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Sunday, April 14, 2024
The Observer

‘1989 (Taylor's Version)’: The pop bible remastered

Anna Falk | The Observer

Taylor Swift’s first full pop album has finally joined the “Taylor’s Version” ranks of re-recordings, and I would like to say that blondie did not disappoint. “1989” has been referred to as a “pop bible” by many since 2014, so recreating what I would consider a near-perfect hit album, especially without its original producers, was a prospect that scared many fans. I sat down at 12:05 a.m. on Friday (after Spotify stopped crashing) to immerse myself in the first listen, and the synth sounds of “Welcome to New York” lovingly embraced me like a hug. 

One thing I can say without a doubt about “1989 (Taylor's Version)” is that Jack Antonoff’s tracks were improved at the re-recording. Antonoff has worked closely with Swift for years, but the original “1989” was where their creative journey began. Listening during the early morning hours of Friday, I was amazed by the improved production of songs like “Out Of The Woods” and “I Wish You Would,” both of which were already in my top-5 tracks from the album. I do not long for the original versions of these two songs.

Continuing with the theme of improvement, two fan favorites in which Taylor’s vocals are now more pronounced and better are “Clean” and “You Are In Love.” I will admit that I was never particularly attached to either of these because, while the lyrical content is beautiful, the distant and breathy vocals weren’t my style. I can say, however, that I will be playing their Taylor’s Versions much more than the originals, seeing as Taylor doesn’t sound as hidden as she did before. Swift brought back producer Imogen Heap for “Clean” and Antonoff produced “You Are In Love” again — as he did on the original. The thread we see here is that for the tracks that were produced by their original team, there are notable improvements that make Taylor’s Versions that much more valuable. 

That, however, is where much of the thread ends for me. If “1989” was a pop bible, “Style” and “New Romantics” could be considered the pop gospels, and the absence of pop production kings Max Martin and Shellback is definitely felt in Taylor's Versions. While Antonoff did a fine job, I personally think the magic of the originals is slightly missing. The clearer guitar sound in the intro of “Style” just doesn’t release the same serotonin that the muffled sound on the original does for me. 

Antonoff was all over this album, which makes it unsurprising that he was the producer on all five of the vault tracks. As per usual, he was all over the synths on the tracks, giving them an aura of the “Midnights” album — of which he also produced a large portion. My personal favorite is “Is It Over Now,” mainly because I too would jump from a very high height to watch 2013 Harry Styles running to me. The lyrics on the vault tracks all have similar themes as many other songs on "1989," namely the satire of the media calling Taylor a “Slut!” and Harry Styles being a messy boyfriend. I personally enjoy the tracks, and after a few listens they continue to grow on me, but in my opinion “Red (Taylor's Version)” continues to have the best vault. 

Overall, the goal of “1989 (Taylor's Version)” was largely accomplished. Swift even gave the fans the re-recorded version of “Bad Blood” featuring Kendrick Lamar, a fan favorite, and successfully made an album that sounds close enough to the original to the point where the nostalgia hits the same way. Whether I will ethically listen to downloaded versions of the original “Style” every once in a while is up for discussion, but I will definitely solely listen to “1989 (Taylor's Version)” all the way through for the foreseeable future.