Taylor Swift
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
July 8th, 2023 | 55 replies


Release Date: 07/07/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An admirable and very intimate effort that will be extremely rewarding to her most devoted fans.

The story of Taylor's Version and how it began treks back to 2019 when Scooter Braun, a big-time music manager and apparent enemy of Swift, purchased the Big Machine label for three hundred million dollars – along with it acquiring the rights to her first six albums. According to Swift, Braun timed leaks of sensitive information, bullied her through social media, and used Kanye West and Justin Beiber as pawns against her. Taylor, who attempted to buy her music back, has stated that she never felt like she was given a real chance to do so. All of this led to feelings far beyond that of losing a bidding war; to Taylor, it was personal not only because the rights to Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017) belonged to someone else, but because that person just happened to be a man who bullied and intimidated her for years. Swift summed it up as her "worst case scenario" and "worst nightmare".

Who exactly will get the last laugh remains to be seen. Since 2021, Taylor has been hard at work re-recording her intellectual property, and has already released her own versions of Fearless, Red and as of today Speak Now – all of which she owns (insert "Mine" joke here). Not unlike her current "Eras" tour, it feels like something of a victory lap for an artist who at thirty four years old is already in the top twenty five selling artists of all-time. The actual re-recorded songs sound, for the most part, the same as their predecessors. That's largely the point, as her aim is to essentially reclaim those songs as they were. Subtle differences can be found by the hardcore Swiftie or discerning ear; minor changes in inflection or emphasis, along with slight variations in production, do (obviously) exist – no matter how closely the originals were retraced. These sporadic occurrences are unlikely to influence your opinion of the tracks one way or another, though; for all intents-and-purposes, it's another day at the office for Ms. Swift just as it was when she released her versions of Fearless and Red.

What gives these albums most of their value, at least for the majority of consumers, is the "From The Vault" tracks – songs that existed from each LP's recording session, but missed the cut for the final tracklist. That's why Red (Taylor's Version) was a far more worthwhile endeavor for fans than Fearless (Taylor's Version), because Red's "From The Vault" tracks felt like crucial puzzle pieces missing from the original album, whereas their counterparts on Fearless sounded like the b-sides that they were. That isn't to say that Swift made any poor decisions with her re-recording of Fearless; if anything, it's proof that she got Fearless' tracklist right the first time and Red – which was notoriously eclectic and perhaps even a little bloated – wrong. However, there are numerous considerations to make that influence how the "From The Vault" songs factor in. Take for instance that 2012's Red was indeed (and maybe still is) Swift's most sonically diverse record; what that does is create a much wider range of potential sounds for her vault tracks to fit into. Anything with vague country, pop, synth, R&B, or rock influence – hell, even dubstep – would sound at-home on that stylistically mixed bag album. The scope was much narrower for Fearless, and that's again the case with Speak Now, which draws the majority of its influence from the country-pop sphere. Also factor in just how much Swift's approach to writing music has shifted since the Fearless/Speak Now era: she's gone full-on pop, created a somewhat facetious pop-rock album, plunged into indie/folk, and dabbled in electronics. To go from such a broad artistic palette back to "country-pop" (to Speak Now's credit, its songwriting is actually very diverse) creates a whole batch of challenges in itself, because of all the things Taylor Swift is right now, a country artist isn't one of them.

With all that said, Speak Now's vault tracks land somewhere in between that of Red's and Fearless' in terms of the value that they bring to the experience. Generally, the songs do a surprisingly good job of fitting the magical, lovestruck atmosphere of Speak Now – but they're not quite essential the way that 'Nothing New', 'Forever Winter', 'Run', or the ten minute version of 'All Too Well' were for Red. An argument could be made (and it's one I'd willingly hear and likely at least partially agree with) that Red had more holes in the quality of its original tracklist – thus opening the door for the From The Vault tracks to feel more essential in the first place – whereas Speak Now is widely considered by fans to be her best work, or at least one of them. It's a fair point, and that's why I don't fault Taylor Swift for not finding a way to make what are ultimately b-sides that she willingly discarded thirteen-plus years ago somehow, magically, as good or better than the A-list tracks. It's a bit of a double edged sword, re-recording an album like Speak Now – the closer a musical piece is to perfection, the less room there is for improvements. What that will lead to, unfortunately, is fans feeling let down by tracks that, while good, aren't amazing like the ones they have formed countless memories to and thus elevated them to an unattainable standard. Regardless, 'Electric Touch' is a huge pop-rock banger that really didn't need Fall Out Boy's presence and would have arguably been better off without; 'When Emma Falls in Love' nails the sound of the Speak Now era with its plucky banjo, warm acoustics, and lyrical storytelling; 'I Can See You' has the most addicting guitar line and rhythm of any Swift track since 'Style'; 'Castles Crumbling' is a sad, smooth ballad about growing older and losing the interest of your fandom and, like 'Electric Touch', it doesn't really need the guest vocal help (although, Hayley Williams' voice is a much more natural fit with Taylor's than Patrick Stump); while 'Foolish One' feels a little more like a Fearless era track and 'Timeless' pays tribute to her grandmother Marjorie (although not quite as movingly as she did on 2020's evermore). All-in-all, Speak Now's vault tracks really are quite great; just don't listen to them right after the original fourteen track masterpiece.

Again, it's an interesting dynamic to judge a re-recorded piece – with new tracks appended – against the original. What should carry the most weight? The fact that a borderline-classic album is still very much the same at its core? The expectations of the listener pitted against Swift's unenviable task of making six b-sides live up to them? I'll say this – Speak Now loses nothing on Taylor's Version, but in judging its viability as a worthwhile separate piece from the original LP, it's not as essential as Speak Now was in its time. For that, it perhaps has the sense of losing just a tiny bit of ground – which may simply be par for the course on any re-recording of music that has already existed and garnered high praise. Redoing your own best work and attempting to match it is a tough business to be in. It may not contain anything that the casual Swift listener or average radio-goer will be breaking down doors to hear, but with Speak Now (Taylor's Version), she delivers an admirable and very intimate effort that will be extremely rewarding to her most devoted fans.



s
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user ratings (67)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


6032 Comments


Nice review Sowing.

Couple minor things - in the first paragraph "Braun" is spelled "Bruan" and in the third paragraph there appears to be an extra "and" - I think it should read "like the b-sides that they were".

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


61277 Comments


biggest tay fan i know says this is mid af and the bonuses are useless, but this is/was probably her best album so I'll probs peep anyway hm

"According to Swift, Bruan timed leaks of sensitive information, bullied her through social media, and used Kanye West and Justin Beiber as pawns against her"

lol i love Celebrity Spin: Taylor's Version almost as much as Obsessive Revenge Capitalism: Taylor's Version

pizzamachine
July 8th 2023


27395 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Another day another Disney movie

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


19030 Comments


slight "Bruan" typo in the first paragraph, but great write up. Imagine being named Scooter

emprorzurg
July 8th 2023


574 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

say what you will about her, it's always impressed me that in an era where it seems most pop stars are just vocal vessels for other writers, Taylor managed to write her best body of work entirely on her own (she is the only writing credit on the entire album).



I love the original and have listened to the re-recorded tracks here. Can't wait to get to the new ones from the same era.

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


10314 Comments


MineMineMineMineMineMine



Get Low
July 8th 2023


14387 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

rules

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


2407 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

She also changed the chorus lyric in Better than Revenge

vult
July 8th 2023


2396 Comments


Wouldn’t surprise me if the Scooter Braun shitstorm was all manufactured in order to build hype and allow Taylor to release all of her music again and double dip and pay Braun under the table for the public backlash.

If ANY celebrity were to do that, Taylor would sure be a contender for most likely.

Sowing
Moderator
July 8th 2023


44138 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

---She also changed the chorus lyric in Better than Revenge---

I know some people are raising a stink about it but I like the new lyrics better.



@Sunny/YoYo: Thanks for the edit. Made the changes!

Tundra
July 8th 2023


9864 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Hello my name is... by Bridgit Mendler is better than her whole discography

Sowing
Moderator
July 8th 2023


44138 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

---lol i love Celebrity Spin: Taylor's Version almost as much as Obsessive Revenge Capitalism: Taylor's Version---

This is also accurate lol

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


2407 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I don’t mind that she changed it. Basically the same sentiment as the infamous Misery Business lyric but phrased a little more delicately. The original is out there if people want it. What I don’t like about the re-record is that the distorted backing vocals are much more prominent and annoying in that song

Sowing
Moderator
July 8th 2023


44138 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Misery Business is a good comparison.



I find I generally prefer the original production to the Taylor's Version tracks, and this one's Vault songs aren't as good as Red's. Still, I am enjoying her run through her discog because it reminds me just how iconic her career has been, and having new songs is a nice bonus as long as you don't go into them with unrealistic expectations.



Electric Touch could have been such a banger if it was just Swift on vox. I feel like her and Stump do not mesh well at all lol.

Gyromania
July 8th 2023


37225 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I’m Im just fed up of TS at this point. Speak Now was always my favourite of her albums but it doesn’t hold up as well, for me at least. I feel like this album and Red have had so many deluxe editions or other specially packaged versions. Rereleases on top of rereleases this year

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 8th 2023


27814 Comments


I’m also kind of sick of Taylor Swift, even though I basically like basically all of her albums, including Reputation.

Sowing
Moderator
July 8th 2023


44138 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Reputation gets way too much hate and is full of bops

Colton
July 8th 2023


15526 Comments


this reminds me of the video of john cena sucking up to china and eating ice cream

radianteclipse
July 8th 2023


512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album owns and was always the best pre-pop/pre 1989 album in her discography and this re-recording doesn't do much to change that...it still slaps. The vault tracks are..meh. I was expecting a little more out of the Hayley Williams collab but it's still good.

nol
July 8th 2023


12280 Comments


It’s just an excuse to sell shit twice lol



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