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Reclaiming the past: Taylor Swift releases “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)”

The Hollywood Reporter
Swift is currently on her sixth tour, called The Eras Tour. This tour is going all around the United States and continuing to Europe, Asia and more.

On Friday, May 5, 2023, fans packed into the Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee for Taylor Swift’s 17th Eras Tour date. Toward the end of the show, Swift came onto the stage in preparation for her surprise song sequence. Speculation of her newest re-recording was already going around but fans were giddy with excitement and surprise as “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” flashed across the jumbotrons. The stadium lit up in various colors of lavender and magenta as her iconic purple dress on the “Speak Now” album cover filled the stands. The singer announced that her new version of “Speak Now” would be released on July 7, 2023.

As her first Nashville show since 2018, fans and critics alike knew it was a big day. Although Swift has been cryptic since her career began, there has been much buildup for this album in particular. From hints in music videos to random flashes of purple in the nights leading up, it was only a matter of time before Swift outright announced the re-recording. The singer has been re-recording her older albums since 2021 after Scooter Braun sold them to a third party without Swift’s consent. The first album she chose to revamp was “Fearless”, originally released in 2008 with Big Machine Records. She then redid “Red” in late 2021. “Speak Now” is the third album to become Swift’s own again, with three more to go.

Although the re-recordings allow Swift to own the music that she has written and recorded throughout her life, they have also given her the opportunity to show how far her vocals have come since their original release. The general consensus after the release of “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” and “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was that her voice had matured, making the songs much more enjoyable. “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” has been long awaited and for good reason. With classic songs like “Mean” and “The Story of Us” to fan favorites such as “Better Than Revenge,” Swift has had her followers waiting on the edge of their seats for this album.

Fans all over the world waited for its arrival on streaming platforms of all kinds, with Spotify crashing for a few minutes when the countdown finally ended. The album begins with the beloved song “Mine.” Swift posted a clip of the new version of the song 13 days before its official release over TikTok; 13 has always been a significant number for the singer as well as fans. Although the lyrics do not usually change with the re-recordings, there were a lot of new note changes with this song, most of which made the song much better. Swift hasn’t changed any lyrics in her previous re-recordings, so the change on “Better Than Revenge” was unexpected and even left some fans mad. There has been debate over the song’s lyrics that have misogynistic implications, making Swift change a line in the chorus from “She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress” to “He was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.” The change has yet to be accepted by most fans but the very reason for the new versions is for Swift to make them her own, the lyrics that she wrote at 19 is no longer what she feels at 32.

Although the album is mainly filled with uplifting pop songs, there are a few exceptions. “Dear John” has always been one of Swift’s saddest and most heartbreaking songs. The song follows Swift’s reflection on a relationship she had with John Mayer back in 2009. At the time, Swift was 19 whereas Mayer was 32. Since the original release of the song, many people have criticized Mayer for the age gap they had during their relationship. When Swift first announced that she would be re-recording this song, social media was filled with people saying things such as, “Pray for John Mayer.” Though in a concert prior to the album coming out, Swift made a speech saying, “I was hoping to ask you, that as we lead up to this album, I would love for that kindness and that gentleness to extend onto our Internet activities… I’m not putting this album out so you can go on the Internet and defend me against someone you think I wrote a song about 14 million years ago. I do not care, we have all grown up, we’re good.”

On each album Swift re-records, she adds a few more songs labeled “From the Vault.” These tracks are ones that she wrote during the time when the album originally came out but were ultimately cut from the track list. “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” includes six new songs with artist features by Haley Willams from Paramore and Fall Out Boy. Some of Swift’s best songs have been vault tracks, such as “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” from the album “Red (Taylor’s Version)” or “Mr. Perfectly Fine” from “Fearless (Taylor’s Version).”

The release of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” marks an important milestone in Taylor Swift’s career and in the world of music. As an artist who values creative control and ownership of her work, Swift’s decision to re-record her earlier albums not only reclaims the work of her younger self but also allows fans to rediscover and appreciate songs that they may not have listened to in years. This revamped version of “Speak Now” is the next step in Swift’s ever-growing career in singing and songwriting.

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About the Contributor
Ruby Jenkins, Assignment Editor
"Jeopardy," “Red (Taylor’s Version)” and iced vanilla latte with oat milk enthusiast.

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