Grow up again with Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)

Rachel Woon | Mercury Staff

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is an emotionally expansive album that builds on the timeless original’s topics of heartbreak and growing up to deliver Taylor Swift’s best guide to navigating the beginnings of young adulthood yet.

With its pop hits and sentimental ballads, the original “Speak Now” album, released in 2010, was definitive in shaping Taylor Swift’s narrative songwriting style picked from her personal experiences. As a result, the 2023 re-record of the album, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” was much anticipated by dedicated fans who couldn’t wait to see how Swift had evolved during the years since its original release.

The first thing that caught my attention when listening to the new album was Swift’s warm and inviting voice — aged beautifully to add a new layer of experience to her music. Hearing her song “Never Grow Up,” after experiencing the past thirteen years alongside Swift, was a beautiful full-circle moment. But the song that truly had me in tears was “Long Live.” Dedicated to her fans, also known as “Swifties,” the song discusses overcoming obstacles alongside lifelong relationships. Knowing that Swifties have uplifted her career despite her original recordings being stolen and the media tearing apart her reputation by criticizing her music following themes like love and heartbreak, the “(Taylor’s Version)” behind her album’s name becomes just a little bit more special.

Despite being excited about hearing the original songs in a new light, I was anxious to hear the “Vault” tracks. On each of her rerecorded albums, Swift adds songs that she wrote during that time but chose not to release for various reasons. One major reason is the limits on the length of her songs. As a songwriter, especially in the earlier stages of her career, she would often write more songs than she was able to release; as her fanbase grew to what it is now, her rerelease includes those extended versions of her songs. As an incentive for old fans to come back and switch to the new music, she adds these songs to the end of the album and songs “From the Vault.” Upon first listen, I jumped directly to these tracks.

The standout track from the “Vault” was definitely “I Can See You,” which featured a funky new sound that seems different for Swift. It felt like being transported to a 2000s hit show like “Pretty Little Liars” or “Gossip Girl.” It was fun and refreshing to see this new side of Swift’s songwriting that was so good it genuinely made me wonder why it wasn’tincluded in the original album. My other favorite “Vault” track was “Timeless,” which describes seeing a relationship in vintage photos of another couple and hoping your love is as everlasting. I loved it because it felt like a classic Taylor Swift love song — something that could be played at weddings.

To officially commemorate the beginning of the “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” era, Swift debuted the music video for “I Can See You” at the first night of her Kansas City show on the Eras tour. Although many fans were expecting this surprise, what they were not expecting was for a certain werewolf to be featured in the video. Taylor Lautner, Swift’s ex-boyfriend and muse for the apology track “Back to December,” was seen helping Swift escape in the video. As a fan who has been following the release of the album for months, Lautner’s cameo was one of the highlights of the album. It steered attention away from John Mayer, who inspired the track “Dear John,” which discusses the unfair nature of his relationship and age gap with Swift. Shining light on existing positive relationships rather than the bitter ones was the right move.

The new version of “Speak Now” perfectly embodies what a rerecording should be about — growth. It’s evident through this album that Swift is leaps and bounds different from who she was when she was just 19 years old, both sonically and emotionally. As the listener, you hear the new emotions entangled with the old. Whether it be a sense of nostalgia from listening to a new version of an old album or a sense of discovery from stumbling upon a new favorite, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” captures its audience by effortlessly describing the tragedies and triumphs of the teenage years. It is a great representation of her evolution as an artist and a perfect piece to add to her rerecorded collection.

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