‘Speak Now’ Made Me a Swiftie—Here’s What I Learned Listening to Taylor’s Version as an Adult

Source: Getty
Source: Getty

We all have it. The moment we became a Taylor Swift fan. I lay in my bed and cried to “Teardrops On My Guitar.” I danced around my room screaming along to “You Belong With Me.” But it wasn’t until Speak Now was released that I became a Swiftie. At the time, I was an 18-year-old sophomore in college. I had a massive crush on a slightly older guy. I couldn’t wait to be big enough that the bullies couldn’t hit me. I was very much ready to grow up.

A lot has changed since 2010. I am now 31 years old. I am married to a way better man than the guy I once thought I’d never get over. I have lived in the big ole city. And despite the mixed feelings I may have about it now, I have grown up.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is that I am a Taylor Swift fan. And even as she’s released other albums I’ve liked more throughout the years (hello, Reputation and folklore), I have always gone back to Speak Now. And with the release of Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), I’ve come to these songs in a completely different way.

Taylor Swift might be ready to end the Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) era, but I sure am not. Here’s what I learned while relistening to the album that made me a Swiftie.


There’s Value in the Work You Did When You Were Young

Ever since Taylor Swift’s Big Machine Label Group catalog was sold first to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in 2019 and then to Shamrock Holdings in 2020, Taylor Swift has been on a mission to re-record those first six albums, allowing her to own her music and prevent others from profiting off of her work. She started the project with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April 2021 and followed it with Red (Taylor’s Version) in November 2021. And now, in July 2023, Taylor has released her third re-recorded album: Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).

Following the release of albums including the Grammy Album of the Year folklore and the cultural phenomenon Midnights, Taylor could easily look back on her older albums as not her best work. But she doesn’t. In the lyric booklet included in the Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) vinyl and CD, she writes, “I consider this music to be, along with your faith in me, the best thing that’s ever been mine.” It’s clear from these words and the huge smile on her face when she performs “Long Live” on The Eras Tour that Taylor is still proud of this album, teaching us that we can be proud of the work we did when we were young, too.


You Always Have the Opportunity To Be Better Than You Were Before

Taylor Swift is proud of Speak Now, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t going to take the opportunity to make Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) even better. And the biggest improvement from Speak Now to Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is, of course, Taylor’s voice, an improvement that feels extra special given the history behind “Mean,” which is believed to be written in reaction to longtime music critic Bob Lefsetz’s scathing review of her performance with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 Grammy Awards.

The improvement in Taylor’s voice is complimented by the increased production quality of the music, making songs like “Back To December” and “Enchanted” sound even bigger than they did before. And as with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version), the most exciting thing about the re-record is the release of the From the Vault tracks, the best of the six on Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is arguably “I Can See You,” which Taylor debuted the music video—starring ex Taylor Lautner—for at the Friday night Kansas City Eras Tour stop and hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its first week.

Fans may miss the anger in “Dear John” and the shaky breath in “Last Kiss.” But has Taylor Swift made Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) objectively better than the original recording? Yes. Yes, she has.


Your Dreams Are Allowed To Evolve

When I listened to “Mean” in college, I belted every line, picturing the remorse on the faces of all of the girls who made fun of me in high school when they found out I was making it in a big city. And I did it. I made it to New York City. I got my dream job in book publishing. Then, six years later, I gave it all up. Because I had a new dream: to live in a city I loved and have a commute that didn’t take up three hours of my day. And I made that dream come true, too.

Listening to “Mean (Taylor’s Version)” could have made me feel like a failure. It could have made me regret deciding to leave New York City. It could have made me wish I didn’t quit my dream job. But it didn’t. Instead, it reminded me that it’s okay for my dreams to evolve. Because the best way to be big enough so they can’t hit me is to always believe in myself.



It’s OK To Change Your Mind

When “Better than Revenge” was first released, Taylor Swift received criticism for the allegedly anti-feminist and slut-shaming line “She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.” In a 2014 Guardian interview, Taylor said, “I was 18 when I wrote that. That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one can take someone from you if they don’t want to leave.”

And now, with the release of “Better Than Revenge (Taylor’s Version),” Taylor has changed the controversial lyric to “He was a month to the flame / She was holding the matches.” In doing so, Taylor has taught us that it’s OK to say something and believe it but to later admit you made a mistake and change your mind.


Your Younger Self Was Doing the Best She Could

In the prologue of the Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) lyric booklet, Taylor Swift wrote, “I’ve spoken about how I feel like [the ages of 18 to 20] are the most emotionally turbulent ones in a person’s life.” And as someone who hit those ages just two years after Taylor, I can agree. When I was 18, 19, 20, I felt every emotion to its extreme.

It would be easy to look back at some of the things I did at those ages and cringe. But Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) has reminded me that there’s nothing easy about that in-between time when you’re still a child but desperately trying to become an adult. Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) has reminded me that my younger self was doing the best she could.


Don’t Be Afraid to Laugh at Yourself

Is the best decision Taylor Swift has ever made saving “Foolish One” for the re-record of Speak Now? Because listening to this song when I was convincing myself that the guy I screamed “Haunted” about would eventually be the guy I danced to “Mine” with may have broken me. But now, with the benefit of time and perspective, I can listen to “Foolish One” and laugh at my 19-year-old self. Because while I did get your longing glances, she really did get your ring.


You’ll Always Grow Up

I was never a fan of “Never Grow Up”—at 19, I couldn’t wait for my parents to drop me off in my new apartment. So you can imagine how surprised I was when tears fell down my face the first time I listened to Taylor’s version of the song. Because I have grown up. I moved into that new apartment when I was 21, and seven years have already passed since I moved out of it.

Whether you look to the future with excitement or apprehension, it’s going to come. You’re going to grow up. Now, I will always be a fan of “Never Grow Up (Taylor’s Version)” because it has reminded me to enjoy the present moment, no matter how young or old I am for it.


You’ll Always Have the Memories

“Long Live,” which has long been a favorite of both Taylor and her fans, opens with the line, “I said remember this moment / In the back of my mind.” And that’s exactly what Taylor Swift has always done with her music. She’s given us the ability to remember. When we listen to her music, we are taken back to crying to the bridge of “Last Kiss” and believing “The Story Of Us” would take a turn for the better. And when we listen to her music, we are creating new memories, too. Maybe we’re dancing in the kitchens of our apartments in the big ole city or singing “But this love is ours” with our spouses singing along next to us. Wherever you are now, Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) is the perfect ode to growing up and the memories you made (and still make) along the way.