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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 opinion@ubspectrum.com  


JOSH PAWLIK
josh-pawlik.jpg

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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