Speak Now, Again: Taylor Swift Banishes the Ghosts of Her Past

Inhabiting the space between adolescence and adulthood over a decade later

taylor swift speak now taylor's version
Taylor Swift, photo courtesy of artist

    In 2010, Taylor Swift had something to prove. With the release of Speak Now, the crossover star was making a statement: Every song on the album was written solely by Swift herself, primarily throughout the time she’d been touring her previous album, Fearless. Where her debut record was wide-eyed and hopeful, and Fearless was the optimistic, energetic follow-up that proved the singer-songwriter was here to stay, Speak Now is a bit sharper around the edges — there’s more heartache, more clapbacks at critics of the era, and more musings of a spurned young woman.

    It’s been almost 13 years since Speak Now arrived into the world. It’s a record that has felt noticeably absent from “The Eras Tour” (get tickets here):  “Enchanted” is the only song from the album in the regular set rotation. Blink and the Speak Now portion of the show is already gone.

    Now, though, the album Swift used to prove herself as a solo songwriter gets its time in the sun — so don your favorite purple tee and settle in for Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).

    This Love Is Ours

    Swift straddles an interesting line in Speak Now: There are traces of young love, particularly in tracks like “Sparks Fly” and “Ours,” but most of the album has a definite thorniness to it. Some of these moments work better than others, even after so much time — “Mean” is still the perfect pop-country bop for silencing haters and critics. (How much of an effect did this song have on helping to crumble Perez Hilton’s gossip empire? We’ll never really know.)


    “Dear John,” too, holds up as a comforting listen for young women who feel they were taken advantage of by an older romantic partner. Less effective is “Innocent,” the song often interpreted as a forgiving response to Kanye West’s notorious onstage interruption that set off a pop culture chain reaction that would follow both parties for far longer than anyone expected. Misguided at the time of release, “Innocent” lands even worse now — lyrics like “It’s alright, just wait and see/ Your string of lights is still bright to me” do not feel applicable to Ye of 2023.

    Overall, though, the nostalgia of the original tracks on Speak Now inhabits a different space than Swift’s two preceding albums, as well as Red and 1989 that followed. Swift of Speak Now is haunted by the knowledge that youth is rapidly slipping away — “Never Grow Up” and “Long Live” feel like remarkably self-aware goodbyes to girlhood, and the best lyrical moments of the record still hit all these years later.

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