Taylor Swift leaned in hard on late-night vibes with the release of Midnights last fall, but real ones know she’s been burning the candle at both ends for some time now. While most of us have been focused on merely existing over the last few years, Swift has managed to release new music by way of folklore, evermore, and Midnights while also releasing the first of her promised rerecordings of earlier albums. (Plus: Can’t forget about the vault songs!) So while we deck ourselves in purple to prep for the second coming of Speak Now in July — and the next set of clues and fan speculation that will inevitably arise in its aftermath — let’s synchronize our watches on all things Taylor’s Version … and investigate which old album will become new again next.
Why did Taylor start rerecording her albums, again?
If 2019 feels like a million years ago at this point, you’re not alone, but that’s where the Taylor’s Version saga begins. It all started when Swift’s former label, Big Machine Records, was sold to Ithaca Holdings, an entity owned by music manager Scooter Braun. Swift’s record deal with Big Machine had ended a year earlier and she had jumped to Republic Records, but her original label still owned the masters for the six albums she recorded there — which meant they were sold as part of that business deal.
Swift, for her part, made her displeasure known … swiftly. In a lengthy Tumblr post, she called the sale her “worst-case scenario,” writing that she hadn’t been given the chance to own her own work and that she’d been subjected to “incessant, manipulative bullying” from Braun (who manages clients including Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, and others) over the years. “Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it,” she told her fans.
But you can’t keep a mad woman down: In August 2019, she announced plans to rerecord those original albums, resulting in masters that she’ll own outright. “It’s something that I’m very excited about doing because my contract says that starting November 2020 — so, next year — I can record albums one through five all over again,” she said during an interview on Good Morning America. “I think artists deserve to own their work. I just feel very passionately about that.”
Which Taylor’s Version albums have we gotten so far?
The first TV out of the gate was Fearless (Taylor’s Version), which the singer released in April 2021. The new version of her 2008 album contained the tracks that appeared on the original Fearless, the 2010 soundtrack single “Today Was a Fairytale” from the film Valentine’s Day, and six “from the vault” songs, including duets with Maren Morris and Keith Urban — plus the extremely earwormy breakup anthem “Mr. Perfectly Fine.”
Then in November 2021, perfectly timed for autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place, Swift released the new recording of her 2012 album Red. The 30-track Taylor’s Version brought forth a reunion with Ed Sheeran, a duet with Phoebe Bridgers, and a collaboration with Chris Stapleton that got its own music video directed by Blake Lively. Most notably, though, it included the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” expanding what many consider to be Swift’s best song with new lyrics to obsess over. (Just between us, did the love affair new version maim you too?) As if that wasn’t enough on its own, Swift expanded the “All Too Well”-iverse even further with a live performance on SNL and a short film she directed, casting Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien as the ill-fated couple who fall love, break apart, and leave a certain scarf behind. Swift gave All Too Well: The Short Film its own New York premiere — where she performed the 10-minute version of the song live for the first time — and screened it at both the Tribeca and Toronto International Film Festivals, but hopes of a potential Oscar campaign were dashed when it failed to make the Academy shortlist for Best Live-Action Short Film.
And now, in 2023, Swift’s giving another era the TV treatment. On May 5, during the first Nashville stop on her Eras Tour, she shared the news that Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) will come our way on July 7. “I first made Speak Now, completely self-written, between the ages of 18 and 20. The songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness,” she shared in a message on Twitter. “I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing… and living to speak about it.” Swift also revealed that the re-recorded version of the album will contain six vault tracks that fans will be very enchanted to meet.
How did Taylor tease Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) before making things official?
Swift loves an Easter egg as much as Swifties love looking for them, so there were definitely hints to be found. The music video for “Bejeweled” was a big one — it was released on October 25, the same date Speak Now was released 12 years earlier. Also among the video’s many Easter eggs: an instrumental snippet of “Enchanted,” Swift’s Cinderella-esque character being told to “speak not” by Laura Dern’s wicked stepmother, hitting a purple “3” button in an elevator (Speak Now is her third album, with artwork in that same hue), and a cameo from some dragons — a nod to a lyric from “Long Live” — at the very end. If those weren’t subtle enough for you, there’s also a moment where Swift wears heart-shaped “S” and “N” pins in her hair.
Fans also called out moments from the Eras Tour that seemed to nod to Speak Now (Taylor’s Version). Some speculated that the red letters on her “22” T-shirt could be spelling out the name of the album, while others honed in on Swift’s dancers, who all dress in costumes inspired by her previous eras. While performing “Look What You Made Me Do,” the “old Taylors” are trapped in glass boxes, while Swift tries to break out the one wearing a Speak Now–like purple dress. By the time the song is over, most of the “eras” are freed from their boxes … but not Speak Now. Come July, it will be.
How many more albums is she rerecording?
Swift recorded six albums during her tenure at Big Machine, so there are three more to go: Taylor Swift (2006), 1989 (2014), and Reputation (2017).
How have the first two Taylor’s Version albums been received?
Many critics honed in on how Swift’s sound has evolved since she first sang on the originals. Pitchfork wrote that Fearless (Taylor’s Version) “presents a different puzzle: spotting the difference between the original and this almost-identical copy. These versions are slightly more polished, like photos touched up on Instagram with a press of a button: the sound is brighter, the mix is clearer, each peal of guitar is sharper.” NPR said the album “feels shrouded in an air of whimsical nostalgia.” And perhaps not surprisingly, reviews of the updated Red had plenty to say about the supersize “All Too Well.” “Every emotional detail hits home. She goes deeper into the story, venting her grief and rage, getting so savage it makes ‘Dear John’ sound like ‘I Will Always Love You,’” Rolling Stone said of the ten-minute version, while also praising the album as “a tribute to how far she’s traveled, but it makes you even more excited for where she’s heading next.”
Which Taylor’s Version album will be released next?
Once Speak Now comes out (again) this summer, we’ll officially be at the halfway point in Swift’s Taylor’s Version timeline. So, what could be the next next one?
1989 is a strong contender for TV No. 4, since Swift has already released two tracks from it. Back in November 2021, right in the thick of Red (Taylor’s Version) mania, she surprise-dropped “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” in response to the song’s popularity on TikTok. In May 2022, she unveiled another: “This Love (Taylor’s Version),” which appeared in the Amazon Prime series The Summer I Turned Pretty.
Fans have also cited a November 2021 Tonight Show appearance where Swift, discussing her now-famous Easter eggs, used the phrase “go down a rabbit hole” — a possible reference to the 1989 track “Wonderland” — and a video of her acceptance speech from the Las Culturistas Culture Awards in June, which featured a 1989-era sign in the background. In addition, a May 2022 merch drop called “The Old Taylor” collection featured items celebrating both her 1989 and Speak Now eras; with Speak Now coming, perhaps 1989 will follow.
Then there’s Reputation, the last album Swift recorded with Big Machine. According to Rolling Stone, some music contracts stipulate that rerecording songs is prohibited until “the later of two years following the expiration of the agreement or five years after the commercial release.” If that’s the case for Swift, she wouldn’t have been allowed to rerecord Reputation until November 2022 (the original was released in November 2017), which means we’re that much closer to getting a new version of “Getaway Car” than we were just a few months ago. Also, she showed up to the 2022 MTV Music Video Awards wearing a bejeweled Oscar de la Renta dress that looked strikingly similar to her bathtub-full-of-diamonds moment from the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video. So we should all be bookmarking our snake emojis, just in case.