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‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ is a reflective, sparkling album filled with nostalgia

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Collegian | Trin Bonner

Taylor Swift released her album “Speak Now” in 2010, when the globally beloved singer was 21 years old. She has said in various interviews and messages to fans that “Speak Now” is the album she is the proudest of, as Swift was the sole writer on the album during the “turbulent” age between 18 and 20 years old. And now it’s hers.

The third of an ambitious but incredibly successful six-album re-recording project following her master recordings being sold out from under her in 2021, “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” was announced at a Nashville stop of her groundbreaking Eras Tour May 5. Swift is now 33 years old. Her voice has matured and toned, leading to some inevitable differences in the albums.

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While the original “Speak Now” is filled with almost manic emotions — love, pain, anger, distress and begging — the biggest change with “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is that it is filled with nostalgia. Swift is viewing these songs — which are about growing up and the pains that come with first loves, first heartbreaks and life-shattering drama — through a reflective lens. “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” is her way of reminiscing who she was and the experiences that shaped her youth. It’s a master class in moving on.

The production value has changed slightly as well. A conglomerate of country, pop and rock, the sound of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is more polished, with smoother instrumentals and more vocal layering. “Enchanted,” one of the most beautiful love songs of her entire discography, benefits from this, as does “Sparks Fly,” which still maintains her country sound that began to fade in this album. Maybe it’s the addition of a more electro-pop side of “Superman” or a slightly revamped electric guitar backing to “The Story of Us,” but the alterations to this album seem more noticeable than in the other re-recordings of “Red” and “Fearless.”

Swift’s vocals have changed so much in the last 13 years, but time benefits the heartbroken ballads of “Speak Now.” “Last Kiss” cuts even deeper with her slightly raspy belt, even without the trademark shaky breath in the bridge. “Dear John” is less sad and more resigned and frustrated toward a situation that happened 15 years ago and clearly is numb now. It suits the song.

The most beautiful change is in “Back to December,” which is about the singer’s relationship with Taylor Lautner. Lautner and Swift have a close friendship now, with Lautner even starring in a very recent music video that premiered July 7, and you can almost hear the smile playing on Swift’s lips as she sings the ballad about her now-friend, who she has made peace with.

Peace is a clear theme throughout “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” Swift is saying that she will always hold the tumultuous memories of her young adulthood close to her heart, while also reliving the magic of not knowing what might happen next in your life. The beauty of “Speak Now” lies in the dichotomy between longing for the future and aching for the past. Love pop track “Ours” seems as universal to Swift as ever and tonally looks toward the future.

Magic is a reoccurring motif — and not only in the well-updated “Long Live” — motifs of dragons, castles and fairytale dresses pop out of the lyrics album-wide. It is reminiscent of holding onto childhood symbols, such as in the tear-jerking “Never Grow Up.”

Swift also cycles through anger: Tracks like “Better Than Revenge,” “Mean” and “Haunted” have cooled slightly, but considering that 13 years have passed, these changes have simmered down the fire, which she no longer feels toward those who wronged her as a teenager. While Swift did alter the infamous “mattress” lyric on “Better Than Revenge,” it fits the mature woman she has become better than the original would have.

The only time the production seems to let down a song slightly is “Haunted,” which benefitted from the added anger and passion in the original.

Her six brand-new bonus tracks from the vault are highlighted by the shockingly upbeat and mesmerizing “I Can See You,” which proves to be one of Swift’s best and most shockingly sultry pop songs to date. It’s the highlight of the vault, even if it feels slightly better suited for “Reputation” or “1989.”

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The vault tracks also include a rock-inspired but forgettable collaboration with Fall Out Boy on “Electric Touch,” which struggles to blend the two artists’ voices. More successful is Swift’s collaboration with Hayley Williams of Paramore on “Castles Crumbling,” an ode to the impermanence of fame.

Also from the vault is the beautiful “When Emma Falls In Love,” a simple piano-based track that leans heavily on its lovely lyrics about the pitfalls of guarded love. The ending song, “Timeless,” tells detailed stories of love throughout the ages with beautifully modern parallels. Both are sure to become staples in the Taylor Swift romantic songs genre.

Capping off the vault is “Foolish One,” which feels like it was delivered to the fans from the diary of 19-year-old Swift.

“Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” is already breaking records. Spotify announced that in a single day, it became the most streamed album so far in 2023 and the most streamed country album in Spotify history. Those records only will continue to grow as the album is streamed by more and more fans.

While the goal of the re-recordings is to replace the album on streaming platforms so Swift has ownership over her music, the new albums do not erase the story of her life and her career — or the memory of the girl Swift once was. In “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version),” Swift is paying tribute to her 19-year-old self and sending a warm hug to the original girl in the dress, who wrote so many songs.

Reach Allie Seibel at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter at allie_seibel_.

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About the Contributors
Allie Seibel
Allie Seibel, Editor in Chief
Allie Seibel is the editor in chief of The Rocky Mountain Collegian, a role she loves more and more with each day. Previously the news editor and news director of The Collegian, Seibel has a background in news, but she’s excited to branch out and experience every facet of content this and following years. Seibel is a sophomore journalism and media communications major minoring in business administration and legal studies. She is a student in the Honors Program and is also an honors ambassador and honors peer mentor. She also is a satellite imagery writer for the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University. Seibel is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and loves how The Collegian has gotten her acquainted with Fort Collins and CSU. When she’s not writing, reporting or in class, you can always find her with a book, cross-stitching, planning where to travel to next, trying out a new recipe or listening to Taylor Swift. Seibel is incredibly proud of The Collegian’s past and understands the task of safeguarding its future. She’s committed to The Collegian’s brand as an alt-weekly newspaper and will continue to advance its status as a strong online publication while preserving the integrity and tradition of the print paper. Seibel is excited to begin a multi-year relationship with readers at the helm of the paper and cannot wait to see how the paper continues to grow. Through initiatives like the new science desk and letting each individual desk shine, Seibel is committed to furthering The Collegian and Rocky Mountain Student Media over the next few years.
Trin Bonner
Trin Bonner, Illustration Director
Trin Bonner is the illustration director for The Collegian newspaper. This will be her third year in this position, and she loves being a part of the creative and amazing design team at The Collegian. As the illustration director, Bonner provides creative insight and ideas that bring the newspaper the best graphics and illustrations possible. She loves working with artists to develop fun and unique illustrations every week for the readers. Bonner is a fourth-year at Colorado State University studying electronic arts. She loves illustrating and comic making and has recently found enjoyment in experimental video, pottery and graphic design. Outside of illustration and electronic art, Bonner spends her free time crocheting and bead making. She is usually working on a blanket or making jewelry when she is not drawing, illustrating or brainstorming.

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