For Taylor Swift, 2023 was an amazing year. From some incredible releases to being named Time’s Person of the Year, it seems like this was her year through and through. As we head into 2024, let’s take a look back at one of her most highly anticipated rerecorded albums, “1989.” Do the new versions of her songs, specifically the vault tracks, live up to the hype?
“1989” was first released in 2014, and much of it is marked by Taylor’s personal life during this time period. Like many of her albums, it delves deep into her relationships, the struggle of feeling hated by the media and the various dramas she dealt with regarding other celebrities.
The most significant figure in her life at the time was arguably former One Direction singer Harry Styles, which led to various theories that the album was about him.
Their on-again, off-again relationship had fans carefully going back and analyzing the track, wondering if songs like “Style”, “Out Of The Woods” or “Clean” were secretly about him.
The recently released vault tracks are a new edition to the album, letting listeners dive deeper than ever before into what Taylor’s life and emotions were like during this particular era.
Much like how Swift pokes fun at the way the media perceives her in the song “Blank Space”, she embraces her reputation as a “slut” on this track, turning the label on its head.
While she could have let those words get to her, she instead ignores them because she feels so strongly about the man she’s singing about. What everyone says about her doesn’t matter.
The song starts by describing a dreamy scene which alludes to how it feels to be “drunk on love.” She recognizes that she might pay a high price for pursuing this person, but the man that she’s dating won’t have to pay that price since men are rarely criticized for their dating lives in the same way women are.
Swift goes on to talk about how he’s worth being “slutshamed” for because he’s just that good of a person. He’s worth potentially taking unfair criticism for because: “in a world of boys he’s a gentleman.”
Stand-out lyric: “If they call me a slut, you know it might be worth it for once.”
Say Don’t Go
In this song, the pain of unrequited love leaves Swift angry and confused. She repeatedly questions her relationship with her ex, specifically wondering why it ended the way it did. She wishes that he would’ve stayed and fought for her instead of just letting her go.
Swift sings about how she always knew that their relationship wasn’t going to work out from the start but she held onto hope that he would change and that they could work it out. She refuses to accept the end of this relationship and blames her ex for making her fall so hard for him.
Towards the end of the song, she progressively gets louder and more passionate before suddenly shifting to near-silent whispers of “but you won’t” near the end. As her voice slowly fades into the background, the listener is left with the haunting feeling that she’s accepted defeat.
Stand-out lyric: “I said ‘I love you’, you say nothing back.”
Now That We Don’t Talk
On this track, Swift wonders how her ex is doing and tells us what she’s been hearing about him. She notices how much he has changed, to the point where she almost doesn’t recognize him anymore. The song focuses on how much it hurts to watch someone you love change.
Eventually, she’s able to remind herself why the relationship ended and why she can’t be friends with her ex. The song ends on a more positive note with the realization that she is better off without him. Now that she’s on her own, she doesn’t have to pretend to be someone she’s not.
In the album structure, this song represents a new beginning. She starts accepting the end of their relationship, and the listeners can see how much she has already grown since the last track.
Stand-out lyric: “I cannot be your friend, so I pay the price for what I lost and what it cost now that we don’t talk.”
Swift reflects on the best parts of her and her ex’s relationship in this track, specifically focusing on the chemistry that they had with each other. Despite her ex showing some red flags, she acknowledges how she was able to ignore them because of how deep their connection felt.
The connection ran so deep for her that she felt as if they were destined to be great. Throughout the song, she sings about the future that she imagined for them together.
The fantasy she conjures is powerful, but by the end of the song she starts to see things more clearly. She’s able to admit that the fantasy she created would never be a reality and is able to instead focus on the present.
Stand-out lyric: “I broke my own heart ‘cause you were too polite to do it.”
Is It Over Now?
The closing track of the album takes on a double meaning. Swift references the song title within the song itself as “a funny play on words,” at one point even directly asking “Is the album over now?”
This is the most intense of the vault tracks by far. She directly calls out her ex for his actions with a pointed intensity but is also able to recognize where she should accept some blame for the end of their relationship.
She accuses her ex of dating a new girl that looks just like her and she also calls him out for not keeping his new relationship private. As her frustration builds, she thinks about ways to get his attention and wonders if he would come back and tell her everything that she wants to hear.
Reluctantly, she finally accepts that they weren’t right for each other and that she has to come to terms with both of them being done with each other for now.
Stand-out lyric: “If she’s got blue eyes I will surmise that you’ll probably date her.”
Overall, the vault tracks do an excellent job of filling in the missing pieces of Swift’s life. They give curious listeners more insight into what she was going through at the time, making the new version of the album a must-listen for anyone who’s ever gone through something similar.
Despite being almost ten years old, “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” goes to show that some music really does “never go out of style.”