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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Why ‘1989 (Taylor’s Version)’ hits different

How “1989” became the soundtrack to my life as a middle schooler

The year is 2014.

I’m exploring the hallways of middle school for the first time. I see bland lockers. I hear kids using words I’ve never heard before. I smell various odors from numerous sources.

I have one earbud in, and Taylor Swift’s 2014 blockbuster album “1989” is guiding me through this first glimpse at a new “adult” life.

Flash forward to the same date, but nine years later. I’m no longer 13 years old; I’m 22. I’ve lived what feels like 10 lives since those middle school days. I have new perspectives on life and went through major life events. 

And now, hearing “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” for the first time, I’m overwhelmed with emotion.

I still experience the feelings and memories that I associated with these songs in middle school, but now I can more deeply relate to the lyrical content of these tracks.

“1989” was the first pop album I ever fell in love with. It’s what got me hooked on pop music and expanded my horizons. I heard my favorite artist explore synths for the first time while she declared her support for the LGBTQ+ community in the opening track, “Welcome to New York.” Hearing Taylor confidently declare, “And you can want who you want — boys and boys and girls and girls,” for the first time is something I’ll always remember. Even nine years later, I get chills when I hear it. 

I was there when she kept the original album off of streaming services in her first attempt to fight for artist’s rights. Nine years later, she continues this battle by re-recording her first six albums.

I have vivid memories of singing the bridge of “Shake it Off” with the first friend I made in middle school. We took a Polaroid on the bus, and later I posted it on Instagram with the oh-so-clever caption: “This. Sick. Beat.” The girl in the Polaroid would go on to be one of my greatest friends. She still scream-sings these songs with me.

I remember begging my math teacher to let me listen to the album on release day and being so mad that she wouldn’t let me. I still look up to that teacher and can officially call her a Facebook friend. Weird how that happens, right?

And when I felt behind my friends when it came to hitting puberty or falling in “love” (which no one does in middle school, and I know that now), Taylor was there to guide me through those challenges.

In 2023, I feel all of these memories from the past nine years when I hear these songs. These songs are a huge part of my life, as I’m sure they are for millions of others. And now, in 2023, I can listen to the official “Taylor’s Version” of the album and feel like maybe, just maybe, I can tackle this thing called life.

I keep cruising, right?

Can’t stop, won’t stop moving.

You know what I’m getting at.

 The opinion desk can be reached at  


Josh Pawlik is an assistant arts editor for The Spectrum. His hobbies include playing guitar, working out and reading. He can be found on Instagram @joshpawlik 



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