The latest of Swift’s re-recorded albums suffers from the loss of her youthful voice – as well as her decision to alter lyrics out of step with today’s sensibilities
Originally released in 2010, Speak Now was the first Taylor Swift album to go studs up, foregrounding the combative spirit that would come to define her. It is to date her only entirely self-written record, her attempt to vanquish critics who had credited her co-writers with the success of her first two albums. (The sing-songily vindictive Mean called out one directly.) The fairytale romances of her first two records turned bitter as Swift turned 20 and experienced real heartache. In the bruised epic Dear John, one of her greatest songs, she rebuked musician John Mayer, 12 years her senior, for treating her poorly when they dated. Her country sound hardened accordingly, skewing towards pop-punk and gothic rock. Even the ballads expanded to an indomitable scale, primed to fill the vast rooms she was now selling out. Eleven of the original 14 tracks are classics, and Speak Now (the 2010 version) remains a five-star smash.
The album is premised on Swift saying the things she wished she had said: an extended fantasy about having the last word in heartbreak – but also, for the first time, her own narrative. (Innocent consoles Kanye West, who in 2009 invaded Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music awards, instigating a pop-cultural paradigm shift that we’re still living through.)
Taylor Swift: Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) review – re-recording project starting to feel wearying and pointless
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