Taylor Swift has done it again. Her third re-recorded album, “Speak Now,” marks the halfway point of her re-recording process of her original masters. Swift began the lengthy process in 2021, when she re-released “Fearless.” Swift was inspired to take this route after Kelly Clarkson referenced her former mother-in-law Reba McEntyre’s re-records. The singer’s original masters were sold to music industry tycoon Scooter Braun without her consent, hence the singer embarked on the journey of revisiting her many musical eras to reclaim her work.
With each re-recorded album comes a number of “vault tracks”, or, songs that Swift wrote at the time of the original recording but did not release at the time. “Speak Now,” which thematically touches upon themes of young womanhood and the whimsy of new romance, first dropped in the fall of 2010. This is Swift’s first album for which she is credited as the sole songwriter and executive producer.
Notably, there are several lyrical and sonic differences between the original recordings and Taylor’s Version. The re-recordings incorporated production work from longtime collaborators Christopher Rowe, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. Others are analyzing the lyrics of the vault tracks to decipher who or what they may reference.
The most notable change between Taylor’s Version and the original masters was a lyric switch in the angsty pop-rock “Better Than Revenge.” The track has long been believed to reference Swift’s ex-boyfriend and fellow musician Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, and the woman he broke up with her to be with instead. An original lyric snarled “She’s not a saint/she’s not what you think/she’s an actress, woah/she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.”
it’s literally only 1 lyric and it’s GREAT! it still flows, y’all need to grow up and not stream the stolen version thanks #taylorswift #speaknow #speaknowtv #speaknowtaylorsversion #betterthanrevenge #erastour #swifttok #taylorsversion
In the over a decade since the song’s release, Swift is now on friendlier terms with Jonas and his now wife, actress Sophie Turner. She allegedly references her friendship with the family in “Invisible String” on her “folklore” album: “cold was the axe that I had to grind/for the boys that broke my heart/now I send their babies presents.” The singer’s friendship with the family is why some fans feel that the she swapped out the biting “Better Than Revenge” lyrics for “he was a moth to a flame/she was holding the matches.”
The track has been a highly debated one among listeners–some argue that the original lyric insinuated slut shaming. Meanwhile, others feel that Swift equally insulted the love interest of the song, and that the anger was instead directed at the situation as a whole. Fans are having mixed reactions to the lyric change.
Some feel that given Swift’s awareness of the song’s connotation and her more recent actions taken to support women in the music community, the line was no longer problematic. Hayley Williams of Paramore encountered a similar situation with the band’s track “Misery Business,” which she only recently began playing at shows again.
if paramore can perform misery business in the year 2023 then taylor swift can keep the lyrics to better than revenge the same
— jodie (@jodieegrace) July 6, 2023
As for the vault tracks, “When Emma Falls In Love” is emerging as a standout track. Swift is a close friend of acclaimed actress Emma Stone, and the pair first became friends during the writing process of “Speak Now.” Swift has previously written songs inspired by friends and people in her life, and fans suspect that the song references Stone’s previous relationship with actor Andrew Garfield.
— c ???? (@celestialswiftt) July 7, 2023
Specifically, many point to an old interview clip in which Garfield refers to Stone as “a shot of espresso, like being bathed in sunlight”, and Swift describes the singer as “Little Miss Sunshine.” In the 2010 film “Easy A,” Stone’s character famously humorously sings Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocket Full of Sunshine” in the shower.
Others are bringing a different theory back to light–that the track “Speak Now” was actually inspired by Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams. Williams sings with Swift on the vault track “Castles Crumbling”, and the pair have remained close friends since their time in Nashville, Tennessee as teenagers. Allegedly, the song references Williams bringing Swift as her plus one to her ex-boyfriend’s wedding, and the song is written from Williams’ point of view.
Hayley Williams has revealed her Speak now inspired hair! pic.twitter.com/02vrFlOApJ
— ???? (@concertleaks) July 7, 2023
In typical Swift fashion, the singer leaves her lyrics up to interpretation for vast audiences to find ways to relate to. While Swift will likely never speak on the direct references woven into the album, the message rings loud and clear-that if listeners have anything on their mind, now is their chance to speak now, and reclaim the voices of their younger selves.