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Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Observer

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Scene Selections: ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’

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For the past few years, Taylor Swift has been the woman of the moment. With the Eras Tour and its ensuing drama, the release of 10th studio album “Midnights” and her upcoming concert film, the 33-year-old is at the center of pop culture. One of her most popular ventures so far has been the rerelease of her old works under the classification of “Taylor's Version.” This arose as a result of Big Machine Records — Swift’s old record label — selling the masters of her first six albums to music executive Scooter Braun, who has supposedly bullied and demeaned her in the past. Now, in order for her to reclaim her life’s work, she has been re-recording the albums along with songs ”from the vault,” which never made it to the final cut of the LPs. “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” was her most recent re-recording release, and the Scene Staff has a lot to say about each of the tracks.

 

“Mine (Taylor’s Version)”

Anna Falk, Scene Editor

Love — whether it has saved us or broken us apart — is something so deeply human that we can’t help but make countless pieces of art about it. “Mine (Taylor’s Version)” is a combination of the two ends of the love spectrum, expressing Swift’s deep concern about forming a lasting romantic relationship despite the euphoria she feels when in the presence of her partner. Her parents' broken marriage has made her cautious of love, but her partner makes her second guess her stance (similar to Paramore’s “The Only Exception”). “Mine (Taylor's Version)” is upsettingly relatable, and my heart always wrenches at the line, “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.” How could she write that line and expect people to be OK?

 

“Sparks Fly (Taylor’s Version)”

Claire McKenna, Scene Writer

Words cannot describe how much I fell in love with this song over the summer. The original version of “Sparks Fly” came out when I was six years old, and I haven’t really listened to it since then. There are a lot of songs I did not remember from this album, but this song brought back so many memories for me. I can just see six-year-old Claire jamming out, singing “Drop everything now” at the top of her lungs. I love it for the nostalgia factor alone, but the romance factor triples my love for this song. Is there any image more romantic than someone dropping everything to meet you in the pouring rain? No. I didn’t think so. “Sparks Fly (Taylor's Version)” is the perfect blend of past Claire’s enthusiasm for Taylor Swift and current Claire’s enthusiasm for romance (and Taylor Swift).

 

“Back To December (Taylor’s Version)”

Anthonia Okechukwu, Scene Writer

Taylor Swift has written many songs about heartbreak, with many of them exposing the misdeeds of the people she dated. “Back to December” is one of those heartbreak songs, but instead of singing about regretting ever dating a guy, she expresses regret over the breakup. The line “So this is me swallowing my pride / Standing in front of you, sayin’, ‘I’m sorry for that night’” reminds me of the quote “Not everyone is meant to stay in your life. Sometimes they are only there long enough to teach you a lesson.” “Back to December (Taylor’s Version)” feels like it has grown out of just being about a relationship and reminds me of all the great moments in my life that I would give anything to relive. It feels like she was not expressing regret anymore but rather satisfaction with her past and present.

 

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)

Christina Sayut, Graphics Editor

Whenever I think about wanting to listen to this album, I can’t start anywhere other than with “Speak Now (Taylor's Version).” Something about hearing the first two strums of her guitar sends me into a frenzy. To me, this song is perfect. Just like Taylor says, “I am not the kind of girl / Who should be rudely barging in on a white veil occasion.” But at least this song gives me enough visualization to believe I am truly there, breaking up a wedding and reuniting with the love of my life. This song was the one I was the most excited for in the re-recordings, and it definitely exceeded any and all expectations I had for it.

 

“Dear John (Taylor’s Version)”

Gabrielle Beechert, Assistant Managing Editor

Despite John Mayer’s claims that “Dear John” is “cheap songwriting,” this song — even 13 years later — is some of Swift’s strongest writing. At 19-years-old, Swift had a talent for articulating her emotions in a way I can only wish I possessed at her age. While some critics argue the re-recording lacks the same passion of the original, I think it’s somewhat unreasonable to expect Swift to feel the exact same emotions she experienced right after the breakup. But even if Swift’s over it, I don’t think I ever will be. She was 19. “You are an expert at sorry and keeping lines blurry / Never impressed by me acing your tests / All the girls that you’ve run dry have tired lifeless eyes / ‘Cause you burned them out.” 

 

“Mean (Taylor’s Version)”

Claire McKenna, Scene Writer

Let’s get one fact straight: “Mean” is a country song. I mean, there’s a fiddle in it. If nothing else, that should have been everyone’s clue to this song’s genre. However, Taylor doesn’t sing her version of the song in a country accent. She sings “Mean” as a pop singer, and it ruins the song. Being from Philadelphia, she must have had to learn how to sing in a country accent to become a country singer in the first place. I cannot understand for the life of me why Taylor could not have taken that country accent out of the closet, brushed it off and put it back on. When I listen to the song, I cannot help but think of how good lines like “wildfire lies” would have sounded — and did sound — in a country accent. Many of the songs on “Speak Now” still sounded just as good after being re-recorded. “Mean” did not.

 

“The Story Of Us (Taylor’s Version)”

Natalie Allton, Scene Writer

I’m not really a Swiftie — call me Swifterland, the way I stay neutral — but, damn, if I don’t get down to “The Story Of Us (Taylor's Version).” In many ways, it’s Taylor at her peak: The song is both a heartbreak anthem and a club banger, built to be both silently sobbed to and screamed out loud. It’s a pop-rock ballad, but Taylor’s country roots are at the song’s heart. Her lyricism is understated but hits home for anyone who’s ever been, as she eloquently puts it, “standing alone in a crowded room.” All the hallmarks of the “Speak Now” era are exemplified in “The Story Of Us (Taylor's Version)” — the drama, the heartbreak, the longing and, above all, the ability to go absolutely bonkers while listening. 

 

“Never Grow Up (Taylor’s Version)”

Cozette Brown, Scene Writer

“Never Grow Up” first hit CD collections and iPod playlists when I was in kindergarten. At that age, I viewed adulthood as a magical milestone that, once reached, would make life so much better and more exciting. With the release of “Never Grow Up (Taylor’s Version),” I’ve had reason to view that milestone through new eyes. Now that I get to take myself to the movies and call the shots myself, I can definitely say I want kindergarten me to never grow up. While adulthood has its benefits, it also comes with its growing pains and heartbreaks. When I listen to “Never Grow Up” now, it’s so I can preserve a part of that little kindergartener who still has “nothing to regret.” I just hope my dormmates won’t mind watching me romp around in my PJs so I don’t lose the way I used to dance “getting ready for school.”

 

“Enchanted (Taylor’s Version)”

Cecelia Swartz, Scene Writer

“Enchanted (Taylor’s Version)” delivers a beautiful, heartfelt ballad of what-ifs and what-could-have-beens. It’s about missed connections and the beauty of a single, flawless moment in time. Listening to it 13 years after its original release adds an extra layer of wistfulness. The original is a young Taylor just on the cusp of adulthood. The re-release is a mature Taylor who reflects back both on the missed connection of that one perfect night and on the beautiful innocence of the younger version of herself. There is a certain depth in her voice on the “Taylor’s Version” track that is not there on the 2010 version. Years later, she perfectly captures the feeling of relishing in the memory of one beautiful moment, and it is indeed enchanting. 

 

“Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)”

Meghan Lange, Saint Mary’s News Editor

I’ve loved Taylor’s music since I was little. When my dad would watch the CMT station every morning while my sister and I were getting ready for school, without fail one of Taylor’s music videos would come on, and we would stop everything to watch. While there was never an official music video for this song, it has always been one of my all-time favorites. That being said, while I completely support Taylor in her effort to be a  woman who supports other women, I do have to say — I miss the feeling of the feminism leaving my body for about five seconds during the lines “She’s better known for the things that she does / On the mattress, whoa.” I applaud Taylor for being able to change the line so seamlessly, but I miss the original. The re-recording just doesn’t have the same power it used to. Taylor, sweetie, it’s OK to be toxic sometimes — it can even be fun! 

 

“Innocent (Taylor’s Version)”

Luke Foley, Scene Writer

I always found this song wonderfully patronizing. Yes, the song is technically Taylor forgiving Kanye for the 2009 VMA incident, but it comes off as Taylor talking to a little kid in a timeout chair, with lyrics like “Thirty-two and still growing up now,” “Wasn't it easier in your lunchbox days?” and “I guess you really did it this time.” It’s brilliant. She’s reclaiming this highly embarrassing situation by demonstrating her maturity and grace while still rightfully highlighting Kanye’s immature behavior through clever lyricism.

 

“Haunted(Taylor’s Version)

Michael Askins, Scene Writer

“Haunted” was one of my first introductions to Taylor Swift, and the re-recorded version is still one of my favorites on “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” This album, and “Haunted” especially, is for anyone who says that all Taylor Swift songs sound the same. The electric guitar and string orchestra make for an epic pop-rock anthem that really stands out in her discography. While “Haunted (Taylor’s Version)” lacks some of the punch and emotion of the original, its slightly more subdued production and matured vocals still do the song justice. The lyrics explore that feeling of being “haunted” by the memories of a past relationship you just can’t believe is actually over. It details being in denial that a person you loved is no longer in your life, yet you are still haunted by them. While I do love the production on this version, I must say rest in peace “Haunted (Acoustic Version).”

 

“Last Kiss (Taylor’s Version)”

Eve Balseiro, Scene Writer

Often regarded as Taylor Swift’s saddest song, “Last Kiss” explores the pain and isolation that accompanies heartbreak. This breakup anthem includes hard-hitting lyrics such as “So I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep / And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe.” Swift addresses the forlorn feeling of helplessly watching someone get over you. The “Taylor’s Version” is no different, though the more recent version does have its faults. In the original version, Swift takes what Swifties have coined as the “shaky breath” at 4:26. The breath captures the emotional connection Swift once had to the piece and to her former relationship. The breath is notably absent in “Last Kiss (Taylor's Version).” Regardless, “Last Kiss” remains a consistent fan-favorite, as the lyrics still pack an emotional punch. 

 

“Long Live (Taylor’s Version)”

Erin Drumm, Scene Writer

“Long Live (Taylor’s Version)” is a standout song in Swift’s discography. The song is an ode of gratitude to Swift’s band and devoted fans during her 2009-2010 Fearless Tour. Swift sings of her future self looking back on her success and recalling the moment she and her band were on top of the world. Thirteen years later, “Long Live (Taylor's Version)” is more emotionally packed than the original. With the Eras Tour, Taylor Swift is more on top of the world than ever. Since the release of “Speak Now (Taylor's Version),” “Long Live (Taylor's Version)” is the only song that has been added to the Eras Tour setlist. As an avid fan of Swift, hearing her sing “Long live the walls we crashed through / I had the time of my life with you” to her fans is nothing short of magical.

Long live “Long Live (Taylor’s Version)!”

 

“Ours(Taylor’s Version)

Ashley Hedge, Scene Writer

The first and most important fact about “Ours” is that it is criminally underrated. It ends the original with a beautiful parallel to opening track “Mine.” I would even go so far as to say its casual beat and heartfelt lyrics contain all the markings of Swift’s best love songs. It shows the kind of stability and contentment in a relationship hardly seen until Swift’s later work. Beyond that, it echoes “Mine”’s consolation of a partner in the bridge, flipping the roles established in the opening song of the album, with lines like “Your hands are tough, but they are where mine belong and / I’ll fight their doubt and give you faith with this song for you.” It rounds out the album with this full circle moment, highlighting the growth undergone by Swift during this period in her life and through the making of this album.  

 

“Superman(Taylor’s Version)

Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

Full disclosure: I picked this song because I like Superman. I liked the song when I heard it as well, but I just like Superman. Something that struck me about this number was the focus on the loved one rather than the emotions the singer feels. I often feel Swift’s music focuses more on the feeling of loving another rather than any actual description of a person. “Superman,” however, feels much more about the lover rather than how he makes the singer feel. This song reminds me of the perception Superman himself faces as a character, beyond the running metaphor for the narrator’s loved one. “Superman” feels like a standard, solid love song, but there’s many like it that perhaps do more with the ideas. Regardless, the subtle simplicity and the strong present elements are what make it a stand-out to me. And, like I said before. I just really like Superman. 

 

“Electric Touch (ft. Fall Out Boy) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”

Allison Srp, Scene Writer

During the lead-up to “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” I was more excited for this song on my roommate’s behalf than my own. Nevertheless, the excitement of looking at Spotify while listening and realizing what was next was a Taylor Swift song I had never heard before was unmatched. I sent my friends a truly deranged voice text about that feeling — in my defense, it was around two in the morning. And if there’s any song to listen to at two in the morning while being that excited, it’s “Electric Touch.” The aforementioned roommate loves “Speak Now” for it punk-rock-adjacent qualities, and this song epitomizes that. Patrick Stump’s voice caught me off guard at first, as it’s quite different from the Ed Sheeran-esque collabs I’m used to from Taylor, but there’s an addictive quality to the song that has kept it on my Spotify “On Repeat” playlist almost constantly since it came out. 

 

“When Emma Falls in Love (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”

Allison Elshoff, Scene Writer

This is easily my favorite song of the “From The Vault” tracks. Its lyrics showcase Taylor Swift’s incredible ability to capture other people’s essence in a song (see: “The Last Great American Dynasty,” the “Folklore” love triangle, “You Are In Love,” etc). Rumor has it that the song is about Swift’s casual bestie Emma Stone. Listening to it, one builds an idea of Emma in their mind that I think Andrew Garfield summarized best when he said “She was like a shot of espresso. She was like being bathed in sunlight.” We all have an Emma in our lives — someone who just radiates charisma and wears their heart on their sleeve. For all the Emmas out there, you won with this song.

 

“I Can See You (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”

Rose Androwich, News Writer

I’ve always considered myself a Swiftie, and one of my favorite parts of the re-recordings is the “From The Vault” tracks. When I first listened to “I Can See You,” it was one I skipped at first — until I saw the fan theory that it was written about Taylor Lautner. I began listening to the song multiple times, looking for clues to confirm the truth within the theory. Listening closer to the lyrics, I fell in love with the song. “I could see you in your suit and your necktie / Passed me a note saying, ‘Meet me tonight.’” The lyrics are just one aspect of the song that makes it one of my favorite “FTV” tracks. While I originally thought I’d just spend hours listening to the originals, I would now consider this song one I am unable to skip. 

 

“Castles Crumbling (ft. Hayley Williams) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”

Cozette Brown, Scene Writer

Anyone who’s followed Taylor Swift’s career throughout the years might find “Castles Crumbling” — a “From The Vault” song — as fascinating as I did when discovering it on “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” Around the time Taylor wrote “Castles Crumbling,” the public eye was shifting its view of her from “Kanye West victim” to “serial dater.” The lyrics of “Castles Crumbling” reflect this context, and I find it interesting that Taylor hid them from us until now. “Castles Crumbling” records Taylor’s tumultuous rise-and-fall (then rise again) career in a way that appears much more modest and vulnerable than the brazen alternative of “Look What You Made Me Do.” For anyone who thought “Reputation” was more off-putting than empowering, I suggest you give Taylor one more chance to explain herself through “Castles Crumbling.” 

 

“Foolish One (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”

Claire Lyons, Viewpoint Editor

“Foolish One” is for every lover girl who has been devastated by a situationship, and I’m (unfortunately) one of them.

Getting ghosted sucks. Staring at the “Delivered” in a text thread in the middle of the night might actually be the worst feeling in the world. A week passes, then another, then a month, then a month and a half with no reply — just like this song, sitting unfinished in the vault. 

You did well letting go of this one, Ms. Swift. 

Life truly gets better when you “Stop checkin’ your mailbox for confessions of love / That ain’t never gonna come,” but thanks for paying homage to that small foolish part of us which is longing for a text back.

 

“Timeless (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)”

Lucia Aguzzi, Scene Writer

The closing track of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is a prime example of the incredible storyteller Ms. Swift is and just how vividly she can paint a scene. From entering the antique shop and looking at the 25-cent pictures to listing a number of iconic images of love (a 1940s lover off to war, a 1500s forbidden love), she puts her own relationship on par with those idealized versions of love. It is reminiscent of “Love Story,” where she tells a happier version of Romeo and Juliet, and it pulls at the heartstrings to realize that kind of love is attainable in a modern world, just as she tells her partner “You’re always gonna be mine / We’re gonna be [timeless].” “Timeless (Taylor's Version)” is the perfect final track for an album filled with young love and coming-of-age sentiments that so many young women relate to, leaving the listener with a lasting feeling of hope and happiness.