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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 reminds us she’ll ‘never go out of style’ with ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’

Illustration by Shveta Shah
Taylor Swift released “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” to much fanfare, which has accompanied pretty much everything she’s done this year.

If 2023 belongs to anyone, it is undoubtedly Taylor Swift.

From her monumental Eras Tour to the re-release of her third studio album, “Speak Now,” and especially considering her recent Sunday Night Football appearances, Swift’s influence has broken through all facets of pop culture this year. Now, she’s reclaimed her ownership of another year: 1989.

“1989 (Taylor’s Version),” released Oct. 27, is Swift’s fourth stop on her mission to own her entire discography through a series of re-recordings. And while her previous re-records have suffered at times because of Swift’s emotional and chronological distance from their initial meanings, she comes out swinging in “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” with nearly all the charisma and feeling of the original.

In the 16 songs from the original tracklist, Swift comes closest so far to creating an exact replica of the original album, bringing a more mature voice but the same genuine sound to songs like “Shake It Off,” “How You Get The Girl” and “Out Of The Woods.”

The original “1989” album, released in 2014, was a turning point for Swift, marking her official shift from country to pop music and catapulting her into full-blown pop-star status. The media focused relentlessly on everything from her friend group to her romantic partners — a fact she played off of in songs like “Shake It Off” and “Blank Space.”

After years of keeping her personal life out of the spotlight, she’s stepping back into it with pride. This fall, she cheered on rumored beau, Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce, made a surprise “Saturday Night Live” cameo and strutted around New York with her star-studded groups of friends.

Of course, she is nearly a decade older than the 24-year-old rising superstar who originally released “1989.” But, with the return of her private life to the public eye, much of the album’s messaging holds true: Swift is enjoying New York City with her best friends; she has countless evidence that she’ll “never go out of style”; and she is paying little mind to critics.

The most highly anticipated part of the rerecording was the five “From the Vault” tracks — songs that originally did not make the cut. Swift herself called this album her favorite re-recording thus far in the album’s announcement because the five unreleased tracks were “so insane.” Safe to say, they did not disappoint.

All five feel like natural continuations of the tracklist, depictions of a 20-something woman in the center of the universe set against 1980s synth production.

“Slut!’” to much surprise, was a hopeful love song, a grown-up version of “Ours” from “Speak Now” detailing the importance of prioritizing a relationship despite criticism. Complex break-up tracks “Now That We Don’t Talk” and “Suburban Legends” show off Swift’s expert lyricism with lines like “The only way back to my dignity / Was to turn into a shrouded mystery.” “Is It Over Now?,” arguably the star of the vault songs, shows off both the power of Swift’s voice now and the heartbreaking emotion of her songwriting then.

The only let-down of the vault tracks was “Say Don’t Go,” a continuation of themes in “All You Had To Do Was Stay” that relies on tired metaphors of tightropes, shots in the dark and twisting knives. But overall, these tracks show Swift at her strongest and could easily have found a place on the original tracklist.

As Swift sings on “Welcome To New York,” the album’s opening track, “It’s a new soundtrack.” But more than that,“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is a return, a homecoming, a reminder that Swift is as much at the top of her game as she was a decade ago — and she plans to stay there.

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