Album Review: Taylor Swift - '1989 (Taylor's Version)'

28 October 2023 | 8:44 am | Tione Zylstra

The mature older sister to the original album, '1989 (Taylor’s Version)', shows how Swift has grown over the years, both in confidence and talent – and saltiness.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift ('1989 (Taylor's Version)' album cover)

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Christmas has come early for Swifties. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is out. Even though we’ve barely recovered from the emotional turmoil of Speak Now TV (TV = Taylor’s Version, for all you uneducated peeps out there), Miss Taylor Swift has provided us with more music. 

In case you’re new to the world of our dear T-Swizzle, she has been rerecording her old albums since 2021 in order to actually own her songs and masters – thanks a lot, Scooter Braun. But, lucky for us, she’s also been releasing “Vault Tracks” – unheard songs that didn’t make the cut on the original album.

So, basically, when it comes to 1989 TV, we have the privilege of hearing the 16 songs we know and love from the OG, as well as five new Vault Tracks. We also get a new album cover – and, to the delight of her fans, 1989 TV is the first album cover where Swift is actually smiling. How cute is that?

Let’s be real, though; you don’t want a deconstruction of her history and album cover. You want the music. So, let’s get into it.

1989 TV is the mature older sister to 1989 (stolen version). You can tell, simply through her vocals, how Swift has grown over the years, both in confidence and talent. Don’t worry, though; it still brings the summery 2014 vibes you get from the original.

The album kicks off with the song you see on everyone’s Insta stories of Times Square – Welcome To New York. The first thing you notice? The HARMONIES. A recurring theme throughout the whole album, Swift’s harmonies overlayed create an unparalleled symphony of voices. This version of Welcome To New York also has a boppier and synthier vibe to it. And that bass drop after the bridge? Insane.

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Blank Space is up next, and these “Starbucks lovers” hit just as hard as they used to. Hearing Swift’s adult voice saying, “I can make the bad guys good for a weekend”, with a little giggle at the end, is guaranteed to send you to a different dimension for a second, just a warning. 

Now, if you don’t know who Style is about, look at the name again. The infamous song about Harry Styles feels different on this album – deeper, smoother, sexier, more mature. Maybe it’s just her voice, or maybe it’s something more. Despite the highest hopes and prayers of all the Swifties, though, Styles does not feature on the song—a devastating blow for all of us.

But, speaking of Mr Styles himself, Out Of The Woods is a song with an iconic – and probably not true – backstory revered by Swifties everywhere. The fans of the pair are convinced that Out Of The Woods tells the tale of Swift and Styles committing vehicular manslaughter. Wild, I know. But hear me out. “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon? Twenty stitches in the hospital room.” Like, come on. And she spends the rest of the song asking if she’s in the clear? Now, I’m not saying it’s true, but I am saying the Swifties could be onto something.

Bad Blood, another song with a convoluted backstory - about Taylor Swift and Katy Perry this time - also feels different. Angrier and bitter vocals are clear, as a more jaded Swift sings a song whose music video was once filled with friends she no longer talks to. 

The two songs on 1989 TV that were already released, Wildest Dreams and This Love, continue to slay. Both songs have heavenly vocals and will make you feel like you’re floating… in a wild dream, perhaps?

To those attracted to women, How You Get The Girl is the step-by-step guide you NEED. In a chorus slightly boppier than the original, Swift teaches you exactly how to get (and keep) the girl of your dreams. Travis Kelce definitely took notes, and you should, too.

A jolt for I Know Places stans, the recurring “I” in the song is a lot more robotic than the original version. But it’s balanced out by the throaty raspiness of the “and we run” line. Perfect.

The distant harmonies in Wonderland are angelic. If this song is what Alice was talking about, I completely understand; carry on. And, in other news, the “rap” (if you can call it that) in Shake It Off is absolutely ICONIC. All we wanted and more.

New Romantics sounds deeper, like Swift has been through more… which she has. She knows exactly what she’s doing in this song – pun intended. 

All You Had To Do Was Stay, I Wish You Would, You Are In Love and Clean all sound quite similar to their original versions. However, new Taylor songs are new Taylor songs, so we’ll take what we can get.

Speaking of new songs, though, we’ve finally made it through to the Vault Tracks. 

Up first is the highly anticipated Slut! Though expected to be the angry-girl feminist anthem we all need, it is surprisingly a calm love song. A direct response to the slut-shaming she’s endured over the years, Swift sings about a love that makes all the abuse worth it. Twinkling synth, the overlay of harmonies, and lyrics that draw you in, Slut! is an intimate song that’s more relatable than you anticipate. We’ve all been (love)sick all over our beds once or twice. 

In a track reminiscent of You’re Losing Me, Swift delivers blow after devastating blow in Say Don’t Go. She has this uncanny ability to write songs with the saddest lyrics and chucking them on the happiest melodies. Have you ever wanted to dance while sobbing? Here’s your chance.

One listen to Now That We Don’t Talk will have you saying it’s one of Swift’s saltiest songs. Perfectly putting into words the feeling of watching a failed situation or talking phase move on, our relatable queen has struck again. Disappointingly, it’s the shortest song on the album, clocking in at a mere 2 minutes and 26 seconds.

The first line of Suburban Legends will have you checking that you’re not listening to Mastermind. It’s always fun to find Vault Tracks that obviously inspired Swift’s later stuff, and this is clearly one of them. This boppy track has a bridge that will leave you absolutely gagged. How dare she write the line, “I broke my own heart ‘cause you were too polite to do it,” and not offer to pay for our therapy?

Quickly dethroning Now That We Don’t Talk as the saltiest song on the album, Is It Over Now? really packs a punch. Seemingly talking about her short stint with Harry Styles, lines include insults like “lying traitor”, “If she's got blue eyes, I will surmise that you'll probably date her”, and “You search in every model's bed for somethin' greater, baby.” And, in a move that no one saw coming, Swift seems to allude even more to that rumour of vehicular manslaughter. Why else would she write, “Whеn you lost control - Red blood, white snow”? The Swifties will be going feral for this one.

And, in true Taylor Swift fashion, just as we were finally recovering from the emotional devastation of everything we just listened to, she gave us a surprise. Eight hours after 1989 TV dropped, she released a deluxe version – which includes a new Bad Blood Remix with Kendrick Lamar. Capturing the energy from the original, it’s almost an out-of-body experience to hear Lamar say the words, “You forgive, you forget, but you never let it go,” all these years later. We love to hear it.

Just like that, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) comes to a close. An epic rerecording with five Vault Tracks to remember, this album is something else entirely. Swift did say it was her favourite album to record again, and we see why. Capturing fun, fire, and fleeting love, 1989 (Taylor Version) does it all. Now excuse us for 5-10 business days while we recover… or until Reputation (Taylor’s Version) is announced.

1989 (Taylor’s Version) is out now.