By Riley Dauber
Nine years after its initial release in 2014, Taylor Swift’s pop masterpiece “1989” is back with the re-recorded version, “1989 (Taylor’s Version).”
“1989” is Swift’s fourth re-recorded album. According to Vox, she decided to re-record her first six albums when Big Machine Records — her old record label — sold her masters to producer Scooter Braun without her permission. At the time, if other creatives wanted to use Swift’s music in their projects, they needed to go through Braun.
According to Vox, “The move would give licensors the option to work directly with Swift and her team rather than go through Braun. And that, in turn, would allow Swift to reclaim some control over her music and how it’s used.”
Swift’s other re-recordings include “Fearless (Taylor’s Version), “Red (Taylor’s Version),” and most recently, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” Following the release of the latter on July 7, fans started to speculate about which album was next.
According to USA Today, “August is the 8th month of the year and Wednesday was the 9th day of the month, the last two digits of the album, so how could the news not be coming? Fans know by now that dates and numbers carry far more meaning in the fandom.”
For once, Swift’s fans were right in their over-the-top predictions: on Aug. 9, during the last U.S. performance of “The Eras Tour,” the pop star announced the re-recording of “1989.”
“The ‘1989’ album changed my life in countless ways, and it fills me with such excitement to announce that my version of it will be out Oct. 27,” Swift said in an Instagram announcement the following day. “To be perfectly honest, this is my most favorite re-record I’ve ever done
because the five From The Vault tracks are so insane. I can’t believe they were ever left behind. But not for long!”
While the vault tracks on “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” offer an in-depth look at Swift’s romantic relationship at the time, they struggle to impress compared to the original offerings on the album.
“Say Don’t Go” is a heartbreaking track that feels right at home on the album, but its similarity to songs like “All You Had To Do Was Stay” and “I Wish You Would” does not help it stand out.
The chorus is a highlight as the production lifts and balances the sad lyrics with an upbeat, dance-worthy sound.
“Why’d you have to lead me on? / Why’d you have to twist the knife? / Walk away and leave me bleeding, bleeding? / Why’d you whisper in the dark? / Just to leave me in the night / Now your silence has me screaming, screaming,” Swift sings.
“Slut!” sounds like a fun song thanks to the explanation point in the title, but instead it is a bland track about Swift’s public persona and her dating life. The sentiment is strong, but the production makes the song feel like it belongs on her recent album “Midnights,” not “1989.”
“Now That We Don’t Talk” also possesses some “Midnights” elements with Swift’s choppy lyrics, but the song has some potential with its seething outro.
“I don’t have to pretend I like acid rock / Or that I’d like to be on a mega yacht / With important men who think important thoughts,” Swift sings.
Just when you think you like the song, it ends due to the short 2 minutes and 26 second runtime. Swift may not have much to say here, but listeners wished she did.
The final track “Is It Over Now?” is great in theory. The lyrics are cutting with lines like “If she’s got blue eyes, I will surmise that you’ll probably date her” and “You search in every
model’s bed for something greater.” Swift pokes fun at her ex-partner, but she cannot hide how distraught she is that the relationship came to an end.
Despite these stand-out lines, the production ruins any shred of hope listeners had for the song. Producer Jack Antonoff feels the need to include random noises and synth throughout, which end up distracting listeners from the song’s story. These production decisions did not work on “Midnights,” and they do not work here.
These poor production choices continue throughout the album, taking perfectly good songs and adjusting them with seemingly minor sound changes. “Blank Space” and “Style,” two former stand-outs in Swift’s discography, now sound muted due to Antonoff’s producing.
Swift’s mature vocals, which usually improve her older work, also negatively affect the tracks on “1989.” Her heart does not seem in it as she sings about a former relationship.
The only original track that is improved with the re-recording is “This Love.” The slower love ballad has a dreamy quality that pairs nicely with Swift’s vocals.
Unfortunately, Swift’s re-recording of “1989” lacks the original’s signature production choices. Some songs sound starkly different from the original, which ultimately defeats the purpose of Swift re-recording her masters so she can officially own them.
One can only hope that when it comes to re-recording the last two albums — “Taylor Swift” and “reputation” — Swift strives to replicate the original versions of the songs — and that she asks Antonoff to put the synth machine down.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo Caption: Swift’s first pop album, “1989,” won her the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.