New Music Monday 30/10/2023

By: Natalie Dumonceaux

1989 – Taylor Swift

If you’re anything like me around midterm season, this time of year constitutes a complete switch to hermit mode, and it can be easy to get caught in the loop of listening to the same five songs over and over again. Luckily, Taylor came to my rescue on October 27th with her release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), just in time for my last midterm deadline. (Yay!)

Of course, I’ve been loving the re-released albums as much as the next Swiftie, but I have to say that 1989 held the most anticipation for me. I’ve always felt that this album, more than any other Taylor album, has something for everybody; it’s packed with solid party beats, classic pop harmonies, relatable heartbreak lyrics, and obviously tons of nostalgia that comes with getting to relive all the radio hits that we couldn’t get out of our heads in 2014. So, whether you’re a self-proclaimed, certified Swiftie like me, or whether you had no idea this album was being released and are confused by all the girls from your high school posting about it on their Instagram stories, I invite you to come along with me as we take a deep dive into this album that holds such a special place in my heart.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Taylor’s Version albums, Taylor Swift has been slowly releasing re-recorded versions of all her albums to reclaim the rights to her music, which until now was owned by her record label. While all of the songs on the album are the same, every Taylor’s Version album includes “vault tracks” (arguably the most exciting part of the re-release). The vault songs are tracks that were cut out of the original track list because, if you can believe it, Taylor’s first few albums came out before the days of Spotify and Apple Music, meaning she could only fit so many songs onto the CD’s (feels like yesterday, right?) Fortunately for Taylor’s Version albums, the number of tracks and their lengths are totally unlimited on current music streaming platforms, and Taylor didn’t hold back. 1989 has five tracks from the vault, blessing her fans with five brand new additions to the familiar tracklist we all know and love.

This album opens with the song “Welcome to New York”, which is, in my opinion, one of the strongest opening tracks of any album. 1989 was Taylor’s first album in the pop genre, taking the full leap away from her country artist persona and stepping into a brand-new artistic identity. New York, then, is a metaphor for the ‘new’ Taylor, making her loud and proud mark on the pop music scene with this fun and upbeat tune. Claiming her position as a pop artist was a huge turning point in her career- after all, almost anyone you ask would call Taylor Swift a pop artist. Since this album first came out on October 27th, 2014, (nine years to the day before the re-release– a true full-circle moment for the Swifties), Taylor has put out another five studio albums, not including the Taylor’s Version albums she has already dropped. These albums have all been wildly successful, topping charts and absolutely flooding radio stations and social media feeds. After all that has happened in her career, coming back and re-establishing the statement this song makes is a special moment for Taylor and her fans alike.

This album really loves synth instrumentation, which I think is especially true for the next four tracks- “Blank Space”, “Style”, “Out Of The Woods”, and “All You Had To Do Was Stay”. It gives these songs an almost-1980s retro aftertaste (fitting for an album titled 1989– well played, Taylor). In particular, the guitar riff that underscores “Style” comes to mind, which has a timbre sort-of-reminiscent of a funky groove one might find in Michael Jackson’s album Off the Wall. I think we have Jack Antonoff, the man behind the magic, to thank for this: Antonoff has produced more popular albums than most of us will ever realise, and the music he releases himself under the stage name Bleachers has a heavy old-style influence.

The sixth track on the album is “Shake It Off”, which you might have heard once or a thousand times before. As much as this song has long-since been a skip for me, as I know it tends to be for a lot of people, I strongly encourage everyone to give Taylor’s Version the benefit of the doubt. What I really like about Taylor Swift is how intelligent she is in her career and in her music. Taylor knows we’re all sick of hearing this song. She knows many of us resent it for living rent-free in our heads from the years 2014 to 2016, and “Shake It Off (Taylor’s Version)” heavily gives off the energy that Taylor is making fun of herself. I think this is especially obvious in the spoken section of the bridge, where Taylor adopts a comedic valley-girl voice even more exaggerated than in the original track.

Where most albums tend to be quite front-loaded, I truly believe that 1989 is the gift that keeps on giving. Taylor keeps the good vibes going with “I Wish You Would” and “Bad Blood”, both super punchy and catchy tracks. Then she slows it down with the dreamy sounds of “Wildest Dreams”, that make me feel like I’m walking down the hallway of a castle in a ballgown. She then hits us with a classically Swiftian breakup track, “How You Get The Girl”, which almost makes me wish I had a toxic ex just so I could scream out the chorus with more angst. I’ll sum up the last few songs- “This Love”, “I Know Places”, “Clean”, “Wonderland”, “You Are In Love”, and “New Romantics” in a few words: 10/10, no notes.

Now for my favourite part of any Taylor re-release: the vault tracks. Possibly the most highly anticipated among them was the track “Slut!”, which I personally had very high expectations for. I won’t say I was disappointed, but if you thought you were signing up for a party anthem like I did, you won’t find what you’re looking for here. If the next four vault songs were chapters in a book about hopeless romanticism, I would title them like this: 

  1. I miss my ex 
  2. I’m over my ex! 
  3. … maybe I should go for that guy from my hometown who I’ve always had sexual tension with
  4. I’m so sick of first dates

Truly, whatever stage of love life you’re currently in, there’s something for all of us.

The deluxe version of this album includes a bonus song, which is a remix of “Bad Blood” featuring Kendrick Lamar. As a big fan of Kendrick Lamar as well, this song sort of felt like the equivalent of having your two friends who you know from different places meet each other: a little unsettling at first, but as time goes on, you kind of get used to the idea and can start to enjoy yourself. I think this is a really interesting collab, since both Kendrick and Taylor are known for their lyricism. I would be interested to see what they could put together from scratch.

As we slowly settle out of midterm season, I pray for all of us that we’ll finally have the time to check out some new music. For all the Taylor Swift newbies out there, I would highly recommend giving this album a try. And, if you come out a certified Swiftie on the other end … sorry not sorry.

Natalie Dumonceaux