A Fairytale Escape: Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)

Mingyue H

Are you looking for an escape from the daily grind? Are you a music lover? Maybe even a Swfitie? Luckily, your wish is Taylor Swift’s command! Swift’s highly anticipated re-recording, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), was released on July 7th. As seasoned Swifties know, Swift is in the process of re-recording her masters while balancing her record-breaking “Eras Tour.” With all of this excitement, those who don’t listen to Swift might feel left out. Luckily, no previous experience is required to listen to Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)! However, listening to Taylor Swift is sort of like watching a documentary: it doesn’t hurt to have a little background. So let’s go “Back to December” and unpack this chart-topping album.

For current high schoolers, 2010 was decidedly hazy. Swift, on the other hand, had already released two albums and established herself as an accomplished singer/songwriter. Though labeled as “Country” in Apple Music, Swift’s musicality in 2010’s Speak Now clearly showcases her musical transition to pop. Versatility has always been one of Swift’s stronger suits, which explains her immense presence in the music industry for nearly two decades now.

Jumping to the present, Swift is re-recording her albums that were released by Big Machine Records. By reclaiming her own music, Swift is not only gaining rights and royalties to her songs, but also adding to her extensive musical repertoire. For Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), Swift added six tracks, labeled “From the Vault.” Taylor’s Version is updated: mature, wise, and settled down. A sense of acceptance of the past is tangible in Swift’s refined vocals. The vault tracks offer a fresh sound; it’s almost as if Taylor’s Version is a sequel, rather than a continuation of the original Speak Now.

While some bemoan Swift for trading her youthful, starry-eyed sound for her present honed vocal forte, re-recording the masters is a smart move artistically and business-wise. Fans cannot get enough— Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) reached the Billboard 100 and beat out Barbra Streisand as the woman with the most #1 albums. Two truly successful, talented icons!

Music critics are quick to pull apart vocals and debate an album’s cultural significance. However, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) passes the test. Magical themes combined with wistful lyrics complete the album— without becoming repetitive. Though the re-recordings of the 2010 songs are mostly identical, it’s worth listening to Swift’s elevated vocals.  Through whimsical, heartfelt songs like “Long Live” (“I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you!”) and “Castles Crumbling,” Swift paints pictures in a beautifully unique way. Romantic tracks such as “When Emma Falls in Love” have not only solidified Swift’s songs as top wedding dance material (Swifties named Emma, rejoice!), but have also filled in the cracks of a music industry that’s not always pushing out feminine themes.

Needless to say, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is an album that’s easy to fall into— like a delightful daydream or a warm hug. Perhaps her tracks “Enchanted” and “Foolish One” best straddle the decades worth of changes from 2010 to 2023. Describing a meet-cute moment in “Enchanted,” Swift sings “All I can say is, I was enchanted to meet you.” In “Foolish One,” Swift assumes an older sister role, acknowledging relationships that aren’t meant to be: “Stop checking your mail / for confessions of love that ain’t never gonna come / you will take the long way.” These opposite points of view link together an album that’s truly meaningful when given time to sink in. Though the album and its “sound” are probably catered to a teenage girl or young adult audience, Swift’s insights aren’t exclusive to women. Although, perhaps the summer of 2023 was the best time to capitalize on feminine energy. Thanks to the hit movie, Barbie, Amazon Prime’s series, The Summer I Turned Pretty, and TikTok neologisms like “girl math,” girl power is nothing to shake a stick at, even if it’s silly. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) tells highly personal stories from apologies to a past love (“Back To December”) to a coming of age (“Never Grow Up”). These songs are just as much for the fans as they are a personal reclamation for Swift. Powerfully intimate but universal experiences that everyone has (or hopes to experience) are what make this album truly one-of-a-kind.



Behind the Meaning of Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now”

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