The arrival of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was always going to be a big deal: after all, her 2014 album was one of Taylor Swift’s critical and commercial high points, scoring three No. 1 hits on the Hot 100 and winning the album of the year Grammy after fully reinventing the country superstar as a pop icon. When 1989 was announced as the fourth of Swift’s six albums to receive the Taylor’s Version treatment, fans understandably turned giddy at the thought of Swift’s new takes on her old classics, plus the “From The Vault” goodies coming from that time of high-wattage, cinematic pop music.
And while 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is landing at a particularly busy time for Swifties — considering the fact that “Cruel Summer” sits atop the current Hot 100 after its months-long viral comeback, the Eras Tour concert film dominated the box office this month and wholesome content of Swift and Travis Kelce is darn near inescapable — the achievement that it represents should not be overlooked, even by the most casual of fans. Perhaps more than any Taylor’s Version release thus far, the re-recorded 1989 subtly tinkers with songs like “Blank Space,” “Welcome to New York,” “Out of the Woods” and “Clean” in compelling new ways, reanimating its gems from a fresh perspective and with a more seasoned pop voice.
Plus, the five “From The Vault” songs — all solo songs, the first time that the “Vault” tracks haven’t featured guest artists — supplement the album’s aesthetic, serving to further complete a vision that Swift had for the era. Some of them sound like surefire hits, and others sound destined to become fiercely beloved fan favorite; whichever lane they find, the “From The Vault” tracks demonstrate the continued power of 1989’s sound and texture, and deserve their day in the sun.
Although all five “From The Vault” songs are worthy new additions to Swift’s catalog, here is our preliminary ranking of the new goodies from Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version).
As Swift portrays a complex romance on “Suburban Legends” that’s fraught with problems but hints ever so slightly at fantasy fulfillment, she embodies her own sense of longing — elongating syllables to capture her outstretched hand, repeating scenarios that will never work out. “Suburban Legends” sparkles with bouncing chords and nuanced yearning, with its final 30 seconds coalescing into a breakdown of evaporating synths as Swift glumly accepts her fate.
“Now That We Don’t Talk”
At two minutes and 26 seconds, “Now That We Don’t Talk” is both the shortest “From The Vault” song here and the quickest track on all of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) — but within that brisk run time, Swift offers an smorgasbord of delicious details into a failed relationship. From the post-breakup wounds, to the eye-rolls at the style changes, to the silver linings of the split (“I don’t have to pretend I like acid rock” goes the best line), “Now That We Don’t Talk” sashays away from heartache with purpose — and Swift couldn’t be having more fun rattling off each tidbit before landing that titular phrase with an emphatic stomp.
From 1989 highlight “Blank Space” to Midnights’ “Anti-Hero” eight years later, Swift has scored some of her biggest hits by examining her insecurities and how they’re refracted upon entering the public discourse. “Slut!” is also about perception — but instead of any type of self-deprecation, Swift is proud that she’s wildly in love, and locates a dreamy mid-tempo sway to declare that she isn’t concerned how the greater world views that romance. “And if they call me a slut / You know it might be worth it for once,” Swift concludes on the opulent hook, deflating the titular insult with a satisfied shrug.
“Is It Over Now?”
At what moment does a relationship reach the point of no return? Swift prods at the question throughout “Is It Over Now?,” a close-up of a fractured love that still may have a pulse in spite of all the wreckage: the production yelps and chatters as she rattles off betrayals committed by both parties, post-breakup dates that won’t lead anywhere, and feelings of unfinished business running against the brick wall of a complicated past. “Is It Over Now?” soars as a storytelling exercise, with the relationship existing in a gray area that she tries to turn into a fairytale romance; the characters and their circumstances feel instantly relatable, and the ending feels earned.
“Say Don’t Go”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Swift’s “From The Vault” concept is how it’s allowed her to braid sounds and ideas from different eras of her artistry, as songs from years ago get revived with a modern touch. “Say Don’t Go” would have sounded at home on 1989, with its high-drama romance and major-key hooks — but the chorus also sounds in conversation with Swift’s country-pop days (“Why’d you have to twist the knife? / Walk away and leave me bleedin’, bleedin’!”), and the post-chorus harmonies recall her Midnights period. The result is another stellar example of a song that belongs to one moment, but draws upon all of Swift’s experiences to fully arrive.