It’s a great day to be a Swiftie: Taylor Swift dropped the much-awaited Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) right at midnight – sending the internet into a frenzy.
This re-released album is the third of the six albums she plans to re-record, after a very infamous dispute with her former record label, Big Machine Records. Swift was 19 when she wrote the songs on the initial album, which was released around 2010 and is her only album where she’s the sole writer on every song. The album includes some of her most iconic songs to date like “Back to December,” “Mean,” “Mine” and “Enchanted.
She shared a post on Instagram, sharing “It’s an album I wrote alone about the whims, fantasies, heartaches, dramas and tragedies I lived out as a young woman between 18 and 20,” she continued. “I remember making tracklist after tracklist, obsessing over the right way to tell the story.”
Until a few years ago when Swift decided to take a hiatus from the public eye, her personal life unfolded very much among the masses – allowing for harsh criticism and comments not just about her music but also her character. Listeners scrutinize every one of her songs for the most minute details about which one of her rumoured ‘past lovers’ they might be about, although Swift herself has rarely confirmed anything.
Speak Now has a few songs, such as Back to December which have obvious hints of her relationship with actor Taylor Lautner, the only one of her exes who gets kinder treatment from her fans. “Dear John,” the fifth track, remains a nearly seven-minute scorching indictment of an ex-boyfriend, most likely John Mayer – and social media has not taken kindly to him. The singer-songwriters started dating at some point at the end of 2009 — when she was 19 and he was 32, and it didn’t seem to have ended well.
On her ongoing Eras tour, during a Saturday night show in Minneapolis, she celebrated the upcoming re-release with a rare live performance of “Dear John”, urging fans to refrain from cyberbullying “anyone they *think* she wrote a song about when she was 19”. Earlier in 2021, when Taylor re-released her album Red (Taylor’s Version), along with an extended 10-minute version of the song All Too Well – the internet unleashed all hell on Jake Gyllenhall, who they believed the song was about.
The latest re-release also includes six previously unreleased songs such as “Electric Touch” with Fall Out Boy and “Castles Crumbling” with Paramore’s Hayley Williams. She remains the sole writer even now, and there are a few changes to the lyrics that fans probably saw coming.
Even before the release, fans were speculating whether she would change a particularly offensive lyric that has irked listeners for 13 years. The chorus in “Better Than Revenge,” an angry track about a girl who “stole” her boyfriend goes: “She’s not a saint, and she’s not what you think, she’s an actress / She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” In the re-recorded version, now she sings, “He was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.”
Swift has been defensive about the lyric in the past, reiterating that she was only 18 when she wrote it, but fans are happy anyway they can now sing along to the song without the misogynistic lyric. Some though, feel disappointed that she “caved to public pressure” and that it defeats the point of her owning her previous work regardless of the controversy.
Regardless, it’s apparent that Swift, now in her 30s has grown tremendously since – her feminist ideals have been at the forefront of her recent work, and although she still has her fair share of controversies, her fan base has hardly diminished.