Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy have once again captivated fans with their collaboration on the new song “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).” Marjorie Finlay’s dominance in the Vault Tracks for the song is evident in the closing track, “Timeless,” and her relationship with Taylor’s granddad. This emotional ballad is a testament to the power of 20th-century pop-punk and emo.
For those who prefer less sentimental music, Paramore’s singer and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump are worth noting. The six previously unheard compositions added to the previous 16-track running order of 2010’s “Speak Now” are particularly pungent and evoke memories of an era when girls and Fall Out Boys could have fun. The FOB-aided track, written when the artist was 18 or 19, is the farthest thing from a Swift classic, but it harks back to an era when girls and Fall Out Boys could just have fun.
A more careful examination of the 16 re-recorded tracks will be necessary, as the details of what feels similar or different bear forensic analysis or repeated A/B comparisons. However, before we can determine the haunting nature of the new “Haunted,” we can enjoy insta-reactions to the six never-before-heard tunes.
“Electric Touch” is a song by American singer Swift, which features six Vault Tracks and is produced by her two modern-day mainstays, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. Although the songs lack the distinctive lines that make Swift songs memorable, they still maintain the stylistic spirit of 2010, with an organic pop-rock band sound. The song’s pessimism and self-doubt are layered beneath the hopeful, anthemic, and generic rock veneer, making it a relatable superstar. Swift’s lyrics, such as “I’m trying hard not to look like I’m trying,” capture the uneasy tension between luck and predestined loss, highlighting the resilience of even the losers in the face of adversity.
Swift’s “When Emma Falls in Love” showcases a childlike spirit with a lilting piano, lending the song a sweet and childlike spirit. This song, similar to Swift’s third-person projecting on “Betty,” features a character named Emma, who makes the right moves and discovers that love is the key to securing a boy. The song has a happy ending, similar to “Love Story,” but Swift felt the need to assign a cheerful tone to her third album, focusing on the character’s journey and the consequences of their actions.
Swift’s revamped album features Jack Antonoff’s “I Can See You,” a groove-driven song that showcases the simple electric funkiness of a well-played rhythm guitar. Swift’s catalog, including “Style” from 1989, showcases the riff’s ability to resonate with listeners. Swift’s lyrics suggest she could see someone up against the wall with her, knowing where they can hide, just around the corner from the copy machine. This track is a must-listen for fans of Swift’s music.
Swift’s “Castles Crumbling” is a modern mood piece that resembles a flash-forward to the Swift Songbook of 2020. The duet featuring Williams and Phoebe Bridgers evokes a sense of paranoia about the end of Swift’s fame and acclaim. The song, which prefigures Swift’s defensiveness against a fan base she sees turning on her, is a mirror image of “Mean,” a song that made the original “Speak Now” stand out. Swift’s “Mean” had her bucking up against a blogger who told her she “can’t sing,” and in this song, she imagines a nation of fans turning back on her, following the maxim about imagining the worst and not getting disappointed.
“Foolish One” by Nathan Chapman is a song that teeters between optimism and fatalism, reminiscent of the turn of the decade. The song features a strummed acoustic guitar and drum programming, but still belongs to the turn of the decade. The song lands on the side of one-sided love doomed to go to hell in a handbasket, with Swift’s trademark falsetto tipping up at the end of lines. The gentle acceptance of the song’s message is a testament to the power of love and acceptance, even in the face of adversity.
“Timeless” is a unique bonus track by Swift, featuring a ukulele and flute floating in the background behind acoustic guitars and organs. It could have been a “Speak Now” album-closer instead of the brotherhood-of-the-road anthem “Long Live.” Swift’s initial lyric videos on YouTube were mostly static or circular screen-savers, but this one features photographs of Swift’s grandparents, modeling a great love she believes would have happened in any era. While not as emotional as “Marjorie,” the grandmother’s solely visual cameo may still ply misty from fans.