October 25, 2010
Table of Contents
Background and Recording
The recording process started with Taylor recording live vocals and playing the guitar, and Chapman singing background vocals and playing other instruments for a first demo. After arranging the demos, they approached other engineers and musicians to tweak some elements, including overdubs and programmed drums. The first track that Chapman produced for Taylor on Speak Now was “Mine“, which they recorded within five hours. For some tracks, including “Back to December“, Taylor and her team went to Capitol Studios in Los Angeles to record string orchestration. They finished recording the album by June 2010.
Lyrics and Themes
The run-up to Speak Now was, of course, marred by the infamous Kanye West VMAs incident, which had taken place a year previously. Taylor would spend much of the next decade, in one way or another, reacting to or running away from that situation, but for the most part Speak Now doesn’t concern itself with all that. It’s promptly dealt with in one song, “Innocent,” which despite its languishing moodiness still ends up giving West the benefit of the doubt: “Who you are is not what you did/You’re still an innocent.”
Even at its most cutting, Speak Now usually finds Taylor channeling much of that vitriol inward. It’s even there on “Mean,” a plucky and petty callout of her critics that, in true writerly fashion, ends up admitting that all the criticism directed at her is only confirming what, deep down, Taylor feels about herself.
It’s not surprising that Taylor was still concerning herself with what the critics had to say. Speak Now is a transitory album, on which she’s caught between two worlds. It’s the last time she was foremost regarded as a country musician, but her impressive chart dominance placed her in pop’s highest echelons. The songs on Speak Now mostly fall into two categories: those that are swept up in a rush of romance and soaring choruses and fresh possibility, and those that are downtrodden and world-weary and lovesick. The former, to no surprise, ended up accounting for the most popular singles from the album, and they are also the songs that have the most in common with Taylor’s work prior to this. They’re gleaming and twangy and always cascading. Most of them hinge on hindsight, moments when Taylor could have said or done something to change her current trajectory but didn’t. At her best as a storyteller, Taylor pinpoints these junctures when everything could have changed and spins them into a glossy web.
The album’s penultimate track, “Last Kiss” is one of Taylor’s finest accomplishments, luxuriantly sad and also triumphant, like maybe each lost love is just another opportunity to get it right. The song’s lyrical specificity has a tragic edge. She remembers the look on her former lover’s face “at 1:58,” how she ran off the plane and into his arm “that July 9th.” It’s devastating, diaristic and poetic, and yet she is still looking for a silver lining.
On “Never Grow Up,” one of Taylor’s most heart-wrenching songs, she switches perspective between her mother and herself. One second she is tiny and looking up from her crib with sleepy eyes, the next she’s asking her mom to drop her off around the block so she’s not embarrassed in front of her friends. The timeline folds in on itself; she’s growing up and getting old all at once. Taylor begs for simplicity but it never works out that way. She warns herself to remember it all, but it’s already fading away: “I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.” She’s figuring all of this out in real time, as her pen hits the page. Fairy tales can’t last forever.
Release and Promotion
To further promote the album, Taylor appeared on many magazine covers and press interviews and performed at various award shows. Her performances at awards shows included the Country Music Association Awards and the American Music Awards in 2010; the Academy of Country Music Awards and again the Country Music Association Awards in 2011. Taylor also appeared on many television shows and concert specials. She also gave private concerts to contest winners and played a semiprivate concert at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
After lead single “Mine”, five other singles supported Speak Now. “Back to December” and “Mean” were respectively released to US country radio on November 15, 2010, and March 13, 2011. Both were top-ten chart hits in Canada (peaking at No. 7 and 10), and the former peaked at No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. “The Story of Us” was released to US pop radio on April 19, 2011. Two last singles, “Sparks Fly” and “Ours“, were released to US country radio on July 18 and December 5, 2011. Both “Sparks Fly” and “Ours” reached the top 20 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and peaked atop the US Hot Country Songs chart.
On November 23, 2010, Taylor announced the “Speak Now World Tour“, which started in Singapore on February 9, 2011. The tour visited Asia and Europe before the North American leg started in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 27, 2011. Within two days of announcement, the tour sold 625,000 tickets. Taylor released Speak Now World Tour: Live, a live album recorded from the tour, on November 21, 2011. In December 2011, she announced an extension of the tour to Australia and New Zealand, starting in March 2012. Upon its completion on March 18, 2012, the “Speak Now World Tour” covered 110 shows, visited 18 countries, and grossed $123.7 million.
As of 2014, Speak Now is ranked 17th in United States history to sell one million copies in a single week. As of December 2018, the album has sold over 6 million copies in the United States and 10,6 million copies worldwide. It is also the tenth best-selling digital album of all time.
Speak Now received industry awards and nominations. It was nominated for “Album of the Year” at three US country music awards shows—the Academy of Country Music Awards, the American Country Awards, and the Country Music Association Awards —in 2011. At the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, Speak Now was nominated for “Top Billboard 200 Album” and won “Top Country Album”. It won “Favorite Album (Country)” at the 2011 American Music Awards and “Top Selling Album of 2011” by the Canadian Country Music Association. At the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in 2012, Speak Now was nominated for “Best Country Album,” and its single “Mean” won for “Best Country Solo Performance” and “Best Country Song.”
Impact and Legacy
The Magic of Nostalgia
|Released||October 25, 2010|
Pain In The Art (Nashville)
Stonehurst (Bowling Green)
|Label||Big Machine Records|
TAYLOR SWIFT CHRONOLOGY