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Culture Re-View: Revisiting Taylor Swift's '1989' on the release day of '1989 (Taylor's Version)'

On this day 9 years ago, Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album, 1989. This year, we're getting Taylor's Version
On this day 9 years ago, Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album, 1989. This year, we're getting Taylor's Version Copyright Big Machine - Republic - Canva
Copyright Big Machine - Republic - Canva
By David Mouriquand
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On this day 9 years ago, Taylor Swift released her fifth studio album, '1989'. And on this day in 2023, Swifties are being treated to her re-recording, ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’.

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Today, of all days, is TayTayDay. 

Which is fun to say.

Currently on tour with The Eras Tour, which celebrates her entire career, Taylor Swift has been engaged in the unusual practice of re-recording all of her early albums in response to not being able to own the masters. Both 'Fearless (Taylor’s Version)' and 'Red (Taylor’s Version)' topped the charts last year, and today, we’re getting her new version of '1989', arguably her best album to date.

Released on this day in 2014, ‘1989’ is a timeless pop record, one that sent Swift into the stratosphere. She shook off her country roots for her fifth studio album, and embraced full-blown pop, with the help of producers and writers Jack Antonoff, Max Martin and Ali Payami. The title – a reference to her birth year – even marked this artistic rebirth, and the end result was a set of perfectly calibrated bangers that nabbed Swift her second Album of the Year Grammy - making her the first solo female artist to earn that crown twice.

Granted, many of the tracks were overplayed to the point of inescapable, like 'Bad Blood' and 'Shake it Off', but when listening to the album from start to finish, it’s hard to argue that '1989' is one of the best pop albums. Ever.

From opener 'Welcome to New York', which segues nicely into 'Blank Space', 'Style', 'Out of the Woods', 'All You Had To Do Was Stay' and 'Shake It Off', it’s plain to hear it's pop perfection. And that’s just the first six tracks. You then still have the aforementioned 'Bad Blood', the album standout 'Wildest Dreams', and the terrific 'I Know Places' and 'Clean' to look forward to.

Brimming with ‘80s nostalgia, the hook-laden melodies inspired countless artists since its release, including Lorde, Olivia Rodrigo, and Dua Lipa, whose ‘Future Nostalgia’ could very well be the only pop album released since 2014 that could fight '1989' for the Best Pop Album of the 21st Century accolade.

2014 vs 2023 version of 1989
2014 vs 2023 version of 1989Big Machine - Republic

It can’t be denied that 2014 was that difficult time of the celebrity girl squad, and a song like 'Bad Blood' – and its video – has not aged terribly well. Initially empowering, the whole clique act felt more toxic as the years passed, especially when it promoted a certain form of elitism and beef with others. Feminist writer Camille Paglia wrote a scathing critique of Swift and her squad at the time, referring to the singer as an “obnoxious Nazi Barbie” whose “twinkly persona is such a scary flashback to the fascist blondes who ruled the social scene during my youth”.

Bit harsh, but there is something to be said about the performative aspect of the squad, which included models and singers like Cara Delevigne, Selena Gomez and Karlie Kloss – all of which joined the singer on stage for her 1989 tour. Paglia doubled down by labelling Swift’s “bear-hugging posse” as a “silly, regressive public image” and that she was “wheeling out friends and celebrities as performance props.”

The author did go on to say that modern girl squads could be pivotal in overcoming the obstacles still faced by women in Hollywood (in terms of representations and the gender pay gap), but said it was essential they did not simply become a “cozy, cliquish retreat from romantic fiascoes”.

The “girl squad” was also out in full force this year after Taylor was spotted in New York City with Gigi Hadid, Blake Lively, and the Haim sisters just weeks after her breakup with actor Joe Alwyn.

Wherever you stand on this issue – adhering with Paglia, annoyed by the preachy tone it often strikes, or just think that a catch up with supportive friends is nothing to be scoffed at - there’s no denying that it doesn’t (nor should it) temper enthusiasm for the music itself.

The pop euphoria of '1989' remains a potent serotonin hit, and '1989 (Taylor’s Version)' is one of the most anticipated of Swift’s re-recordings.

Taylor on stage for her Eras Tour
Taylor on stage for her Eras TourChris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Swift’s ambitious (and wildly successful) project to re-record her first six studio albums began in 2019 as an attempt to reclaim her music after the sale of her former record label, Big Machine, to music manager Scooter Braun.

While an admirable and damn clever way of reclaiming one's music, many thought the idea was a bit too ambitious and made no sense at first. Previous attempts at re-recordings by artists were met with little success. However, Swift and her fan base have proven everyone wrong over the years, with her first three Taylor’s Versions opening at No. 1 every time.

'1989' is the fourth remake, and it will doubtlessly perform just as well.

The new version of the 2014 album will consist of re-recorded versions of all the songs from the original's deluxe edition (including ‘Wonderland’, ‘You Are In Love’ and ‘New Romantics’), as well as five new "From the Vault" tracks: ‘Slut’, 'Say Don’t Go', 'Now That We Don’t Talk', 'Suburban Legends' and 'Is It Over Now?'. 

These additions make '1989 (Taylor’s Version)' something of a must-have for die-hard Swifties, even if many continue to feel that the re-recording endeavour, no matter how noble and impressive, can’t quite recapture the magic of the originals. Plus, there’s the sneaking feeling of guilt when you end up preferring the original versions compared to the retooled ones... 

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The admittedly dated EDM drop in the original ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ still can’t be eclipsed by Taylor’s Version. 

That, and the new releases are significantly more expensive to buy than a regular new release on vinyl, for example, and a blank space must be found on the shelves next to the originals should you decide to shell out the €36-42 (depending on which outlet you’re purchasing from).

Still, whichever version you’ll be listening to, it’ll be a nostalgic blast to revisit '1989'. 

And while you're at it, check out Ryan Adams' 2015 track-by-track cover of '1989' - it's not without its merits.

Happy listening all, and enjoy TayTayDay!

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