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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Liner Notes: Taylor Swift’s ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ is the best thing that’s ever been mine

Illustration by Paloma Leone-Getten
The singer-songwriter, who is currently on ‘The Eras Tour,’ released her third re-recording Friday.

Long live Taylor Swift. The genre-defying superstar continues to break records with her latest re-recording, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” which dropped July 7. 

The original “Speak Now,” released in 2010, is a cornerstone of Swift’s career — it is her only album to date where she is the sole songwriter for all tracks. The new iteration expands upon the then-19-year-old’s achievement with the record’s “From The Vault” tracks also boasting Swift as the sole writer.

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is the third of Swift’s re-releases and follows 2021’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)” and Fearless (Taylor’s Version).” While the prior albums have been chart-topping successes, I started this album apprehensive. “Speak Now” was my favorite album growing up — what if this recreation doesn’t live up to the hype?

But from the first note of “Mine (Taylor’s Version),” I knew I would love this version as much as the original. The musical production is more refined, as it has been with previous Taylor’s Versions, but is faithful to the catchy melodies that made “Speak Now” a hit. 

Old favorites like the romantic “Enchanted (Taylor’s Version)” and gut-wrenching “Dear John” (Taylor’s Version) aged like fine wine. The anxious gasps in “Haunted (Taylor’s Version)” sent shivers up my spine. 

But not all of the tracks stood the test of time. One song some say aged poorly is “Better Than Revenge,” the subject of fervent internet discourse. The singer did not re-record the original, controversial lyrics of “she’s better known for the things she does on the mattress.” Instead, fans listened as she sang “he was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.” 

The line exemplifies the debate on whether old art should be revised to fit modern expectations. While the line flows well and is free of the misogynistic undertone of its predecessor, part of me is disappointed that the original “Better Than Revenge” is excluded from the album’s rebirth. 

While the music remains similar, a lot has changed about Swift’s voice. Her technique has strengthened, but that maturation comes with a loss. Her vocal projection contains less of the youthful rawness the singer had in the 2010 version, and instead sounds like someone that has grown beyond the stories she’s chronicling in the album.

There’s one notable exception to this change. “Never Grow Up” flew over my head 13 years ago, when my age wasn’t even double digits. Now, I’m about the age Swift was during the time she wrote and released the original “Speak Now.” So, a Swift in her 30s crooning about lost innocence had me crying into my comforter. You believe the older her as she wishes she had never grown up, and I mourned my childhood right there with her.

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is only strengthened by its Vault tracks, the standouts of which are “I Can See You (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” and “Timeless (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault).” The former sees the artist in a forward declaration of lust, while the latter is a wistful confession of love. The success of the unreleased songs pairs Swift’s storytelling with longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff’s versatile production. 

Features from Paramore’s Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy on other Vault tracks solidify the new songs as examples of teenage angst. 

For an hour and 46 minutes, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” transports listeners to 2010 with its classic tracklist full of heart. Paired with strong additions to Swift’s repertoire, the artist gives fans a cohesive work that remains truly timeless. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @beatricedvilla

Related Stories:

Liner Notes: Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour: Are fans “Ready For It?”

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Liner Notes: Taylor Swift begins again with “Red (Taylor’s Version)”

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