The 5 best and 5 worst songs on Taylor Swift’s new album ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’

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“1989 (Taylor’s Version)” was released on October 27, 2023. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

“Blank Space” was a game-changer for Swift’s career, and it absolutely holds up.

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“Blank Space” is the second track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Taylor Swift/YouTube
“Blank Space” is emphatically, almost disturbingly catchy; it charted at No. 1 for seven weeks when it was originally released, a record for Swift at the time. So it’s easy to forget how the song’s true genius is lyrical, not melodic.

Every single line in “Blank Space” is a zinger, and even better, the listener is the target. It sounds like Swift owns her failures and flaws, but in fact, she’s forcing the general public to reckon with their own worst impulses — the rumors, the assumptions, the sexist double standards — and proving that she understands where those impulses come from, probably better than we do.

“Blank Space” is about a character that other people created, but Swift gave her a face. It’s much harder to torment someone when you have to look her in the eyes, knowing that she can hear you.

Making the song so catchy was her crowning stroke, because it became ubiquitous; it didn’t just bounce around in Swift’s existing fandom. Even her skeptics had to hear about how they’d underestimated her.

Best lyrics: “Keep you second guessing, like / ‘Oh, my God, who is she?’ / I get drunk on jealousy / But you’ll come back each time you leave / ‘Cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream.”

“Style” will always be one of Swift’s best songs.

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“Style” is the third track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Taylor Swift/YouTube
I have difficulty articulating my love for “Style” because it’s simply a perfect pop song, and that should be obvious to anyone with ears.

Swift said that when she wrote it, she was thinking about “fashion staples” that defy the trend cycle, like a little black dress or a classic red lipstick. This is made literal in the chorus, of course: “And when we go crashing down, we come back every time / ‘Cause we never go out of style.”

But that concept is also weaved into the song itself: the retro guitar riff, the kick drum-snare-thunderclap combo, the climactic high note in the bridge. These are pop staples that just make a song sound good, and as such, “Style” will defy the trend cycle, too. It’ll always sound good.

Best lyrics: “You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye / And I got that red lip classic thing that you like.”

The new version of “Wildest Dreams” is a flawless recreation.

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“Wildest Dreams” is the ninth track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Taylor Swift/YouTube
Swift released “Wildest Dreams (Taylor’s Version)” way back in September 2021 after the original went viral on TikTok. Fans had been reenacting their epiphanies and moments of romantic clarity, soundtracked by the song’s passionate bridge.

Immediately, I was amazed by how closely it matched the original. Swift’s rerecorded vocals still toe the line between fanciful and melancholic — cracks in her fairy-tale facade wrought by fear and preemptive yearning. Her plea to “remember me” knocked the wind out of my chest, like it was my first time ever hearing it.

The new production, too, is perfect. How could I not get emotional about Swift reclaiming the sound of her own pulse?

The whole thing seemed to prove my long-held suspicion that “Wildest Dreams” was ahead of its time. Or, perhaps more accurately, it doesn’t belong to any time. Swift could rerelease the song every seven years and it would still sound pretty and heartbreaking and prophetic, like a movie you can’t help but watch over and over — or sunset-colored memories that follow you around. Maybe nothing lasts forever, but “Wildest Dreams” will outlive us all.

Best lyrics: “You’ll see me in hindsight / Tangled up with you all night / Burning it down / Someday, when you leave me / I bet these memories / Follow you around.”

“Clean” has been an overlooked gem in Swift’s discography for too long.

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“Clean” is the 13th track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Liu Xingzhe/Visual China Group via Getty Images
The closing track on “1989” plays an essential role in the album’s story, tasked with providing catharsis, closure, and a whisper of longing that keeps you coming back for more.

Thankfully, “Clean” achieves all of the above; I previously ranked it as the fourth-best breakup song in Swift’s discography.

Cowritten and produced by Imogen Heap, “Clean” is an outlier on the tracklist in the best possible way. Heap used unique instruments to achieve the rippling, rain-like production: a mbira (a thumb piano) and “these things called boomwhackers, which are for the percussion,” Swift explained in a Grammy Pro video.

Heap also provides backing harmonies throughout the song, which give “Clean” a haunting quality. Where most of the songs on “1989” live in the limbs, urging you to dance and feel the music on your skin, “Clean” lives in the soul.

Due to its scaled-back sound and late tracklist placement, “Clean” has never gotten as much attention as the album’s bigger, more boisterous songs. But true Swifties know how special it is.

“Clean (Taylor’s Version)” manages to recapture the magic, while also making space for a few extra flourishes. The new version sounds more luxurious and opaque — wiser, somehow. Maybe it’ll finally get the recognition it deserves.

Best lyrics: “Ten months sober, I must admit / Just because you’re clean, don’t mean you don’t miss it / Ten months older, I won’t give in / Now that I’m clean, I’m never gonna risk it.”

“New Romantics” has long been a fan-favorite track.

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“New Romantics” is the 16th track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Liu Xingzhe/Visual China Group via Getty Images
For some unfathomable reason, “New Romantics” was held back from the album’s standard edition and released as a deluxe track. It was eventually promoted as the seventh and final single from “1989” in February 2016.

Unfortunately, by that time, “1989” had already produced five top-10 hits, three Grammy Awards, millions of album sales, and 85 tour stops that grossed over $250 million.

“New Romantics” was treated as an afterthought — the cherry on top instead of a whole dessert — with a music video that simply stitched concert footage together. It peaked at No. 46 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Still, I have always felt that “New Romantics” was destined to be a smash, and the rerecorded version sounds just as fresh and urgent as ever. Even as a full-throated, synth-laden ’80s homage, it has all the ingredients of a modern-day chart-topper. (Hey, it worked for Harry Styles.)

So listen up, Swifties. If we focus and repent, “New Romantics (Taylor’s Version)” could become the next “Cruel Summer” and reach No. 1 years after its release. After all, Swift said it herself: “It’s all in the timing.”

Best lyrics: “The rumors are terrible and cruel / But honey, most of them are true.”

“Welcome to New York” isn’t a bad song, but it’s certainly not a highlight.

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“Welcome to New York” is the first track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Liu Xingzhe/Visual China Group via Getty Images
I’m so glad that Swift felt rejuvenated by moving to Tribeca, and I understand “Welcome to New York” as an opening-credits song for “1989.” It’s designed to set the scene.

But aside from that, “Welcome to New York” has little appeal. I can’t imagine listening to it on its own, beyond the confines of the album’s coming-of-adulthood story — though I do tip my hat to Swift’s casual use of the word “kaleidoscope” in a pop song.

Best lyrics: “Everybody here was someone else before / And you can want who you want / Boys and boys and girls and girls.”

Despite being a hit, “Shake It Off” is one of the album’s weakest cuts.

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“Shake It Off” is the sixth track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Taylor Swift/YouTube
If you were to ask a random person for the first song they associate with “1989,” chances are, they would say “Shake It Off.” Hell, it might even be the first chorus that pops into their head when you say “Taylor Swift.”

To me, that is devastating. “Shake It Off” is repetitive and formulaic, leagues below the level of lyricism that we know Swift to be capable of. (The phrase “hella good hair” will always plague me.) Sure, it’s a silly bop, but it has no business parading around as the mouthpiece for this album.

Other fans may disagree with this take, given that “Shake It Off” reigned at No. 1 for four weeks and signaled that Swift’s pivot to pop would be a success. For that reason alone, it holds a special place in her lore.

But among all of Swift’s many talents, picking a lead single isn’t one of them. In fact, she has said that she intentionally tries to throw people off with her selections, because “you can never express how you feel over the course of an album in a single, so why try?”

“‘Shake It Off’ is nothing like the rest of ‘1989,’” she told Billboard. “It’s almost like I feel so much pressure with a first single that I don’t want the first single to be something that makes you feel like you’ve figured out what I’ve made on the rest of the project.”

Best lyrics: “It’s like I got this music in my mind / Saying, ‘It’s gonna be alright.'”

“Bad Blood” is the worst song on “1989.”

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“Bad Blood” is the eighth track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Taylor Swift/YouTube
Given the strength of “1989” as an album, the “worst” song isn’t even a bad song by typical pop standards. People definitely enjoy “Bad Blood” — or at least they did, at some point — especially the remix with Kendrick Lamar, which topped charts upon its release.

But all these years later, “Bad Blood” doesn’t hold up (especially compared to fellow singles like “Blank Space,” “Style,” and “Wildest Dreams,” which feel truly timeless). It’s petulant, clunky, and underwritten, relying on the shock value of its long-buried drama to intrigue listeners.

Best lyrics: “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes / You say sorry just for show / If you live like that, you live with ghosts.”

“How You Get the Girl” sounds like it was made for Radio Disney.

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“How You Get the Girl” is the 10th track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” Splash News
The fact that “How You Get the Girl” clinched a spot on the standard tracklist — when songs like “Wonderland,” “New Romantics,” “Say Don’t Go,” and “Suburban Legends” didn’t — feels like a clerical error.

One of the great triumphs of “1989” was that it felt like a huge step towards maturity in Swift’s career, away from her image as a wholesome country sweetheart — a girl who never parties or makes mistakes, who spent her 22nd birthday making pancakes and giggling with her friends.

With “1989,” we were introduced to Swift as an outlaw, an adventurer, a slippery fox — a woman with secrets and slip-ups, with hands in her hair and clothes in her room.

Of course, glimmers of this version had existed before, in songs like “Treacherous” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” But “1989” shifted the public’s perception of Swift to better suit her adulthood.

All of this is completely stripped away in “How You Get the Girl,” a cloying and juvenile track that Swift has described as a “tutorial” for “how you get the girl back if you ruined the relationship.” The concept is solid, but executed much more elegantly in the following track, “This Love.”

By contrast, “How You Get the Girl” has no mystery, no palpable emotion or hints of adult romance. It’s straightforward in all the worst ways, with Disney-movie production to match.

Best lyrics: “Remind her how it used to be / With pictures in frames of kisses on cheeks.”

“You Are In Love” is just OK.

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Taylor Swift performs during the “1989” tour in Toronto, Canada. George Pimentel/LP5/Getty Images for TAS
“You Are In Love” was inspired by Lena Dunham and Jack Antonoff, who were in a long-term relationship at the time of its creation. The lyrics are based on “stuff she’s told me,” Swift said of Dunham.

“I think that that kind of relationship — God, it sounds like it would just be so beautiful — would also be hard. It would also be mundane at times,” Swift told Tavi Gevinson for Elle.

But as Insider’s Courteney Larocca previously wrote, “It’s just disappointing that a song about realizing you’re fully in love is about a relationship that ultimately didn’t work out — and wasn’t even one from Swift’s own life.”

“While Swift is usually great at outsourcing material for songs like ‘Love Story’ (‘Romeo and Juliet’) and ‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’ (Netflix’s ‘Someone Great’), this one ultimately fell flat,” Larocca continued, noting how it pales in comparison to “Lover,” Swift’s newer anthem for beautiful, hard, mundane relationships.

While “Lover” makes little things (like keeping Christmas lights up until January, or letting friends crash on the sofa) sound precious and profound, “You Are In Love” makes little things (like brushing shoulders and burning toast) sound impersonal and as boring as they actually are.

Best lyrics: “You two are dancing in a snow globe, ’round and ’round / And he keeps a picture of you in his office downtown / And you understand now / Why they lost their minds and fought the wars / And why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words.”

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