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Speak Now (Taylor's Version)

July 7, 2023

This article is about the re-recording. For the original album, see Speak Now (2010).
Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is Taylor’s third re-recorded album. It was released on July 7, 2023, via Republic Records, as the re-recording of her third studio album, Speak Now (2010). The re-recording is part of her counteraction to defy the changed ownership of the masters to her first six studio albums. Taylor announced the album on May 5, 2023, in Nashville, at an “The Eras Tour” concert.
At 20, Taylor learned quickly that being on top meant a rougher landing at the bottom. The year after she released sophomore album, Fearless (2008), should have been joyful: The album helped begin her transition from country wunderkind to veritable pop star thanks to the five Top 10 hits it birthed. She would find herself as often the youngest or only country star amongst mainstream pop, rap, and rock heavyweights — incuding at the MTV VMAs where “You Belong With Me” took home “Best Female Video”. She would even take home her first “Album of the Year” award in February 2010, making her the youngest artist to win the award at the time.

Each win became marred by a loss: At the VMAs, Kanye West would infamously interrupt her acceptance speech to say she didn’t deserve it. After the Grammys, critics would pan her talent after a below average performance with legend Stevie Nicks during the ceremony. Her writing talent as a teenage star was questioned on the regular, many believing that she owed more to the adults in the room with her than she was owning up to. All the while, she was in the midst of the first truly tabloid-frenzied year of her life as she endured a very public breakup with fellow teen idol Joe Jonas and became the center of a media storm trying to piece together who the heartbreak princess would choose next. Taylor reflected on that period in her life in the prologue for Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), writing:

«I wanted to get better, to challenge myself, and to build on my skills as a writer, an artist, and a performer. I didn't want to just be handed respect and acceptance in my field. I wanted to earn it. To try and confront these demons, I underwent extensive vocal training and made a decision that would completely define this album: I decided I would write it entirely on my own. I figured, they couldn't give all the credit to my cowriters if there weren't any. But that posed a new challenge: It really had to be good. If it wasn't, I would be proving my critics right.»

With Speak Now, Taylor was sending a message. She wrote every song herself, making for her first full album of sole writing credits. And instead of leaning deeper into the country pop power of “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me,” she began leaning into some of her rock taste while still maintaining her country dominance. And with each song, she methodically responded to the critics, exes, and public enemies with withering levels of cutting insults and teenage angst. Thirteen years later, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is the third installment of Taylor’s monstrous re-recorded album project, one prompted by the sale of her masters after she parted ways with first label Big Machine Records. The album she used to prove herself as a solo songwriter got to shine once more.
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As per her contract with Big Machine Records, Taylor released six studio albums under the label from 2006 to 2017. In late 2018, the contract with the label expired; she hence withdrew from Big Machine and signed a new recording deal with Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group, which secured her the rights to own the masters of the new music she will release. In 2019, American businessman Scooter Braun and his company Ithaca Holdings acquired Big Machine. As part of the acquisition, ownership of the masters to Taylor’s first six studio albums, including Speak Now, transferred to Braun. Taylor denounced Braun’s purchase of the label, and announced that she would re-record her first six studio albums, so as to own their masters herself. At her “The Eras Tour” concert on June 24, 2023, she said:

«Ever since I was a teenager and I started putting out my albums, I knew that my long-term goal was to one day own my art, my work, my music. That’s just always been something I’ve really wanted and dreamed about. And so a couple of years ago, I announced that I was going to be re-recording and re-releasing my entire first six albums. [...] This is a passion project. This is something that I wanted to do personally, because I wanted to own my work.»

In November 2020, Braun sold the masters to Shamrock Holdings, an American private equity firm owned by the Disney estate, under the conditions that Braun and Ithaca Holdings will continue to financially profit from the albums. Taylor thus began re-recording the albums in November 2020. Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the first of her six re-recorded albums, was released on April 9, 2021. Shortly afterwards, it was followed by RED (Taylor’s Version), which was released on November 12, 2021. Both albums achieved critical and commercial success, debuting atop the Billboard 200 chart.

Speculations about a re-recording of Speak Now date back as far as November 2021, when Taylor released RED (Taylor’s Version), referencing key words of the 2010 era in social media posts. The music videos for “Bejeweled” and “Lavender Haze“, released in 2022 and 2023, were also noted to contain numerous easter eggs referencing Speak Now. Theories intensified after “The Eras Tour” began in March 2023: the multi-colored wristbands that attendees received flashed purple at the end of a show. During a show in April, she stated that “one of my albums has been on my mind a lot… lots going on in my brain about it”.

Announcement and Release

On May 5, 2023, at the first show of her “The Eras Tour” in her hometown of Nashville, Taylor finally announced the news of the upcoming release: “I think rather than me speaking about it, I thought I would just show you. So, if you would direct your attention to the back, big screen that we have.” Behind her, the screen read: “Speak Now. Taylor’s Version. Available July 7.” Fans immediately flooded social media to post screenshots and live footage of the big reveal. Afterwards, Taylor played an acoustic version of the album’s second track, “Sparks Fly“. She later shared in an Instagram post:

«It fills me with such pride and joy to announce that my version of Speak Now will be out July 7 (just in time for July 9th, iykyk). [...] The songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing…and living to speak about it. I always looked at this album as my album, and the lump in my throat expands to a quivering voice as I say this. Thanks to you, dear reader, it finally will be. I consider this music to be, along with your faith in me, the best thing that's ever been mine. Yours, Taylor»

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) was released on July 7, 2023. It contains 22 tracks, six of which are designated “From the Vault” — unreleased songs that were written for Speak Now but did not make the final cut in 2010. “If This Was A Movie (Taylor’s Version)“, a deluxe track from the original album, was released as a promotional single and included with The More Fearless (Taylor’s Version) Chapter earlier in 2023; it was the only track from Speak Now to have a co-writer. The vinyl edition of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is a set of three LPs.
Taylor Swift for Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (Beth Garrabrant, 2023)
Taylor Swift for Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (Beth Garrabrant, 2023)

Title Significance

To “speak now” was of utmost importance to Taylor during the time she was creating the original album. Between the ages of 18-20 she went through her first worldwide scandal (the infamous mic-grabbing scene at the 2009 MTV VMAs), experienced the weirdness of having to date in the public eye as a teenager and faced harsh criticism for her singing voice. In the prologue for its re-recording, she explained:

«I had the nagging sense that in the most intense moments of my life, I had frozen. I had said nothing publicly. I still don't know if it was out of instinct, not wanting to seem impolite, or just overwhelming fear. But I made sure to say it all in these songs. I decided to call the album Speak Now. It was a play on the 'speak now or forever hold your peace' moment in weddings, but for me it symbolized a chance to respond to the chatter and commentary around my own life.»

Lyrical Themes

Like on the original version of the album, Taylor straddles an interesting line on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version): There are traces of young love, most notably on “Sparks Fly” and “Ours“, but most of the album has a definite thorniness to it. Case in point: “Mean” is still the perfect bluegrass-country bop for silencing haters and critics. “Dear John,” too, remains as a comforting listen for young adults who feel they were taken advantage of by an older romantic partner.

Overall, the nostalgia of the original tracks on Speak Now inhabits a different space than Taylor’s two preceding albums, as well as RED (2012) and 1989 (2014) that followed. The Taylor of Speak Now is haunted by her rapidly growing fame and the knowledge that youth is rapidly slipping away. In the album’s prologue, she wrote:

«At this point in my life, I had released my second album, Fearless. It became the breakthrough moment I'd always dreamt of, the one that catapulted my career to new realms of success. It had brought with it a tidal wave of pressures and pitfalls and growing pains. All the while, I was encountering the milestones and checkpoints of normal teenage growth. I had cataclysmic crushes and brushes with heartache. I moved out of my parents' house and set my bags down in a new apartment. I hung photos on my own walls and decorated the space where I would sob and cackle and shatter and dream. Sometimes I felt like a grown up, but a lot of the time I just wanted to time travel back to my childhood bed, where my mom would read stories to me until I fell asleep.»

Never Grow Up” is a remarkably self-aware goodbye to girlhood. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: folklore (2020) and evermore (2020) opened up Taylor’s poetic musings to many people in a whole new way, but she has, truly, always been a great lyricist. Consider “Last Kiss,” where she sings, “I’ll watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep, and I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe.” Yes, Taylor’s alternative work with Aaron Dessner is fantastic, but that kind of work isn’t new. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is a reminder of that.
Speak Now by Taylor Swift (Big Machine Records, 2010)

Speak Now

Speak Now October 25, 2010 This article is about the album. For its title track, see Speak Now (song). For the 2023 re-recording, see Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).Speak Now is Taylor’s third studio album. Released on October 25, 2010, it was written entirely by Taylor as the follow-up to her blockbuster Fearless (2008).

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From The Vault

The Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) vault tracks showcase a very specific side of Taylor: a burgeoning songwriter growing up and beginning to build the foundation for the rest of her career. These unearthed songs are some of the most peak “Swift lyrics” she could write, the kind of concepts and themes she would chase for years to come and learn to perfect in her approach with each passing project. As more and more new-old songs emerged from the vault, Taylor made it clear that the writer who had been repeatedly disrespected and misunderstood had also been in the process of becoming the writer who would be ultimately celebrated as one of the best in history more than a decade later. And like any great writer, she was building out her lore right in front of us, whether she realized it or not.


As with her previous two re-recordings, the release of Taylor’s Version offers Taylor the opportunity to go back in time and change aspects of the original album. But while the main album production (handled by Taylor and Christopher Rowe, replacing Nathan Chapman) softens the Nashville neon and country vocal twang, she generally resists the temptation to mess with perfection. Christopher Rowe had also previously co-produced all the orginial tracks on Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and RED (Taylor’s Version). On Twitter, he shared:

«So proud to see Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) be released. Thankful for the best band on earth and the amazing engineers who made making this record an absolute pleasure. And Thanks especially to Taylor for taking me on this journey with her.»

Strongly influenced by rock and pop-punk music, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) blends Taylor’s trademark country pop sound with emo, pop rock and gothic rock styles. It is mainly driven by dynamic compositions of electric guitars, heavy drums, cinematic strings and acoustic instruments.
Taylor Swift for Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (Beth Garrabrant, 2023)
Taylor Swift for Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (Beth Garrabrant, 2023)

Differences Between the Original and Taylor's Version

Apart from removing “If This Was A Movie” from the re-recording of Speak Now alltogether, there is only really one remarkable change. Taylor decided to alter a lyric in the pop-rock song “Better Than Revenge.” When she was 18 years old, she originally wrote: “She’s better known for the things that she’s done on the mattress,” which has now been re-recorded as “He was a moth to the flame/ She was holding the matches.” The jab was aimed at Joe Jonas’ then-girlfriend Camilla Belle, and it seems like it’s been something of a thorn in Taylor’s side in the years that have passed since.

Whether she needed to change the line or not was highly debated among critics and fans after the release of the album. But as always when it comes to Taylor, she couldn’t win either way. Had she left the original lyric in the song, she probably would have been questioned why she decided not to use this opportunity to promote her current feminist views. At the end of the day this is Taylor’s Version, her re-recording, her legacy, so she has every right to do whatever she feels most comfortable with.

Critical Reception

Mark Sutherland of Rolling Stone UK wrote, “the empowering, elemental force and simmering hurt that made the original Speak Now such a remarkable record remains strikingly intact.” Annabel Nugent of The Independent, Poppie Platt of The Daily Telegraph, and Will Hodgkinson of The Times praised the album’s crisper production, emotional heft, and Taylor’s strong vocals. Kelsey Barnes of The Line of Best Fit complimented the album’s catharsis accurately representing adolescence. Some critics disagreed with the lyric change in “Better Than Revenge”, claiming it to be unnecessary.

Commercial Performance

Upon release, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) received 126.3 million streams on its opening day on Spotify, breaking the records for the most single-day streams for any album in 2023 and for a country album ever. It also became the second most-streamed album by a female artist in a single day, behind Taylor’s own Midnights (2022).

In the US, Billboard reported that Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) sold 575,000 units within its first four days, including over 400,000 album sales (of which 225,000 were vinyl LPs), marking the largest consumption and sales week for an album in 2023, as well as the second-largest vinyl sales week in US history, behind Midnights. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 716,000 units, including 507,000 album sales, earning the largest week for a country album since December 2014. Taylor set new records among female artists for most No. 1 albums in chart history (12) and most consecutive years with a new No. 1 album (5), surpassing Barbra Streisand and Miley Cyrus, respectively. Taylor  also became the first living soloist to chart four albums in the Top 10 simultaneously in history, and the first act to have nine albums sell at least 500,000 copies in a week.

Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart with 67,000 units, surpassing the 2010 album’s peak (No. 6) and doubling its first-week sales. Taylor became the fastest female artist to collect 10 No. 1 albums in the UK, surpassing Madonna. In Australia, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) debuted at No. 1 on the ARIA Albums Chart as well, displacing Midnights from the top spot. It became Taylor’s 11th No. 1 album and made her the first act to replace oneself at the top spot. Fifteen tracks from the album entered the ARIA Singles Chart simultaneously, with three in the Top 10.

Long Live

Listening to Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is an emotional and nostalgic experience, especially for the people who have grown up with Taylor and her music. Maybe that is because this re-recording allows us to have empathy for our past selves. Our teenage selves make so many mistakes — Taylor just had to make hers in front of millions of people. For better or worse, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) lets the ghosts of the past out. Maybe now, she can let a few of them go:

«I'll be forever proud of setting a goal and seeing it through. I'lI always feel shivers all over when I remember singing 'Long Live' to close the show every night on tour. The outstretched hands of those bright and beautiful faces of the fans. Their support was like an open palm that reached out and helped me up off the ground when others were, frankly, mean. These days I make my choices for those people, the ones who thought I had been good enough all along. I try to speak my mind when I feel strongly, in the moment I feel it. I'm still idealistic and earnest about the music I make, but I'm less crushed when people mock me for it. I know now that one of the bravest things a person can do is create something with unblinking sincerity, to put it all on the line. I still sometimes wish I was a little kid again in a tiny bed, before I ever grew up. [...] I consider this music to be, along with your faith in me, the best thing that's ever been mine.»

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
ReleasedJuly 7, 2023
StudiosBlack Bird (Nashville)
Electric Lady (New York)
Kitty Committee (London)
Long Pond (Hudson Valley)
Nervous Breakdance (Los Angeles)
Rough Customer (Brooklyn)
GenreCountry Pop
Pop Rock
LabelRepublic Records
Taylor Swift (also exec.)
Christopher Rowe
Jack Antonoff
Aaron Dessner
Midnights (2022)Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) [2023]1989 (Taylor’s Version) [2023]
Album Certification
Album Announcement
Album Artwork
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