Taylor’s Version

by Logan Ward, Staff Writer and Social Media Editor

I can’t escape Taylor Swift.

I’ve been listening to her music for a couple of years, but I feel now more than ever, that it’s hard to go a day without her name coming up in conversation. And, there is plenty to talk about.

Research firm QuestionPro estimates that her Eras Tour generated over $4.6 billion in consumer spending for the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book even highlighted the tourism revenue that it generated. 

U.K-based sustainability marketing firm Yard found that between January 1 and July 19, 2022, her private jet emitted 8,293.54 tonnes of carbon (a whopping 1,184.8 times more than the average person’s total annual carbon emissions). 

She can’t seem to escape criticism of her past relationship with Matty Healy, who had been in hot water early this year for… well, being Matty Healy. His overall persona has always generated headlines, but the ones relating to his controversial appearance on The Adam Friedland Show have particularly haunted him recently. Swift, through dating him, received a barrage of criticism arguably stronger than anything the 1975 frontman himself ever received. 

So, it’s fitting that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) has caused plenty of conversation itself. It appears to be dividing the fanbase more than her past re-recordings, which hasn’t been uncommon for Swift lately. Last year’s Midnights was similarly divisive. But how valid are the criticisms that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) has received? Let’s dive in. 

To start off, there are a lot of things Swift did well with this re-recording. 

“Welcome to New York (Taylor’s Version)” is a strong opening that improves upon the original through making its light, crisp, and energetic production even more apparent. “Blank Space (Taylor’s Version)” comes in next just as strong. 

“Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)”, however, is the album’s clear standout re-recording. As with the best tracks on 1989 (Taylor’s Version), Taylor’s “Out of the Woods” re-recording succeeds as it elevates what made the original work. 

I also would like to highlight Taylor’s re-recordings of “Wildest Dreams” and “This Love”. They’ve been with us for several years now (with “This Love” probably being one of my favorite Taylor Swift tracks), but still stand out amongst the rest of the album. 

All of that being said, there are some major missteps that were made with this record. 

An overarching problem on many tracks comes from two things: 1) weird production quirks and 2) an overall lack of energy. 

The weird “ah-ah-ah-ah-ah” vocals on “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)” are a good example of what I mean with my first point. As to my second point, I think the issue is more widespread across the entire album, the re-recording of “Clean” being a good example.

On “Clean (Taylor’s Version)”, Taylor’s vocals are pretty lifeless, a disappointment considering that the original was one of the album’s emotional highs. The original’s minimalist arrangements have been fleshed out a little more, but the re-recording sounds strangely empty. There’s a lot of tracks where, while the problems are not as dramatic as they were on “Clean”, I can levy similar criticisms. But that’s not to totally single out her “Clean” re-recording. It wasn’t bad, it just pales in comparison to the original. 

If there was any re-recording where my feelings were less cut and dry, it was with “Style (Taylor’s Version”. It’s another example of Taylor’s vocal performances not matching the power of the original, but that doesn’t mean I dislike it. I don’t like it as much as the original, but I don’t hate all of the decisions that were made with it from an instrumental perspective (the heavier incorporation of the electric guitar passages have sure grown on me). 

Now, onto the vault tracks. 

“Is It Over Now?” is a clear winner for me, having some of her most powerful lyricism yet. Notably, it sounded like it would’ve been at home on Midnights, which is a quality held by much of the vault tracks. 

All in all, these tracks were similar, with “Now That We Don’t Talk” and “Say Don’t Go” seeming to borrow cues from each other. But that’s not a bad thing, all were worthy additions to Taylor’s discography, even if they didn’t reach the heights of some of her past vault tracks (such as “When Emma Falls in Love” and “I Can See You” from Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)). 

What are some other opinions about this album, though?

Natalie Floyd felt that the album was more similar to the original recording than previous re-recordings. “I think ‘Bad Blood (Taylor’s Version)’ was better [than the original], that’s my hot take.”, she added.

“I liked ‘I Know Places’ when it first came out because it had a little bit of a darker vibe than the rest of her songs…” said Aelwen Iredale. “…and so I think that the new version does it justice because with her mature voice and experience it can hit the mood she was trying to hit in the original a lot better.”

“‘Clean (Taylor’s Version)’ was just completely unlistenable…” said an anonymous student “…it was a miserable experience… and I love the original.”

However, not everyone disliked “Clean”.

“The beat was a little too abstract, but her vocals are good.” said Thiago Pires, after listening to the song for the first time. 

“I didn’t think it was horrifying.” said Margaux Heide “the new little ‘ohs’ in the background were weird.”

For others, the album made far less of an impression- positive, negative, or otherwise. 

“I listened to it when I was going up to UIUC for Halloweekend, and I forgot that I listened to it.” said Jazzy Damuluri. 

To me, 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is probably the weakest of the re-recordings so far. However, there’s still good moments, which fortunately outnumber the missteps. 

I give this record three out of five flames. 

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