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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

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Scene Selections: ‘1989 (Taylor's Version)’

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Trey Paine | The Observer


Once again, Taylor Swift is the woman of the moment as her newest album “1989 (Taylor's Version)” debuted at No 1. on the Billboard 200. The album is the latest in her venture to rerecord her first six studio albums in order to reclaim ownership of her work from Big Machine Labels, her former record label. Taylor's Version of 1989 includes all 16 of the songs on the original deluxe version of the album and five previously unreleased “From the Vault” tracks, and the Scene Staff had a lot to say about all of them.

“Welcome to New York (Taylor’s Version)”

Luke Foley, Scene Writer

I am usually dissatisfied with the changes in many of the Taylor’s Version songs, but Taylor did a pretty good job with “Welcome to New York (Taylor’s Version).” The pulsating bassline, glittery synths, and Taylor’s wonderstruck vocals are all reproduced accurately and sound great. I know this song is quite simple and doesn’t have the lyrical depth or potency of some of her other songs, but I have always liked it and found it to be a fun opener that sets the effervescent tone for the rest of the album. However, it is a tragedy that during touring, Taylor is usually unable to play this song in actual New York, instead being relegated to … East Rutherford, New Jersey. New York is the greatest city in the world, and yet they can’t build a football stadium. Sad!

“Blank Space (Taylor’s Version)”

Christine Hilario, Scene Writer

The original “Blank Space (Taylor’s Version)” produced by Max Martin and Shellback is pretty much pop perfection, and you can’t improve upon perfection. Therefore, basically every change producer Christopher Rowe made to the Taylor’s Version of the track was for the worse. The re-record, simply put, sounds muddier. The snare hits at the beginning last a little bit too long, there’s an electronic droning during the chorus that’s weirdly prominent and distracting and even the iconic pen click sounds less crisp. Along with the the less-than-stellar changes in production, Swift’s vocal delivery just doesn’t hit the same. There’s an air of mischief in her vocals on the original track that perfectly complements the tone of the song, and it isn’t as present on Taylor’s Version. Overall, this re-record is a disappointment to Starbucks lovers everywhere. 

“Style (Taylor’s Version)” 

Joche Sánchez Córdova, Assistant Managing Editor

“Style” has been one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs for basically forever. It's such a sexy pop song and every time I hear it I feel like I'm walking the runway. Literally, everything about the song adds to that feeling for me. I mean the chorus is literally "You got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt, / and I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt." Like, come on. But even more, it's the feeling of it. The riff at the start, the kick drum, the synths. It all matches the vibe perfectly. “Style (Taylor’s Version)” just misses the marks the original hit. Yes, the lyrics are the same, but that's about it. The production just feels markedly different and sadly, it's missing a lot of what made the original so great. “Style (Taylor’s Version)” is a big disappointment.

“Out Of The Woods (Taylor’s Version)” 

Anna Falk, Scene Editor

“Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)” is one of my favorite songs on “1989 (Taylor's Version)” for two reasons. One — it’s a fun pop song. The repetition of lyrics is an incredibly simple but powerful expression of emotion, and the backing vocals and instrumentation are absolutely immaculate. The song is an undeniable staple on the album. Two — the vehicular manslaughter theory. According to some Swifties, an incident occurred during the time when Harry Styles and Taylor Swift were dating where, when Styles was driving, they accidentally hit someone and fled the scene. Instead of interpreting the lyrics “Are we out of the woods yet?” and “Are we in the clear yet?” as expressions of getting through the rough time in their relationship, it is purely referring to whether or not they are far enough from the scene of the crime. It’s hilarious. I choose to believe it for comedy’s sake. 

“Shake It Off (Taylor’s Version)”

Natalie Allton, Scene Writer

Is it bad to say I expected more? The rerelease of Swift’s biggest single suffers from the same problems as the rest of “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” The high-octane production and writing on the original track is dulled by the remix. There was a youthful spunkiness to 2014 Taylor Swift’s vocals that the older, post-“Folklore” Swift loses. The whole song feels smoothed over and hollow in a way that makes me question what’s supposed to incentivize me to listen to Taylor’s Version over the original. Nostalgia can’t save a worse version of the same song. Taylor’s Version doesn’t make me want to “Shake It Off.” It kind of just makes me want to lie down.

“I Wish You Would (Taylor’s Version)” 

Claire McKenna, Scene Writer

Something about the repetitive guitar riff of “I Wish You Would (Taylor’s Version)” over various drum beats make the song hypnotic in its movement. The use of drum is perfect at adding that extra something, creating an urgency to the song that grabs you by the front and does not let go. It is such an effective way to make you feel the desperation that the speaker feels as she wishes her lover would come back to her. But enough of me waxing poetry about drums. The less tinny quality of Taylor’s Version of the song is a welcome change, in my opinion. It brings a clarity that, along with Taylor’s now more mature voice, heightens my experience of the song and its message. While some of the changes Taylor makes on her rerecorded songs have been controversial with Swifties, I think this is a song that has clearly improved in its second iteration.

“Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)”

Cecelia Swartz, Scene Writer

“Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version),” a song about passionate, impossible love that will only become a distant memory, hits as hard on this album as it did the last one. Taylor’s heartbeat can still be heard in the background as the baseline, and the lyrics, which paint a picture of a perfect memory, remain unchanged. She does add some interesting echoes and layering towards the end of the song that add further dreamlike qualities to the music, as if the sounds are filtering through one after another from somewhere else and then bouncing off the veil that separates that place from here. Overall, it was and remains a good song and a solid edition to the album. 

“How You Get The Girl (Taylor’s Version)”

Lucia Aguzzi, Scene Writer

She. Spelled. It. Out. It’s not complicated! Listen to her! “How You Get The Girl (Taylor’s Version)” has the exact same boppability it did on the original “1989,” and for that, it gets five stars from me. The vibe of this song is pure serotonin. The breakdown in the bridge when it goes acoustic is a needed break from the dancing, and at the same time, an awesome buildup to the drop back into the pop perfect beat of the final chorus. I’ll give you a pause from the Christopher Rowe slander to say that he cooked on this one. It sounds cleaner, Taylor’s voice sounds better and it gives the audience what it is supposed to. No notes from me. I’ll be listening to the “say you want me, YEAH-” at the end of the bridge on repeat if anyone needs me. 

“This Love (Taylor’s Version)”

Andy Ottone, Scene Writer

I don’t know how to start explaining “This Love (Taylor’s Version).” On a technical level, there is just something hard to pin down about what makes it so special. In full disclosure, the only songs I was familiar with from the original “1989” were “Blank Space,” “Shake it Off” and “Bad Blood” because I was ten and pretty much just listened to whatever someone else put on. So, because of this my first exposure to “This Love” was actually the “Taylor’s Version” release from the promotion of “The Summer I Turned Pretty.” And the first time I heard it, I was captivated. I still don’t know if it was the dreamlike quality created by the sound mixing, or the simple yet effective lyrical work. I don’t know if I’ll ever know why, but “This Love (Taylor's Version” is a song that deeply moves me.

“I Know Places (Taylor’s Version)”

Michael Askins, Scene Writer

My favorite moment on the entirety of “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is when Taylor screams “and we run” before the second chorus of  “I Know Places (Taylor’s Version).” The moment was a personal highlight of the original album as well, and it gets even better on the rerecording. I was initially concerned that it might not hit as hard on Taylor’s Version but she brings back the “and we run” lyric with even more emotion and intensity than before. The production, with a more muted and cleaner sound than the original, remains full of suspense and urgency as she tells the story of a couple on the run and hiding from the paparazzi. While that is not an incredibly relatable experience for most people, “I Know Places (Taylor’s Version)” is still a fantastic addition to an iconic album. 

“Wonderland (Taylor’s Version)”

Rose Androwich, News Writer 

When I listened to "1989 Taylor's Version" in its entirety for the first time I couldn’t believe how I hadn’t loved the album initially. This time listening, I loved the album as a whole, especially “Wonderland (Taylor’s Version).” The references made within this song to “Alice and Wonderland” showcased Taylor’s ability to make connections to popular culture while crafting a distinct narrative on her life. The witty lyricism makes “Wonderland (Taylor’s Version)” one of my favorite “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” tracks. The allusions to “Alice and Wonderland” and the parallels Taylor Swift is able to draw make this song a must-listen. The song is upbeat while exploring the fears faced within the relationship it describes and the denial of what that relationship is: “And we pretended it could last forever.”

“You Are In Love (Taylor’s Version)” 

Christina Sayut, Graphics Editor

As a romantic girl at heart, it is no surprise that I love this song as much as I do. One of my favorite lines is when she says, “Pauses and says, ‘You’re my best friend.” While love itself is so beautiful, there is something even more special about being able to say that you are truly in love with your best friend. This song reminds me of the many ways that you can find love within your life — it does not always have to come from a significant other. It reminds me of all the ways that I feel love from my friends, even in the most simplest moments.

“New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)”

Meg Lange, Saint Mary’s News Editor

“New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)” has long been one of my favorite songs on this album. I love the idea of building something beautiful out of the negativity people throw at you, and even still, you can escape to a safe place with that one person who loves you no matter what. I honestly didn’t know how to feel about the re-recording of a song I have loved so much for so long, but I was not disappointed. With the added “Taylor’s Version” came a confidence from our girl that has only recently been shown to the world. Gone are the apprehensive notes of whether or not people will like her as more than a country star, and instead, we get a strong lean into her naturally deeper voice and the beauty of her just singing as her in her true form. It feels as though she found the strength she was singing about originally and is putting it on blast for all of us to see. 

“‘Slut!’ (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”

Allison Srp, Scene Writer

Many people, myself included, expected this song to be a defiant anthem in the vein of “The Man,” but instead, it’s a dreamy-sounding love song. Nevertheless, it does deal with the themes that the title implies, even if the sound and lyrics were unexpected. The line “I’ll pay the price, you won’t” shows that she’s fully aware of how the men she dates aren’t subject to the criticism that she faces. This awareness of the double standard she faces shows up again in the deeply ironic line “Everyone wants him, that was my crime.” It’s clear she knows that it isn't a crime at all — the fact that “everyone wants him” isn’t even something she did. In the song itself, though, the story of falling in love takes center stage, with the outside world fading into the background.  

“Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” 

Allison Elshoff, Scene Writer

This vault track may be the shortest song in Taylor Swift’s entire discography, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch. It feels like a conversation with an ex (*cough* Harry Styles) that never happened — much like the reconciliation she’s yearning for. With lyrics like “I cannot be your friend, so I pay the price of what I lost” and “I don’t have to pretend to like acid rock,” Swift explores the nuance of a grappling with the necessity of a breakup while also losing a best friend in the process. Jack Antonoff’s “Bleachers”-esque production eases the weight of this burden with its synths and infectious beat. The only complaint I can muster is that I wish it was longer. Yet, I think that’s the point of the abruptness — there’s nothing left to say because like the relationship, “it’s just ended.”

“Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”

Gabby Beechert, Assistant Managing Editor

One thing about me is that I am a pop girly through and through. And when I say that the pop girlies got fed with these vault tracks, I truly mean it. I’ve always been a firm believer that “1989” is pop perfection, and this song only strengthens that point. This song is not only sonically strong, but it also holds so much significance from a pop culture perspective. There was something truly magical about collectively realizing this song was about Harry Styles at the mention of the infamous snowmobile accident. This is also one of the many instances in which her songwriting truly shines. It’s time we acknowledge that “At least I had the decency / to keep my nights out of sight / Only rumors about my hips and thighs / and my whispered sighs” is one of hardest bars anyone has ever dropped ever. 

“Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar) (Taylor’s Version)”

Ayden Kowalski, Scene Writer

This remix’s attempts to unite Swift’s and Lamar’s worlds end up displacing both artists. The beat for Lamar’s verses features an airy synth lick that doesn’t stick and some surprisingly weak percussion elements. While Lamar performs with his trademark control and shiftiness (and with more vocal dynamism than his original feature recording), his verses are hollow lyrically, which is disappointing considering the caliber of his pen. The EDM-inspired rework of the chorus falls flat with an unimpressive bassline and a staggered sequence of claps that feels superimposed on the track. The solo version of “Bad Blood” is a great song (though the production on the 2014 version far surpasses that of Taylor’s Version), and here it is contorted into a failed fusion between the original song and a rap banger that sounds awkward.