The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | Taylor Swift drops the most important album of the summer with ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ 

Pop icon Taylor Swift touches on girlhood, love, and growing up in her latest re-recorded album.
Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
Taylor Swift performers during the first night of the Cincinnati stop of the Eras Tour at Paycor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Friday, June 30, 2023.

It’s no secret that Taylor Swift is a force of nature in the music industry and has consistently maintained that stature for the past decade. The controversy with her masters led Swift to re-record her first six albums, an ongoing project that started with “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” released on April 9, 2021. The most recent addition to her re-recorded albums is “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” released July 7, 2023.  

The original “Speak Now” album, released in October 2010, was seen as the last album that talked about girlhood and explored themes of young adulthood. I’ll admit, I was nervous about whether Swift would manage to capture that classic, youthful essence of her original album now as a woman in her early thirties.  

On the first listen, however, I realized there was no need to worry. The recent version, though performed in a more mature voice laced with experience, still has undertones of the girlish innocence of the original.  

The opening track, “Mine (Taylor’s Version),” still has the same fierce passion in the line “You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.” Her song “Never Grow Up (Taylor’s Version),” an ode to her younger self, still has the quivering quality of a girl who’s just realized that her childhood has slipped away, and her famous fifth track, “Dear John (Taylor’s Version),” still has the cardinal guitar riffs and the painful, emotional vocal delivery.  

Perhaps the most emotional song for fans to come back to in the re-recording is “Long Live,” a song Swift is rumored to have written as an ode to her band and her fans. Sonically, the song sounds richer and the lines, “Long live the walls we crashed through/ I had the time of my life with you,” holds greater meaning in the context of the years that have gone by and the ups and downs of Swift’s career.  

The tenth track, “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version),” had a lyric change. The original lyric was, “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think she’s an actress/ She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” Taylor’s version reads, “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think she’s an actress/ He was a moth to the flame she was holding the matches,” a rendition that is much more conscious and politically correct. 

Swift’s lyricism holds a reputation for being guttural and poetic. However, there’s an extra punch packed into hearing heart-wrenching lyrics like “I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you breathe” from track 13, “Last Kiss (Taylor’s Version),” that comes from her now more grown-up voice.  

The vault tracks are a set of songs written during the composition of the original album but kept off the record. “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” provides six tracks of these vault tracks. Of these, “Electric Touch (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault),” features American rock band Fall Out Boy, and “Castles Crumbling (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” features Hayley Williams from American rock band Paramore. 

The other tracks are “When Emma Falls in Love (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault),” “I Can See You (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault),” “Foolish One (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault),” and “Timeless (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”.  

“Electric Touch (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” has a beautiful pairing of vocals with Swift’s breathy and light tone, and “Fall Out Boy” vocalist Patrick Stumps’s deep, raspy voice. “Castles Crumbling (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” is an atmospheric duet between Swift and Hayley Williams within a metaphoric fallen empire that made me feel as though I was in the middle of a “Game of Thrones” scene.  

“Timeless (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” is seemingly about Swift’s grandmother Marjorie Finlay based on her pictures in the lyric video for the song on Swift’s YouTube channel. 

 “Foolish One (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” is a cautionary tale about young love and “When Emma Falls in Love (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” talks about a girl who Swift aspires to be like. “I Can See You (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” is reminiscent of a high school crush that is tremulous and fast-paced.  

The writing on the vault tracks is as masterful as ever. A line that stood out for me is “You don’t want to know me, I will just let you down” from “Castles Crumbling (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)”; it highlights the deep insecurity of the writer. “Time breaks down your mind and body/ Don’t you let it touch your soul” from “Timeless (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” is a call back to Swift’s song “Marjorie” from her 2020 album “Evermore” and echoes the life advice that Swift’s grandmother would give her.  

For me, the album has no skips, each song holds meaning and is peppered with references and easter eggs for loyal fans to decode and revel in. I believe it has one of the best vault tracks as well. The album is already on its way to ace the charts. The artistry, storytelling, and prowess on the album have made it a tough contender for the biggest album this year. 

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About the Contributor
Anupama Choudhury, Arts Reporter