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How Taylor Swift Navigates Relationships, Independence, & Fame On 1989 (Taylor’s Version)

How Taylor Swift Navigates Relationships, Independence, & Fame On 1989 (Taylor’s Version)

Every album that Taylor Swift revisits with the Taylor’s Version project absolutely steals our hearts, but there’s something especially remarkable about her reclaimed version of 1989. The glimmering synths and her vocals sound even more crisp than they did on the original album, and her storytelling shines through so well on the five vault tracks, which give us even more context on the record’s main concepts and themes. She wrote in the original album prologue, “This is a story about coming into your own, and as a result… coming alive” – and now, that’s even truer than ever.

After the release of Red and massive songs like ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,’ Taylor’s fame skyrocketed like never before. There was a lot of new success and many new fans, but there was also a lot of new skepticism and rude comments, on top of things she was already dealing with in her personal life. As a result, Taylor wanted to press the reset button and give her life a little refresh, starting with cutting her hair into that iconic 1989 bob.

How does a person reinvent herself, you ask? In any way I could think of. Musically, geographically, aesthetically, behaviorally, motivationally… and I did so joyfully. […] The risks I took when I toyed with pop sounds and sensibilities on Red? I wanted to push it further. The sense of freedom I felt when traveling to big bustling cities? I wanted to live in one. The voices that had begun to shame me in new ways for dating like a normal young woman? I wanted to silence them.

Taylor Swift in the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) prologue

The 1989 album starts off with Taylor jetting off to a new city in search of a fresh start, but what really helps her move forward is looking back on the things she was trying to run from and processing them. That’s what makes her clean. She puts her broken heart in a drawer, trying to ignore, mask, and dance away the pain, especially in the spotlight. But the true healing comes when she takes it out, runs her finger along the cracks, and realizes her own strength.

We begin our story in New York with the electrifying ‘Welcome To New York,’ which is just as meta as it is dreamy. “It’s a new soundtrack,” Taylor sings on the first track of her first-ever full pop album. New York becomes more like an ambitious mindset rather than a city – though if you’ve been to NYC, you’d probably agree that just being in the area has the same feeling as chasing your biggest dreams.

But below the bubbly surface, ‘WTNY’ touches on some sadder feelings as well. Taylor mentions taking “broken hearts [and putting] them in a drawer” of a new apartment, trying to put them out of sight and out of mind. Meanwhile, the iconic “you can want who you want” lyric was one of Taylor’s earliest bits of allyship for the LGBT community, but it’s also applicable to her own life at the time. As we learn from later songs like ’Sl*t!,’ she felt stifled by the negative attention and sl*t-shaming she faced while dating like a normal 20-something years old. New York felt like a fresh start for her creatively and romantically, giving her more freedom and the hope of being able to express herself more.

As Taylor adjusts to the freedom of the Big Apple, she realizes how much restriction she’s faced in the spotlight and how heavily others’ harsh opinions weigh on her. On the original 1989 album, she plays with this in the form of ‘Blank Space,’ which most fans would consider a magnum opus of her songwriting. She completely takes on the maneater persona that the media and general public forced onto her, deeming herself “a nightmare dressed like a daydream” as she talks about a relationship’s demise as nonchalantly as someone might talk about a game of checkers. We already know from her past music and the love songs on 1989 that she holds love in a much higher esteem than that, which further proves her point that the people judging her don’t truly know or care about her. 

I had become the target of sl*t-shaming – the intensity and relentlessness of which would be criticized and called out if it happened today. The jokes about my amount of boyfriends. The trivialization of my songwriting as if it were a predatory act of a boy-crazy psychopath. The media co-signing of this narrative. I had to make it stop because it was starting to really hurt.

Taylor Swift in the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) prologue

On the flipside, the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) vault offers a more vulnerable take on the subject with ‘“Sl*t!,”’ which sees Taylor willing to take a hit to her public image if it means she can be with the person she loves. “He’s waiting there, the sticks and stones they throw froze mid-air,” she sings, thinking about how others’ opinions slip away from her mind when it’s just the two of them. The “sticks and stones” are still there, but they’re not reaching her. 

When we first learned about the ‘“Sl*t!”’ title, a lot of fans assumed it’d be a punchy callout to the people who shamed her for simply dating, but we think that bait-and-switch is intentional. There’s a softer, romantic side to Taylor that the media and public didn’t acknowledge at the time, and the song itself is on the softer, more romantic side compared to ‘Blank Space.’ 

In [the song ‘Sl*t!,’] I kind of, sort of, cheekily play on the discussions at that time in my life around my dating life. And that’s not the only time on 1989 that I’d done that, I did that on ‘Blank Space.’ And I think when I came down to having to pick songs for the album, I think I thought, “Okay, well, I’m going to choose ‘Blank Space,’” and unfortunately, I had to make some tough decisions in terms of what to put on the tracklist. But I love this song because I think it’s really dreamy.

Taylor Swift to Tumblr Music

Throughout the album, we get even more of an idea of just how much the general public’s views of her love life really affected how Taylor approaches relationships. For example, there’s an undercurrent of anxiety on ‘Out Of The Woods,’ a coy sense of secrecy on songs like ‘Style,’ and an unrelenting desire to keep things secret, away from the public eye, on ‘I Know Places.’ In the end, though, she concludes that her fame might ultimately taint any relationship she pursues, no matter how hard she tries to fight for it – the intro and outro of ‘I Know Places’ include the sound of someone clicking on a recording button, invading her privacy even in what’s supposed to be an intimate conversation with someone she cares about. 

Some of the most moving songs on the album, OG or Taylor’s Version, wind up focusing on relationships ending, no matter how magical or electrifying they may have been. The media and public regularly told her that her relationships would be unsuccessful, and she seems to ruminate on that idea on songs like ‘Wildest Dreams,’ which takes place at the beginning of a new love as she simply hopes that her partner will remember her kindly once it’s over. 

It became clear to me that for me there was no such thing as casual dating, or even having a male friend who you platonically hang out with. If I was seen with him, it was assumed I was sleeping with him. And so I swore off hanging out with guys, dating, flirting or anything that could be weaponized against me by a culture that claimed to believe in liberating women but consistently treated me with the harsh moral codes of the Victorian era.

Taylor Swift in the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) prologue

This idea also notably comes up on the original deluxe album closer, ‘New Romantics,’ which flaunts Taylor’s independent, sassy side as she addresses the hate she gets. But even with the seeming confidence, she pleads on the bridge, “please take my hand and please taking me dancing, and please leave me stranded, it’s so romantic.” Her romantic, loving side is still there, no matter how much the world tries to stifle it and no matter how many times her heart might get broken in the process.

Alongside some more reflection on past love, Taylor becomes more certain of what she really wants when it comes to her romantic endeavors. Whether it’s out of frustration or just personal growth, she starts being more assertive in what she wants and needs. Songs like ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ call out a lover who would “lock [her] out” when she was nothing but devoted to him, while ‘How You Get The Girl’ outlines how he should go about getting her back if he chooses. Perhaps one of the most important parts of the album, becoming more independent and finding herself on her own don’t take away her dreamy, romantic side – the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and she doesn’t have to compromise who she is or hide her feelings to play things cool. 

With that, Taylor also starts thinking about more simple love, shedding the fame and city references for some of the more raw songs on the album. She figures out that a comfortable love that feels like home is more in line with what she really wants. And since we know our fellow Swifties love heart-wrenching lyric parallels, we have to point one out that totally broke us. On ‘Out Of The Woods,’ one of the most romantic moments she looks back on is a night when she and her partner “decided to move the furniture so [they] could dance,” only for him to invite another girl onto his couch on ‘Is It Over Now?’ as their relationship is crumbling.

Elsewhere on the album, you get more hopeful references to that easier, domestic vibe on ‘I Wish You Would,’ when Taylor hopes a car passing her house is her ex coming to win her over, on ‘Say Don’t Go,’ when she wants him to drive up to her on the sidewalk, and on ‘How You Get The Girl,’ which mentions “pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks.” But eventually, she starts to look beyond just singular soft moments and longs for an entire relationship that has that warmth.

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The ethereal ‘You Are In Love’ notably talks about two of Taylor’s famous friends who were in a relationship at the time, and how hopeful she is to find that kind of connection herself one day. It’s delightfully cozy, mentioning “burnt toast,” comparing the magic of the relationship to “dancing in a snowglobe,” and describing the slow-paced life these two people built together. Even though it’s a relationship between two famous people, there are no screaming opinions from the general public or flashing lights from paparazzi cameras. In fact, their love is so strong that “you can hear it in the silence” and “see it with the lights out” instead.

Taylor daydreams about finding her own version of that kind of love on the vault track ‘Suburban Legends,’ which wistfully thinks about what it would’ve been like to wind up with the person she loved in a more casual environment. “I had the fantasy that maybe our mismatched star signs would surprise the whole school when I ended up back at our class reunion walking in with you,” she muses. In the “real” world, the thing that would surprise the school would be Taylor and her partner’s fame, but she wishes they could shed that and have something that feels more authentic, with something as silly as mismatched zodiacs being their biggest problem.

Ultimately, though, Taylor chooses to step away and choose herself while acknowledging the impact that fame and those “red,” up-and-down relationships have had on her. First playfully, with songs like the dance-worthy ‘Shake It Off,’ then more somberly on ‘Clean,’ which tells a past lover, “you’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.” And even when she finds herself free of the relationship for ten months, she admits, “just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it.” She’s come a long way from the beginning of the album, but she’s also able to reflect on what she’s gone through and share how difficult it was.

Of course everyone had something to say. But they always will. I learned lessons, paid prices, and tried to… don’t say it… don’t say it… I’m sorry, I have to say it… shake it off.

Taylor Swift in the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) prologue

The 1989 era was truly awe-inspiring, but thankfully, a lot of things have changed since then. Taylor has been able to stand up for herself much more of the years, whether it’s defending herself from sl*t-shaming jokes in shows or explaining how much the “girl squad” that so many people made fun of really meant to her after growing up without many friends. Following the 1989 album cycle and a public fallout, she was able to fall in love with someone away from the world’s prying eyes, finding her own places to keep her private life to herself even after it seemed impossible. She’s able to stay in the spotlight and share parts of her life with us on her own terms, making sure her music, storytelling, and legacy are the main topics of conversation.

Which track from the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) vault is your fave? Is there a certain lyric you can’t get enough of? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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