Since Taylor Swift first began re-recording her first six albums as part of a process to owning all of her masters, everyone has been anxiously anticipating the re-release of 1989. As a seminal pop album of the 2010s, there was buzz about what 1989 (Taylor’s Version) would be like before she even announced it. This is especially true in New York, the city where much of the original album was set. New York City is always an exciting place to be during a Taylor Swift album release, but 1989 (Taylor’s Version) brought a new level of excitement with all of the nostalgia.
To prepare for the album’s release, my friends and I re-watched “The 1989 World Tour” movie and decorated sugar cookies. By the time the album came out at midnight, we sat in a circle around the speaker and held our breaths. I have to admit, this re-recording was the one I was most nervous about. How could you possibly remake such an iconic pop album? Somehow, she did it, and she did it even better than the first time around. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is a massive success, and proof that Swift is better than ever before, even after nearly two decades of music.
Every one of Swift’s re-recorded albums has created nostalgic listening experiences, transporting us back to our pasts by listening to the music that carried us through adolescence and early adulthood for the first time again. Just as Swift revisited past memories through her re-recording process, so have I. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was the most emotional album rollout for me because the album has played such an integral role in my relationship with New York City. I bought “Welcome to New York” on iTunes when I was 13, dreaming of this city. As I listen to it all over again so many years later, in the city I dreamt of, the songs take on a whole new meaning.
The new recordings of past classics like “Out of the Woods” and “Blank Space” maintain all of their original energy and emotional landscapes, but they sound fresher, clearer and stronger than they were before. Swift’s confidence and wisdom shine through on her new version, allowing her vocal performance to elevate each track into something smoother and more impressive.
The vault tracks, or previously unreleased songs from each of her albums that Swift releases alongside each re-recording, are strong on 1989 (Taylor’s Version). With the help of long term collaborator Jack Antonoff,who helped produce much of the original version of 1989, she reminds us all that she can craft an endless stream of seamless pop hits with ease.
In hindsight, listening to Swift’s most recent studio album Midnights makes a lot more sense in the context of her re-recording of 1989. The synth-based production on 1989 (Taylor’s Version)’s vault tracks is somewhat reminiscent of tracks like “Mastermind” on Midnights, and the lingering questions in “Question…?” seem to originate from 1989 (Taylor’s Version) vault tracks “Is It Over Now?” and “Now That We Don’t Talk.”
I bought my copy of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) on vinyl at Rough Trade the day that it came out, and, of course, ran into several other Swifties grabbing the last few copies off the shelf. Walking around Greenwich Village listening to the new vault tracks, I enjoyed the perfect fall weather and wondered how many of the people I walked past on the street were also blasting “Suburban Legends” in their headphones.
In New York, you can always find some kind of celebration going on when Taylor Swift releases an album. My friends and I often show up at what we like to call “Taylor Nights,” or the various Taylor Swift themed DJ parties that pop up around New York and other major cities. For 1989 (Taylor’s Version), our plans were no different. We found ourselves at the Gramercy Theatre ready to dance the night away. Everybody showed up in their best Swift-themed outfits: glitter, snakes and the occasional Kansas City Chiefs jersey populated the crowd. There is no better way to celebrate the re-release of a beloved album than to dance and scream-sing through every song with hundreds of other fans.
1989 (Taylor’s Version) crafts an entire sonic world around unanswered questions and self discovery which continues to resonate with listeners even after nine years since its initial release. It maintains everything that made the original version an instant fan favorite, but adds a new layer of complexity and joy to an already beloved project. 1989’s legacy as the gold standard in pop music is here to stay, filled with more radical honesty and joy than before.
Clearly, Swift’s version is resonating. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is officially Swift’s biggest debut of all time, topping the original version and all of her previous album debuts. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and achieved the biggest vinyl sales week in US history (previously held by Swift herself). As she keeps breaking her own records, Swift has never wavered in her songwriting and her vulnerability, making 1989 (Taylor’s Version) a triumph.