Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) was released on July 7, and completely changed my outlook on the album. I was eight years old when the original album was released, and I spent nearly every day guessing who each song was about and what pop culture events she was referring to.
It’s still my favorite album to this day, but as you can imagine, the songs have a very different meaning to me going into my senior year of college compared to when I was in third grade. I’ve spent the last few days listening to both versions of the album and reflecting on what my third-grade self was experiencing. I’ve noticed there are five songs that really brought me back to elementary school, even if I didn’t really know what they meant.
Regardless, these songs had an impact on me, and that was all that mattered to my eight-year-old self.
I think for young girls around the world, the third grade can be a year when the mean girls start to thrive. I’ve never been one for confrontation, so I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. Instead, my mom and I would play this song on the way to school every single day and scream-sing it, dedicating it to every bully at my school.
As a 21-year-old, I thankfully don’t have much experience with mean girls anymore. Instead, college has taught me that there are some people that you’ll either work with or have classes with who love to ‘pick on the weaker man,’ as Taylor says. I’m no longer as timid as I was at eight, but I know better than to lash out because of the way someone is treating me. In those moments, I still choose to listen to the song (Taylor’s version, of course) and tune everything else out. Ignorance is truly bliss!
- “Never Grow Up”
I’ll be real here, when I was eight I truly had no idea what the beginning of the song meant. I have my understanding of the middle of the song though, third grade meant the first year of state testing and it seemed like something so grown-up, which was terrifying.
Still being real, this song feels like I’m mourning my childhood and makes me ugly cry. Being the youngest of three children and graduating college can be scary because you never expect to be the one out of school, that’s your older siblings’ job. The thought of being officially done with school is so much scarier than a state test, but I still have 10 months until adulting feels real.
- “Long Live”
Surprisingly, I had a semi-decent grasp of the meaning behind this song growing up. I’ve always been a naturally observant person, and “Long Live” taught me how valuable this trait was. It inspired me to get into journaling, and I tried to write as many stories about my day and life as possible. Looking back, my spelling and grammar were incredibly off, but the passion was there!
I no longer write semi-embellished versions of my day-to-day life like I did in 2010, and I’ve tried to just live in the moment instead. Wherever I go, I try to be more present with my friends and my family rather than observing them as I did before. Today, my memories live in my photos with people instead of the pages of my journals.
Again, I was literally in my “lunchbox days” when this song came out. However, I was already a borderline perfectionist at eight and was competitive at all things academically. (Did I brag about having high school-level reading scores in elementary school? Yes.) Because of that, I would freak out over not being able to do simple math, and multiplication was the death of me. This song was like a gentle reminder that math didn’t define me, no matter how dumb I felt.
While my version of the song isn’t what Taylor intended, the song has a similar meaning for me today. I’m still a perfectionist, although I don’t really care about math anymore. I got my first correction at an internship when I was 20, and it was on a story I spent weeks on. It was my favorite story I ever wrote, so to have an imperfection on it sent me into a spiral. I was having an anxiety attack and literally praying that my editor wouldn’t freak out over the correction. She was really sweet about it, and told me the corrected fact didn’t change the meaning of my story. I used this song to remind myself that I wasn’t a horrible journalist because I mixed up a fact as I was reading it, and I’m still proud of that story and my personal growth.
- “Better Than Revenge “
Before you ask, I had no idea what that lyric meant when I was eight. It truly went right over my head, I had zero clue! This was another song dedicated to an elementary school bully who I felt was stealing my friends, and it felt like Taylor knew exactly what I was going through. What revenge did I have in mind while singing this song? Literally none — because I was eight and scared of confrontation. But it didn’t matter to me! It felt like someone understood me and that was all I wanted. This song was truly my bible, and I still know every single word.
As I said, I’m very competitive about things relating to academics, and I’m also very into karma. I was a little enraged when I saw people, who weren’t necessarily kind, on social media getting internships before me last summer. I decided it was time to work harder than anyone else to get the opportunities, and had three internships in one year. This song was my national anthem yet again because, for me, my success was better than revenge.
Speak Now, both Taylor’s version and the original, will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first album I listened to in its entirety, and it was the first time it felt like someone understood the struggles of an eight-year-old. Although the meanings behind these songs have changed for me and have definitely become a lot clearer as I grew up, so many of Taylor’s messages still align with what eight-year-old Julia was trying to understand and express.