Arts, Music

Swift Incorporates Themes of Reinvention and New Beginnings on ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ Vault Tracks 


When the clock struck midnight on Oct. 27, Taylor Swift released 1989 (Taylor’s Version), an album of experimentation and new beginnings, including five “From The Vault” tracks.

“I was born in 1989, reinvented for the first time in 2014, and a part of me was reclaimed in 2023 with the re-release of this album I love so dearly,” Swift wrote on Instagram. 

Swift’s re-recordings and vault tracks bring listeners back to 2014 when 1989 was the beginning of a new Taylor Swift and her pop sound. This time around, 1989 has a newfound confidence and maturity as it brings in elements from her most recent album, Midnights

The production of each re-recorded track creates a more clear sound than the original album. While Swift’s new harmonies on “Bad Blood” were an added surprise, her changes to “Style” were so drastic that the original version may be preferred by listeners. 

Swift’s five “From The Vault” tracks included “Slut!” “Say Don’t Go,” “Now That We Don’t Talk,” “Suburban Legends,” and “Is It Over Now?” Each of the songs fit the overarching theme of Swift’s 1989 album: her reinvention of her self image as she moved to New York City and cut her hair. 

When Swift released the original 1989 album in 2014, she was the target of extensive criticism and slut-shaming, and her relationships were put under a microscope. The chorus of “Slut!” highlights the frequency of her experiences with name-calling. Swifts takes back the meaning of the word and turns it into something positive. 

“But if I’m all dressed up / They might as well be lookin’ at us / And if they call me a slut / You know it might be worth it for once,” Swift sings. 

As a result of the provocative title with an exclamation point, it is fair to expect “Slut!” to be similar to “Bad Blood” or “Shake it Off.” Upon the first note, however, it becomes clear that this song fits into the category of the slower songs of the album like “You Are in Love.” 

“Say Don’t Go” is a heartbreakingly honest song about holding out hope that one’s love and affection will be returned. During the first verse, the music amplifies and Swift’s voice begins to strengthen and reach a falsetto. The crescendo culminates in the music stopping with just a soft beat—similar to the heartbeat in “You’re Losing Me” from Midnights. In this pre-chorus, Swift’s voice becomes airy, a quality emphasized by the silence the breaks in the music create.

“Say, ‘Don’t go’ / I would stay forever if you say, ‘Don’t go’” Swift sings.  

The chorus comes in quickly and the song shifts to an upbeat tune, while the lyrics remain desperate in a way that is similar to “Hits Different,” a song from Midnights that disguises its emotional nature with an upbeat melody. 

During the bridge of “Say Don’t Go,” the music cuts out, placing emphasis on Swift’s vocals and lyrics rather than the production of the song.

“Why’d you have to (Why’d you have to) / Make me love you (Make me love you)? / I said, ‘I love you’ (I said, ‘I love you’) / You say nothin’ back,” Swift sings at an increasing volume as background vocals scream.  

In these lines, Swift realizes that the love she is extending to another is not reciprocated. 

The chorus cuts in after and the music immediately comes back in almost a comedic way to show that Swift is coping or covering up her pain and embarrassment. 

The next vault track, “Now That We Don’t Talk” has synth sounds that are reminiscent of “Welcome To New York,” the first track of 1989. The song begins slower, but the tempo picks up as more instruments join in. 

“Remind myself the more I gave, you’d want me less / I cannot be your friend, so I pay the price of what I lost,” Swift sings.

The song seems to be about Swift navigating a split with someone after a breakup and not being able to mend the friendship. 

“Suburban Legends” sounds like a song that would be a part of the score in a coming-of-age film as Swift reflects on growing up and growing apart. The song is upbeat and the synths are similar to those used in “Mastermind” on Midnights. The song demonstrates Swift’s storytelling abilities as she sings about star-crossed lovers who find success and lose each other. 

“And you kiss me in a way that’s gonna screw me up forever / I broke my own heart ’cause you were too polite to do it,” Swift sings.

“Is It Over Now?” is speculated to be about Swift’s relationship with Harry Styles. The intro to the song is a combination of blended voices, blurred together in a way similar to the intro of “Labyrinth” on Midnights. This song is thought to be about Styles due to lyrics referencing well-known public events of their relationship, including their snowmobile accident and a photograph of Swift in a blue dress sitting on a boat alone, allegedly after breaking up with Styles and cutting their vacation together short. 

“Red blood, white snow (Uh-huh) / Blue dress on a boat (Uh-huh)” Swift sings. 
1989 arguably launched Swift to the heights of pop superstardom, making Swift’s fourth re-recorded album one of the most anticipated. The biggest changes she made—the production, the addition of more instruments, and the presence of a more synth-inspired sound— bettered and worsened some songs. But the album finds its stride in the five “From The Vault” tracks, in which Swift blends the fun energy of 1989 to the sultry songs of Midnights.

November 1, 2023