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The Foreword

Ranking the Vault Tracks of 1989 (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor+Swift+on+Aug.+2023%2C+in+Los+Angeles+%28Kevin+Winter%2FTAS23%2FGETTY%29
Taylor Swift on Aug. 2023, in Los Angeles (Kevin Winter/TAS23/GETTY)

Fans waited with bated breath in Sofi Stadium on August 9, 2023, in Inglewood, California at The Eras Tour with the hope that Taylor Swift would be announcing the rerecording of 1989. Many were predicting that this would be the night that Swift would announce the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version), since the date was 8/9. When Swift came out during the show wearing a series of different blue dresses, fans’ suspicions were confirmed: 1989 (Taylor’s Version) would be announced that night. As Swift appeared on stage for the acoustic set, fans cheered as she said she had something to show them. On the screen the new cover of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) was revealed, and on it, the release date, October 27.

She made the announcement only about a month after the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) which came out on July 7. Before this, she also released Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April of 2021, and Red (Taylor’s Version) in November of 2021. Swift decided to rerecord her albums because she did not officially own six of her ten albums at their time of release: Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation. Fans now gladly listen to exclusively Taylor’s Version. Currently, Swift has rerecorded four and is on track to rerecord the remaining two, Taylor Swift and Reputation

With every album that Swift rerecords, she releases vault tracks. These are never-before-heard songs that were written for each album but were not released. When Swift began rereleasing albums she brilliantly identified these songs as “vault tracks”, implying that they were locked away in a metaphorical vault. For the rerecording of 1989 (Taylor’s Version) Swift released five vault tracks. 

Before this, Foreword alumni, Abigail Segel, Luke Chinman, and Gabriella Naveh have all ranked albums that were released by Swift during their years writing for The Foreword (see Lover, folklore, evermore, and Midnights). I am honored to carry on the tradition of ranking Swift’s music. After much deliberation, I have ranked the 1989 (Taylor’s Version) vault tracks, from least favorite to favorite. 

 

  1. Suburban Legends

First of all, there are no bad vault tracks released on 1989 (Taylor’s Version). I would even go as far as to say that this is the best collection of vault tracks she has yet to release. I have no complaints about this song. Personally, it simply does not stand out to me as much as the others. In “Suburban Legends,” Swift is singing about her and her lover, and her yearning to be together, although it does not seem possible. She emphasizes the fact that she was so infatuated with her lover, to the point that she ignores the “red flags.” Swift sings, “You had people who called you on unmarked numbers / In my peripheral vision / I let it slide like a hose on a slippery plastic summer / All was quickly forgiven.” The vibe and lyrics make it feel like a track off of Midnights, Swift’s tenth studio album. How Swift talks about her lover as someone who she is constantly trying to have a real relationship with shows her longing for a true partner. Swift sings, “You’d be more than a chapter in my old diaries / With the pages ripped out /I am standing in a 1950s gymnasium / And I can still see you now.” She is expressing nostalgia about her relationship through this song. This is a quintessential 1989 track. 

Best line: “I broke my own heart / ’cause you were too polite to do it”

 

  1. Slut!

“Slut!,” which now has many fans comparing it to track 2 on the album Blank Space, was probably the most anticipated vault track upon its release. When Swift announced that she was releasing a song called “Slut!” fans were shocked—to say the least. Looking back at this time in Swift’s life, it makes sense that she would write a song with this title. Swift has been consistently slut-shamed throughout her career, especially in her 20s, when she released 1989. Listening to the lyrics, you can hear Swift’s response to these comments about her dating life when she sings, “And if they call me a slut /You know it might be worth it for once,” showing that despite the degrading comments about her romantic life, her lover was special enough to disregard them. This song shows the vulnerability that Swift has when it comes to what is said about her private life. Despite the issues that come with the media and trolls, she is willing to pay the price for someone she is so madly in love with. She takes an issue that has affected her deeply and turns it into a catchy pop song, very similar to what she did on much of the album. 

Best line: “In a world of boys, he’s a gentleman” 

 

  1. Say Don’t Go

At this point in the ranking, it is nearly impossible to pick a top three. My initial reaction to this song is that it blew me away. “Say Don’t Go” somehow takes a pop song and simultaneously puts a heartbreaking breakup story within it. Swift talks about how she wishes her partner would not let her leave the relationship, even though she knows that she needs to. Swift sings, “​​Halfway out the door, but it won’t close /I’m holdin’ out hope for you to, Say, “Don’t go”/ I would stay forever if you say, “Don’t go.” Her lyrics are like a desperate prayer that she keeps repeating, asking her lover to “Say don’t go.” She goes to the depths of a relationship that one is fighting to keep alive, and the other is straying from. Somehow she perfectly encapsulates the sinking feeling of a fleeting love affair. Swift manages to make a heartbreaking song that also makes you want to get up and dance. She is, after all, a “Mastermind.”

Best line: “Why’d you whisper in the dark?/ Just to leave me in the night?/ Now your silence has me screamin’, screamin’”

 

  1. Now That We Don’t Talk

“Now That We Don’t Talk” is one of Swift’s catchiest songs to date. In this track, she talks about the aftermath of a relationship and wonders about her ex-partner. However, throughout the song, she explains that all of her questions and presumptions will not be answered because they do not talk anymore. As the song goes on, Swift also talks about everything that she can do now that she is free from the relationship. She sings, “I don’t have to pretend I like acid rock / Or that I’d like to be on a mega yacht / With important men who think important thoughts.” You can tell that she is exposing a part of herself that is experiencing less heartbreak and more relief about the end of the relationship. Upon release of this track, many fans assumed that this song was written about one of Swift’s most famous ex-partners, Harry Styles. In fact, one of the lines in the song is, “You grew your hair long.” Many of Swift’s fans believe that this is referencing Styles, because his long hair from 2014 is very well known. However, no matter who this song is truly about, it is undeniably a pop anthem that has taken fans by storm. 

Best line: “Truth is I can’t pretend it’s/ Platonic, it’s just ended”

 

  1. Is It Over Now?

There is no other way to put it: This song is perfect. Swift tells a story of a relationship that is falling apart, with both perspectives of their respective infidelity, and her constantly wondering when their relationship ended. She sings, “Baby, was it over / When she laid down on your couch? /Was it over when he unbuttoned my blouse?” She brilliantly talks about different situations that occurred throughout their  relationship and inserts the question repeatedly, “Is it over now?” Every time she sings “Is it over now?” She is trying to confirm with her lover that there is truly nothing else left between them. Swift goes into depth on the fear of leaving someone or something that you are afraid is unfinished. She communicates both the hesitancy that occurs and the aching yearning of still wanting more. Many fans suspect that this song is also about her well-known relationship with Harry Styles. It is also extremely fitting that this song is the final track on the album. It leaves listeners with the lingering question, “Is it over now?”. Swift leaves room for interpretation of what is to come next—romantically or musically. “Is It Over Now?” is not only her best vault track but one of her best songs on 1989 (Taylor’s Version)

Best line: “If she’s got blue eyes / I will surmise that you’ll probably date her.”

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