Taylor Swift Speaks for Herself Now

This July, Taylor Swift released her version of Speak Now including six “from the vault” songs that were excluded from the original 2010 album. Listening to them makes clear that even in her late teens, Taylor was a complex and interesting artist.

Some of the tracks are noteworthy for the content and structure of their lyrics. Timeless is an unconventional love song which imagines a pair of soulmates who would find each other in any place and time, from WWII to Renaissance Europe. Its theme of shifting among time frames is mirrored in the structure of the song which begins and ends with the same image of finding photos in an antique shop. When Emma Falls In Love is unusual because the narrator expresses admiration for a girl who was so fascinating it was “like if Cleopatra grew up in a small town,” making the song a kind of opposite to the very well-known Better Than Revenge in which the narrator is critical of another woman.

Some other tracks illustrate that the themes of self-criticism for which Midnights is famous were part of Taylor’s repertoire even 13 years ago. For example, the narrator of Foolish One looks back on a love affair gone wrong and wonders if she should have seen it coming, while in Castles Crumbling Taylor sings that “Power went to my head, and I couldn’t stop // Ones I loved tried to help, so I ran them off // And here I sit alone, behind walls of regret.”

“Castles Crumbling” is one of several vault tracks that showcases Taylor’s gifts for collaboration. It features Hayley Williams, lead singer for the band Paramore, who inspired Taylor early in her career and remains a friend. Another collaborative track is Electric Touch which features the band Fall Out Boy and shows Taylor’s potential to move more fully into the rock genre. Finally, with  I Can See You, Taylor refers back to the original Speak Now by using some of the same actors she used in music videos then.

As a group, these songs show that the young Taylor Swift was much more than just the latest “pretty girl singer” that her producers imagined her to be. It’s inspiring that she’s now able to regain control of her work and show us the full range of her imagination that brought the world Speak Now. These tracks are a treat for both longtime fans and people new to her music.

kimberly and sofia jackson
Kimberly Jackson is a longtime contributor to KOM’s Poetry Corner. Sofia Jackson, her daughter, is a longtime Taylor Swift fan and a rising junior in high school. Together they attended the 13th concert of Swift’s 2023 Eras Tour. They can be reached through Kimberly’s website.

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