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October 4, 2022

‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ comes as a re-contextualized version of one of Swift’s classics

Courtesy of Republic Records

The latest re-release in her journey to reclaim her discography, Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) features six new tracks originally written in 2010. The album, released on July 7, delivers listeners classic Swiftian storytelling and country tunes. 

Swift originally recorded Speak Now, her third album, as a 19-year-old facing constant criticism and allegations of not writing her own songs. For this reason, Swift chose to forgo collaborators, releasing an entirely self-written album. Rejecting every stereotype forced onto her, Speak Now stood as Swift’s unabashed and fearless declaration to a world and culture bent on tearing her down.

A critical moment in Swift’s career, and specifically her re-records project, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) sets out to do what its source material accomplished more than a decade ago — set the record straight on Swift’s ethos as an artist who refuses to let others determine her circumstances. 

Unlike Red (Taylor’s Version), which suffered muddy production on certain songs, almost all of the production on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) makes for clearer songs, with occasional changes that mostly make for an even better listening experience. Both “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” and “Ours (Taylor’s Version)” boast improved production, with clear percussion and charming vocals. 

However, not all tracks improved upon reinvention. “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version)” stands out as the first re-recorded song to have substantial differences from its original iteration, with a controversial lyric change. For several years, the chorus of the song, in which Swift sings, “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think she’s an actress / She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress” found itself a subject of many discussions of slut-shaming. In the re-released version, Swift now sings, “He was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches,” removing the problematic element. 

The changing of the verse feels lazy. Swift hasn’t spoken on the change, and while some fans expressed gratitude at being able to sing the song without feeling bad about potentially contributing to a sexist sentiment from the 2010s, pretending like the original lyric never happened feels like a cop-out from Swift. 

Swift could have easily addressed the change, pointing out that while she suffered from a misogynistic lens in the media that dissected her own dating life, she never paused to think about how she contributed to that culture, as well. An acknowledgement would’ve proved to be a nice moment of reflection from an artist now more than a decade wiser instead of some flash-in-the-pan Twitter discourse.

Of the six vault songs, which include lovely collaborations from Fall Out Boy and Paramore, “I Can See You” and “When Emma Falls in Love” prove to be standouts. A punchy country twanged tune about a secret relationship, “I Can See You,” seems very classic Speak Now-era Swift, making for an entertaining song with a delightful bridge.

Of her re-records thus far, which include Red (Taylor’s Version) and Fearless (Taylor’s Version), this album stands as the most identical to its original counterpart. Songs such as “Never Grow Up (Taylor’s Version)” and “Long Live (Taylor’s Version)” evoke nostalgia, with Swift’s mature voice adding a layer of emotional depth to the beloved tunes about her childhood and young adulthood. Only a few tracks fall flat on the new version, such as “Sparks Fly (Taylor’s Version),” which seems to be missing the tune’s original passionate vocals. 

Despite some glaring changes that distract from the purpose of re-records, Swift’s release invokes feelings of nostalgia with 22 beautifully crafted songs. Thirteen years after the fact, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) comes as a re-contextualized look at girlhood that speaks to how not only culture, but one of this generation’s greatest songwriters, have evolved through her legendary career. 

4 missing mattresses out of 5

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About the Contributor
Trisha Dasgupta, Senior Life & Arts Reporter
Dasgupta is a journalism freshman from Frisco, Texas. She currently works as a senior reporter for the Life and Arts department and has previously covered news for The Texan. When she's not writing articles you can find her listening to Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, or Billy Joel.