Taylor Swift’s re-recordings never go out of style

Taylor Swift’s fifth album is finally hers. “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” just dropped last Friday. Swift announced 1989 (Taylor’s Version) exactly nine years after the original release of “1989” at the final Los Angeles show of the Eras Tour. 

The album includes re-recorded versions of all the songs from the original’s deluxe edition and five new “From the Vault” tracks. The re-recorded versions of “Wildest Dreams” and “This Love” were released before the announcement. Following the “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” announcement, the original album re-entered the top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart August 26, 2023. 

She stated that she had attempted to purchase her masters for years but was refused unless she signed another contract requiring her to create six more albums under the label in exchange for the masters of the first six, which she considered “unacceptable.” While she knew Big Machine was for sale, she claimed she had no idea that Braun—who she described as an “incessant, manipulative bully”—would be the buyer.  He then sold her masters to Shamrock Holdings in 2020, giving them ownership of them. 

Swift’s decision to re-record her songs allows her to control the licensing of her songs for commercial use, a process known as synchronization, by eluding the owners of the older masters and consequently devaluing them. In essence, Swift is covering her own songs as new recordings, resulting in new masters she fully owns. 

When “1989” was first released in 2014, it became Swift’s first pop album, debuting her into the pop singer world and out of the country singer world. It was a very successful album as it sold over 1.2 million copies within its first week, sent three tracks to number 1 and earned Swift three more Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. 

The first vault track is “Slut!” and she embraces the term slut with lyrics like, “but if I’m dressed up, they might as well be looking at us. And if they call me a slut.” The they Swift is referring to is the media. The media have portrayed Swift as a “serial dater” who went around dating everyone just to later write songs to publicly shame them. She even owned that on “Blank Space” with “Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane.” 

“Say Don’t Go” is a story about longing and heartbreak. It is the vault track’s second track. The song encapsulates the desire for the other person to stay, compared with the pain of feeling led on, ignored and left behind with lyrics such as, “I said, ‘I love you,’ You say nothin’ back.” 

“Now That We Don’t Talk” delves into the emotions that arise as a once-important relationship fades away, painting a picture of change and distance between two people who were once close. Fans speculate that this is about her former lover, Harry Styles, with lyrics like, “You grew your hair long,” In 2014, when she supposedly wrote the song, Styles was growing his hair out. She also touches on this in her song, “Style,” with lyrics like, “You got that long hair, slicked back, white T-shirt.” In 2014, Styles would be seen with his long hair slicked back and in a white T-shirt.  

“Suburban Legends” is the story of two star-crossed lovers who succeed outside their small town but struggle to stay together despite all odds. “I didn’t come here to make friends,” she declares. “We were born to be suburban legends.” Swift describes her fantasy of walking into their high school reunion together in the second verse, hoping that “maybe our mismatched star signs would surprise the whole school.” But, as you can see from the bridge, their story isn’t meant to last. The underdogs may have won, but they will not be celebrating together.  

“Is It Over Now?” explores heartbreak and reflection in a relatable way, sharing moments of loneliness and memories of past experiences with a former love. The chorus questions whether the relationship has indeed ended, touching on intimate moments as well as the pain of betrayal. Swift’s lyrics capture the mixed emotions that often accompany a breakup while also emphasizing her self-esteem.  

All Swift has left to own is her name and her reputation. 

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: This album cover image released by Republic Records shows “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift, a recreation of the original album released in 2014. (Courtesy of Republic Records)

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