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Speak Now (Taylor's Version) is Finally Out and Here's What's Different

Music & Podcasts

August 06, 2023

Taylor Swift released the original version of Speak Now back in 2010 and also went on tour for the album. When her first six albums were sold off to Scooter Braun, Taylor saw it as an opportunity to re-record her albums and add never-heard-before tracks, called 'vault tracks' that she wrote for the same album but never made the cut. Speak Now (Taylor's Version) came out on July 7, 2023, after a series of Easter Eggs hinting at it.

Taylor announced the release live during a show on the Eras Tour, and once the album was out, she added Long Live to the set list and performed with the iconic koi fish guitar from 2011. This article will explore how the tracks on Taylor's Version differ from the original tracks and will get into some of the vault tracks.

Speak Now (Taylor's Version): a Review

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While Taylor re-recorded the same songs from 2010, there are many things that make this album not just a re-record, but establish both albums as two separate entities. The biggest difference has been the maturity in Taylor's voice and loss of the country accent, which made many long-term fans emotional. Below, I will break down some songs that reflect major differences between the two albums.

Enchanted (Taylor's Version)

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Enchanted was the only song that was on the Eras Tour setlist from Speak Now. While she performed other songs as a part of the two acoustic surprise songs, none were on the regular setlist. She eventually added Long Live to the setlist after the release of Speak Now TV.

It's a song that never gets old, with a gut-wrenching bridge filled with passion and emotion. The biggest difference I noticed, which I personally felt disappointed about, was when she sang "please don't be in love with someone else" for the third time.

If you listen to the song, she sings it twice with music that builds up to a massive release and then almost screams it out the third time, providing a satisfying release of emotions in the original song. Instead of singing it out loud in the re-record, it continues to be subdued and brings her vocalising to the forefront. While this is also extremely beautiful, I felt like the way she did it first was a big part of why the song sounded so powerful and passionate.

Better than Revenge (Taylor's Version)

The change in this song is probably the most prominent and talked about change since it's a lyrical difference. The song is about a girl who feels like another girl stole her partner and sings about this "other girl" by demeaning her. The theme of this song was criticised for not being feminist and pitting women against each other. At the same time, many of her fans defended the song by saying that it simply reflects the rage that a teenage girl may feel in a situation like this and the kinds of thoughts she has as a result of this anger.

The controversy resulted in Taylor changing one particular line in the song. The original lyric, "she's better known for the things that she does on the mattress" was changed to "he was a moth to a flame, she was holding the matches". Many people appreciated Taylor for rewriting a problematic narrative that indicated [censored] shaming, but many were also disappointed in the change, since the original version will always be iconic.

I personally am in two minds regarding this. While I understand that people wanted her to take the re-release as an opportunity to make the change, I also feel like the re-releases were for her to own her music and re-visit old ideas. With a change like this, she has added her perspective as a 33-year-old to a song she wrote as a young adult, and the lyrics don't fit with the song's theme.

The entire song is about how she dislikes the "other girl". When she suddenly adds a lyric blaming the guy for being attracted to her, it takes away from the original flow. I don't know if bringing about this change was the best idea, because at the end of the day, the song was meant to reflect that teenage girls may think of things that aren't acceptable in a situation like this, and rage can blind people to morality.

Back to December (Taylor's Version)

One of the most popular songs on the album is allegedly about Taylor Lautner and is a fan favourite. What makes it even more special is that Taylor Lautner is featured in the music video of one of the vault tracks, I Can See You. The change in Taylor's Version is audible right in the beginning and has more to do with the production of the song.

While the original song opens strongly with an electric guitar and the rest of the instruments in the background, Taylor's Version has a more laidback production. The intro is more like a blend of all the instruments and the melody is very subtle compared to the original version. I don't particularly mind this change, it just sounds like the production has intentionally been made to sound more refined while maintaining the essence of the original track.

The Other Tracks

Other than these changes that I felt were major, some things really made a few of the songs better than the original. Never Grow Up (Taylor's Version) hits differently in a more mature voice since she's singing to her younger self and she did indeed grow up. Even songs like Long Live and Last Kiss have maintained their charm. In Dear John (Taylor's Version), the youthfulness and raw pain in her voice is of course missing, but it still has a very similar as she's re-visiting those feelings.

The Vault Tracks

The vault tracks of this album are by far my favorite out of the three re-recordings. While I Can See You, Timeless and Castles Crumbling are my top three, overall I really enjoyed all six tracks.

I Can See You (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)

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This song holds a special place in every fan's heart as it not only marks the reunion of the cast of the Mine music video but also features Taylor Lautner, everyone's favorite ex. The fact that she made a music video for this song to depict how her fans are rescuing her music after it got stolen and bringing her out of the vault is a great way for her to tribute to those who have stayed by her side and supported her re-recordings even more than how much they supported the original releases.

Another thing about this song is that it's quite seductive in terms of both lyrics and production, something young Taylor would never have imagined would have seen the light of day. That's what majorly sets this song apart from the rest of the album, almost as if it's a future nod to her sixth album, Reputation.

When Emma Falls In Love (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)

While this song is not my favorite out of the vault tracks, I love the concept and lyrics of the song. Rumoured to be about Emma Stone, it dives into the mindset of a girl called Emma as she experiences love and relationships. Taylor also hints that she wishes to experience life like Emma does.

She concludes the song with Emma falling in love with the right man who protects her, while also indicating that he's lucky to have a woman like her to love him. She compares Emma to Cleopatra, a powerful and influential Egyptian queen who was also widely known for her beauty.

Castles Crumbling (Feat. Hayley Williams) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)

This song almost seems like an aftermath of Long Live and many speculate that the song reflects Taylor's "downfall" after Kanye West humiliated her at the VMAs by interrupting her speech and saying that Beyonce deserved the award. The song gives us a peek into how Taylor was feeling after the incident.

Timeless (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)

I find this song to be absolutely beautiful as it describes the timeless quality of a relationship. With small details that build up the story of the song, like the photos in the antique shop being 25 cents each, pictures of the wedding, seeing her own relationship in those photographs, mentioning the time period to be 1944 and referring to her partner going to war and sending her letters, the song is not only catchy but really emotional.

She also builds a timeline through the lyrics as the next verse mentions pictures from 1958. She then mentions that even if it were the 1500s and she was forced to marry someone else, her love with this person would have been timeless. The end of the song circles back to the beginning, but this time it's photos of her own love that will end up in an antique shop. The concept, production, lyrics and word play are what make this one of my favorite vault tracks.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the vault tracks of this album are my favorite and Taylor did a really impressive job with the re-records. Drawing comparisons between the original version and Taylor's Version is always an interesting activity and really shows you how very small lyrical or production elements can completely change a song.

Sapna Kappal
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Sapna is a graduate of Psychology with a Literature minor from India. She enjoys discussing and writing about pop culture, music, mental health, travel, language, and diversity and is going to do research in the field of language and intercultural communication in the UK.