Aanji Sin ’24
Taylor Swift’s ever-iconic 1989 was the soundtrack to my adolescence, as it was for so many others, and marked her full transformation from country artist to one of the most prolific popstars of our time. The widely anticipated rerecording of this album was released on Oct. 27, and despite the hopes Swifties held for the brand new “From The Vault’’ tracks to live up to the album’s original pop sound, some were disappointed to hear familiar synths and sensuous reverberations from Swift’s latest studio album, Midnights. This review ranks the Vault tracks on how worthy they are of being included in Swift’s pop bible, Midnights-esque or not.
Although “”Slut!”” is at the bottom of my ranking, it’s nowhere near a bad track. My initial listen pleasantly surprised me, its romantic atmosphere was a lovely divergence from its title that suggested a completely different ambience. Compared to the rest of the five, it’s one of the lyrically strongest, the true marker of any self-respecting Taylor Swift song.
However, unlike Swift’s best, ““Slut!”” has absolutely no musical variation. The song stays at one level for its entire three minute run: dreamy, lulling, sickeningly in love (and with a British man. Gross). It doesn’t go anywhere, not sonically or narratively, and leaves the listener wishing for something more … interesting. ““Slut!”” becomes just another love song, relying on nothing but its asymmetry in title and sound to make it interesting, and its superficiality begs the thought: maybe it would be a better song if it sounded the way ““Slut!”” looked.
#4: Suburban Legends
“Suburban Legends” is a track that grows on you. Out of the Vault tracks, it sounds the most Midnights, practically copying “Mastermind”’s flow beat for beat. It’s one of Swift’s more experimental tracks, playing with fluctuating cadences and nontraditional rhyme schemes, resulting in a song that feels a little all over the place.
Still, “Suburban Legends” has its high points. If you hate this song, you’ve obviously never been in an on-and-off situationship with someone you went to high school with and romanticized your hometown because of it! If you went to private school and have no idea what “a 1950s gymnasium” is supposed to imply, it’s not too late to just say so.
#3: Now That We Don’t Talk
This might be controversial, but despite its catchiness, “Now That We Don’t Talk” lacks too much to give it one of my top two spots. Its chugging beat is reminiscent of fan favorite 1989 track “New Romantics.” Without the latter’s musical climaxes and edgy lyrics, it sounds unsatisfyingly one dimensional and, dare I say, a little bland. There is so much room to go bigger and better, but Swift never does.
Even so, you can’t deny that “Now That We Don’t Talk” succeeds at what it does do. Swift does one of her best jobs yet in capturing the emotional nuance in the aftermath of a complicated relationship, the fluctuation between indifference and obsessive what-if-ing all too real. She knows the breakup is for the better, but even her listener can’t help but wish for a reconciliation between lovers — if not for Swift herself, then at least for more songs about the ways pretentious, acid-rock-loving ex-boyfriends will always let you down.
#2: Say Don’t Go
“Say Don’t Go” is probably the Vault’s most 1989-adjacent track; it’s fun, it’s dynamic, it’s earnest and yearning in a way only 2014 Taylor could capture. While it’s not her lyrically strongest, it makes up for it in its singalong-ableness. She’s finally shouting off the cliffsides in the backing vocals again — we used to pray for times like this! “I said I love you, you say nothing back,” followed by an actual silence will never cease to give me shivers. (Also, people on TikTok make Pride & Prejudice edits to this song, so really, what else can I ask for?) No notes.
#1: Is It Over Now?
Anyone who knows me for my astonishing self importance and the fact that I’ve never let go of anything ever should’ve anticipated that this track would take my top spot. “Is It Over Now?” features Swift at her lyrical best; mixing eloquent and artful images with terse, punchy lines makes for the dynamism and dramatics the Vault was missing. The track also features a slurry of 1989 signatures, including those satisfying harmonies up the octave, a belt at the song’s final chorus (seriously, we used to pray for times like this), and of course, a lights reference. At least now we know why she saved the best for last: she wanted to get him comfortable, then punch Harry Styles in the throat when he least expected it.
Image Source: Republic Records