Why bother brushing up on the backlog of Taylor Swift when she is set to rerelease and rework her efforts? The long con of scrubbing up the prior albums under the guise of unity and not monetisation paired with retrospective reviews of ill-received work from years gone by is a sick pill to swallow. Most bands do not receive this sort of acclaim and furore for re-releasing their works, but Swifty fans are as intoxicated with the star as they are with her music. A perfect storm for any singer-songwriter hoping to throw out their old music and bits left in the vault from a decade ago. Such is 1989 (Taylor’s Version), which will no doubt delight those who need extra slices of Swift’s style.
Repackage the album, add a few bonus tracks on and away you go. Most would just stick an EP together or release them for free, and they are, the only expense is time. Regardless of these foibles and troubles, the album will rake in the money since it is, at its core, very solid. There is nothing exceptional about the range on offer. Welcome to New York is still as flatlining and electronic as it was last time it was checked on nearly a decade ago. Beyond the usual trimmings of solid pop riffs on Blank Space and inevitable earworm Shake It Off, the bonus tracks and peelable discount sticker equivalent of “Taylor’s Version” add little to the meaning or merit of 1989. Out of the Woods and All You Had to Do Was Stay still blur together in dull fashion before the funkier drops of Shake it Off wake the album up from its deep-lying slumber.
Vault bits and bonus tracks are the real bulk of this offering. What other reason is there to re-release an album than the discovery of material deemed too weak to release on the first go. Wonderland, the first of a handful, is decent enough to warrant a listen. They all are, but there is always the lingering feeling of these being discarded or dusted off. Shake it off if you can, but 1989 is not improved or reduced by the inclusion of all these bonus bits. New Romantics is likely the best of the bunch, but as in-theme these tracks are with 1989 it blurs it all together even more than the initial setlist. Great to see it all keep the same pace and tone, but disastrous when it comes to picking out songs based on individuality. One lengthy track is all 1989 can be at times, though the spot moments of standout pieces, while few and far between, are enjoyable when they flicker on in the abandoned barn of a brain.
1989 (Taylor’s Version) is part of a wider problem when it comes to recency bias and remastering. Video games are not alone in the pipeline of deeming just a couple of years enough time to bash out an extended-release. There has been no time at all for any of Swift’s work to grow, to truly take hold as a future all-timer which will linger on greater than the image of a pop icon. Whether this one does or not is still up for interpretation, though it is harder and harder to get on board when the re-releasing process comes so thick and fast. Is it done out of a genuine connection to the fans wanting more or through a desire to hold out on new material? Bob Dylan gets a free pass to do this, as do Pink Floyd in a horrifying state of affairs which sees three Dark Side of the Moon interpretations coughed up in one year. Why not Swift, then? It all comes down to current-day legacy.