Single Review: Taylor Swift makes a triumphant statement with “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)”

It would be easy to buy into her heroic narrative and laud praise onto her for being a soldier alone, but Swift makes her case nearly impossible to deny.

While Taylor Swift romances about Romeo and Juliet in her 2008 smash hit “Love Story,” the air surrounding its rerelease is anything but. After talent manager Scooter Braun purchased the recording rights to Taylor Swift’s first six studio albums back in 2019, Swift blasted him as an “incessant, manipulative bully,” as well as her former manager and record label for allowing him to do so. In the very public fallout that has ensued, Swift has publicly mused about rerecording her material to establish ownership of it, a gargantuan task that is now seemingly approaching the finish line.

In a venture like this one, it would be easy for Swift to only follow the task at hand: rerecord “Love Story” to cannibalize the success of the original. There is no doubt that over the last 13 years and countless performances, “Love Story” has rung in Swift’s ears so many times that she has wondered what she would change about it if she could. And while there aren’t any major differences that will stand out to casual listeners – no minor lyrics changes or major instrumental rearrangements – Swift still seizes this opportunity to breathe new life into her songs in a way that few pop artists have been able to.

There is innocence and vulnerability in Swift’s voice in the original “Love Story” that has departed in the 13 years since, but it’s hardly missed. Swift does a masterful job of recreating that youthful sound now as a 31-year-old: her tone is deliberately pristine[1]It’s a deliberate stylistic choice given how she allowed some grit to creep into her sound on her two recent studio albums, folklore and evermore. and bright to emulate her youth, but now she pays more attention to the bum notes that plagued the original recording. She sounds insightful as she pleads for Romeo’s hand rather than frightened, as she treads the line of emulating and recreating in a virtually faultless way.

Swift’s stylistic wisdom carries over to her production: the backing instrumental is lush where the original was thin and far more courageous in its ambition to move the listener. Ecstatic drums are centered in the sound, crescendoing in the bridge toward a grand finale, and Swift reintroduces bluegrass elements to adorn a recording for the first time in the better part of a decade. While there is an aura of nostalgia in recording a classic like this one, Swift manages to make it feel as contemporary as any of her own recent offerings or anything else in modern Country today.

While it would certainly have been interesting to see Swift deviate slightly more from the original by editing lyrics or spinning the song’s core sound in a different direction, it’s clear that Swift’s crosshairs were more focused on wounding Braun’s bottom line than anything else, and those constraints hinder her artistic growth here somewhat. But her diplomatic approach to “Love Story” should please not only her fans but also herself.

Read Taylor Swift’s Vocal Profile. Stream “Love Story (Taylor’s Version).

References

1 It’s a deliberate stylistic choice given how she allowed some grit to creep into her sound on her two recent studio albums, folklore and evermore.

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