoni, Features Editor
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 11 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "Where the Crawdads Sing." Who is your hero? My grandma. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Green grapes.
Emily Early, Editor-in-Chief
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 4 What is your favorite piece of literature? "Turtles all the way down" by John Green. Who is your hero? My parents, always. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Realistically, avocado toast, but I really want to say blueberries.
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  • W

    Will GonsiorNov 2, 2023 at 11:43 am

    Awesome review, you three!
    Everybody talking about Scooter Braun, not enough talking about Karl Sandberg (Max Martin). Like Coldplay letting loose with “Coloratura” after putting up with Martin for the rest of “Music of the Spheres,” it’s good to see this album freed from the original overproduction.

    Reply
  • L

    Lauren HolcombNov 2, 2023 at 8:16 am

    this is the most well-written review I’ve ever read not EVEN KIDDING

    Reply