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How to reclaim your first self-written album (Taylor’s Version)

Album Review

For Food Editor Kaitlin McDowell, "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)" was a nostalgic joy to listen to, with moments both familiar and surprising.
For Food Editor Kaitlin McDowell, "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)" was a nostalgic joy to listen to, with moments both familiar and surprising.

On July 7, Taylor Swift released the re-recording of her third album, “Speak Now.” This album was monumental to Swift’s career in many ways, the most prominent being that this was her first entirely self-written album.

Swift wrote this album between the ages of 18-20, channeling the feelings of heartbreak, growing up and teenage angst that us college students are experiencing while listening.

I was only 9 when Swift released “Speak Now” in 2010, and while this album was definitely a large part of my childhood, I couldn’t necessarily resonate with songs such as “Back to December” or “Better than Revenge.” Now, as we turn to adulthood, many of us feel the same things that Swift did, especially with songs like “Never Grow Up.”

This album release is even more special as Swift includes six “From the Vault” tracks that she wrote during this time that never made it on the original album.

“Speak Now” begins with “Mine.” The opening “ahhs” brought me back to being a little girl and being obsessed with this album. Swift’s voice is noticeably more mature at 32, as well as her songwriting, which was much different in 2010 than the poetry Swift wrote for her 2020 albums “folklore” and “evermore.”

After “Mine,” the album follows the same progression as the original, with Swift singing classics like “Sparks Fly” and “Back to December” with slightly less country twang than before. The latter song, written about Taylor Lautner,  is even more interesting 12 years later knowing that Swift is still friends with Lautner — he was even featured in her newest music video for vault track “I Can See You” (more on that later).

“Mean” is track six and one of my favorites. Imagine how amazing it was for Swift, one of the biggest stars in the world to re-record, “Someday I’ll be big enough so that you can’t hit me.” Pretty full circle, if you ask me.

Another one of my favorites, “The Story of Us,” is one of the most upbeat songs on this album and simply so fun to sing, while “Never Grow Up,” is a song that I think everyone can relate to on some level, even more now as a rerecording. Everyone wants to grow up when they’re little, but once it actually starts happening, this reality becomes very scary.

Taylor’s only lyrical change to this album comes with “Better than Revenge,” where the line “She’s better known for the things she does on the mattress,” was altered to “he was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.” As much as I understand why Taylor made this change, my 10-year-old self will miss screaming this lyric.

There are other noticeable changes on the rerecorded songs.“Haunted” and “Last Kiss,” two gut-wrenching tracks about losing someone you love, still feature fantastic production, but the anger has definitely mellowed out, showing Swift’s maturity since her first time recording this.

Part of me wishes this album ended with “Long Live,” as it is such a good finale as a song dedicated to Swifties and what they have done to help Taylor get to where she was. But, this is not the case and the final two tracks are “Ours,” a very catchy song which I love, and “Superman,” which is not one of my favorites and felt especially long this time listening as I was so excited to listen to the vault tracks, which make up the final six songs.

The main event: Vault Tracks!

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The first “From the Vault” track is “Electric Touch,” which features Fall Out Boy. This collaboration was definitely not on my 2023 bingo card, but I think Fall Out Boy complemented Swift perfectly and gave me so much early 2010s nostalgia.

The second vault track, “When Emma Falls in Love,” is rumored to be about Swift’s friend Emma Stone. This song fits the “Speak Now” era perfectly, but also gave me a little bit of “Love Story” nostalgia.

“I Can See You” shows Taylor’s spicy side, with fans joking that this song was kept in the vault due to Swift’s mom and her age at the time. Swift also released a spy themed music video starring herself, Joey King and Lautner at her Eras Tour Performance in Kansas City on July 7.

The next track, “Castles Crumbling,” is speculated to be written about Swift’s 2009 VMAs experience, where the crowd famously booed Kanye West. Swift thought the negativity was directed at her as she had just won the VMA for Best Female Music Video, and this song shows how she thought everyone had begun to hate her. I hope Swift now realizes how loved she is!

“Foolish One,” is written for every hopeless romantic teenage girl. We have all been the girl in this song waiting for that one boy to confess his feelings, and in this song Swift so beautifully says it’s simply not going to happen.

Last but of course not least is “Timeless.” I think this song is the most country of the vault tracks, as Speak Now was made before Swift began her transition to pop music with “Red.” This song and its metaphors remind me of the soft love songs Swift would release on her later albums, such as “Invisible String” or “New Years Day.”

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)”, was everything I imagined and more. Listening to it for the first time in my childhood bedroom, where I experienced all of the teenage emotions portrayed on this album, was truly an experience and I, like other Swifties, will now begin hypothesizing which album Swift will re-record next!

Rating: 9/10 (only because I am slightly bitter over the “Better than Revenge” lyric change)