The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | Taylor Swift delivers best vault yet with ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’

Photo courtesy of Genius
Cover art of Taylor Swift’s new rendition of her album “1989” titled “1989 (Taylor’s Version).”

After much anticipation from fans, Taylor Swift has released “1989 (Taylor’s Version).”

The album retains the ’80s synth-pop sound of the original while putting Swift’s extreme vocal improvement on full display.

Swift includes the original 13 tracks, three bonus tracks and five previously unreleased tracks. Additionally, the deluxe album — released several hours later — features a “Bad Blood” remix with Kendrick Lamar.

The shift in 1989’s second go-around is abundantly clear from a dramatic synth change in the first 13 seconds of the opening track “Welcome to New York (Taylor’s Version).” 

There is an absence of producers Max Martin and Shellback on “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version), ” “Shake it Off (Taylor’s Version),” “Style (Taylor’s Version)” and “Bad Blood (Taylor’s Version),” yet Swift manages to create nearly identical instrumentals. 

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    Taylor opts for producer Christopher Rowe to develop the sonic background of the Martin and Shellback hits.

    On original tracks, the production takes a back seat to Swift, as she proclaims her lyrics with rasps and passion.

    With Rowe’s production of tracks like “Shake it Off (Taylor’s Version)” and “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version),” Swift’s lead is more melodic and blends into the instrumental.

    The high-pitched “Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah” backing vocals on “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)” echo the strange “We-ee” vocals on “We Are Never Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version),” another Shellback track produced by Rowe.

    “Bad Blood (Taylor’s Version)” also contains strange backing vocals, making it less gritty, but has stellar instrumentals and features an incredible post-bridge vocal run from Swift.

    Although lacking the vehemence in Swift’s 24-year-old vocals, the quality of “Blank Space (Taylor’s Version)” has actually improved.

    Swift’s glassy tones carry the chorus on their back, and she belts confidently to end the bridge, a change from the rather squeaky original.

    The celestial closer of the original album, “Clean (Taylor’s Version),” is an ideal remake with the return of producer Imogen Heap.

    As the only contributors to their originals, Swift and long-time collaborator Jack Antonoff seamlessly replicate “You Are in Love (Taylor’s Version),” “I Wish You Would (Taylor’s Version)” and “Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version).” 

    “Out of the Woods (Taylor’s Version)” is an electrifying enhancement of the original, as Antonoff backs Swift’s crystal clear voice with fervent ’80s drums and theatrical vocals.

    The first vault track, “SLUT! (Taylor’s Version),” is a groundbreaking track for Swift, combining the best of Antonoff’s production, Swift’s songwriting and an ’80s sound.

    “I think it’s really dreamy,” Swift said via Tumblr Music. “I always saw ‘1989’ as a New York album, but this song to me was always California.”

    The introduction parallels that of “Too Pieces” by Yazoo while the pre-chorus drums and synths emulate “Wild Heart” by Antonoff’s band, Bleachers.

    “SLUT! (Taylor’s Version)” shows off Swift’s knack for clever wordplay. 

    “Adorned with smoke on my clothes/ Lovelorn and nobody knows/ Love thorns all over this rose/ I’ll pay the price, you won’t,” Swift sings.

    As she did with “Blank Space” in 2014, Swift uses the track to acknowledge the media’s perception of her.

    “And if they call me a slut/ You know it might be worth it for once,” Swift declares.

    Swift skillfully directs the vivacity of the original songs into the mature musings of her latest vault tracks.

    On “Say Don’t Go (Taylor’s Version),” Swift’s vocals are earnest, hitting her audience with the painful lyrics: “I’m yours but you’re not mine.”

    The “Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version)” intro employs building synths, reminiscent of Yazoo’s “Only You,” as Swift describes the despair of observing a lost lover from afar.

    The album closer, “Is It Over Now? (Taylor’s Version)” contains some of the most powerful lyrics on the album.

    “If she’s got blue eyes, I will surmise that you’ll probably date her/ You search in every model’s bed for somethin’ greater,” Swift sings, of a former flame, allegedly Harry Styles.

    “SLUT! (Taylor’s Version),” “Is It Over Now (Taylor’s Version)” and “Now That We Don’t Talk (Taylor’s Version)” do not sound like anything Swift has ever created, and yet they fit perfectly into the palm of 1989’s hand.

    They better reflect the ’80s than previous tracks, yet, sonically, pack less of a punch, aligning with Swift’s tranquil, beachy marketing of “Taylor’s Version.”

    Swift reclaims the bustling chaos of her New York 20s while delivering a “1989” that is both novel and reflective.


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