In “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” Taylor Swift revisits her 2014 synth-pop classic album with a complete re-recording of the original 16 tracks and an additional five bonus tracks “from the vault.” While the original track list is the same, a lot more has changed sonically than past “Taylor’s Versions” such as the re-recording of “Red” and “Fearless.”
The addition of the five bonus tracks brings the album’s total run time to an hour and seventeen minutes. The original release of “1989” clocks in at only 48 minutes and 47 seconds. While the new version of the album is longer, some of its other changes might not be for the better. The mixing is very different from the original across the entire project, which gives a new, crisp feel to these classic tracks. “1989” is generally regarded as Taylor’s first true “pop” album, and for the re-recording, she has clearly leaned into this. For some songs this is an improvement, for others not so much. Loudness and compression have been turned up substantially from the original, often to the album’s detriment. The opener “Welcome to New York” starts the album off with a much more punchy mix. Synths are mixed more into the front, with the bassline also more present. Swift’s vocals have a brighter tone and the well-loved track feels more cohesive than before.
“Blank Space” is one of the most popular tracks off of the original, with it getting substantial radio play over the years since its release. While the same mixing treatment as the others is present, it remains very similar to the original. Mega producer Max Martin was a co-writer on both versions of this track, but he only produced the original. Martin has produced some of the biggest tracks of the last decade, such as The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” and some of Taylor’s other hits, such as “I Knew You Were Trouble” off of “Red.” The original recording was punchy and bright, even among the synths of “1989.” Taylor’s Version does not change as much as some of the other tracks, but the absence of Martin on the production still leaves some elements lacking.
Track three, “Style,” is known as one of Swift’s most iconic pop songs (sitting at number three on Spotify), which is why fans were not happy with the result of its re-recording. The signature guitar riff intro sounds off from the moment that track starts. The guitar has been mixed to the back in place of the more booming bass line, continuing this theme of a more dance song style on the album. The song’s bridge also suffers from this with the more subtle elements of the track ending up buried in the mix. Users on TikTok compared the two versions of “Style,” likening the old version to a pleasant sunrise and the new one to an alarm clock.
“Bad Blood” is another one of the most played tracks off of the original, and has often been criticized for some of the more childish aspects of its taunting lyrics. Taylor’s Version is mostly the same as the original version, but with more synths mixed over the vocals, and a more confident sounding Swift on the mic. On the deluxe version of “1989 (Taylor’s Version),” another version of the track is present, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning and seventeen time Grammy-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar. It features Lamar rapping over a booming bass line mixed into the chorus of “Bad Blood.” A previous version of this track was released in 2015 as a single, using the original version of “Bad Blood” as the template.
Track 12, “I Know Places,” showcases Swift’s matured vocals when she sings “and we run” at 1:40 before launching into the chorus. The rasp in her voice adds an extra layer of passion to the song, while the healthy belt allows listeners to hear how strong her vocals have become since the album’s initial release. This small addition makes the already amazing track even better.
When Swift announced the tracklist for “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” back on Sept. 20, fans thought that vault track 17, “Slut!,” would be an upbeat and potentially sassy song. This is not the case. “Slut!” is a beautiful ballad where Swift explains that while the media is always shaming her for her dating life, being called a slut may be worth it for the person she is singing about.
Track 19, “Now That We Don’t Talk,” is also from the vault. Sonically, it has characteristics of Swift’s 2023 album “Midnights,” as both the vault tracks and “Midnights” were produced by the infamous Jack Antonoff. In this song, Swift expresses how much her life has improved now that she no longer talks to a love interest who treated her badly. Bridge’s lyrics, “I don’t have to pretend I like acid rock / Or that I like to be on a mega-yacht / With important men who think important thoughts” have an unapologetic air to them, and show that Swift is no longer catering her existence for the convenience of someone else.
While Taylor’s Version of “1989” might have been more of a sonic departure from the original than some fans were expecting, it still has all the same elements of the original that shot the album and Taylor, to mainstream success. To most fans, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” will be able to serve both as a replacement and a more modern spin on the original.
With two re-recordings left, fans on TikTok are theorizing that Swift will conclude the project with a double release: “Taylor Swift (Taylor’s Version)” and “Reputation (Taylor’s Version),” signifying that she is taking back her name and her reputation.