Speak now, Taylor Swift urges us, in the age of an album remembered as one of her greatest. And speak she does. One of her most sweeping works, Speak Now features songs that sprawl across the landscape of love, regret, youth, and excitement. “Mine” begins the album like a story, bitter from the end of her last album, Fearless. But as it progresses, the song explodes into colors that mirror the album’s cover art. It’s rich with important memories, words, fears--a lifetime in itself.
There’s really no way to group the songs, which are like individual jewels. Each one tells like a story. After “Mine,” “Sparks Fly” is full of heart, capturing the feeling of falling headfirst into love. Then, we take a step back with “Back to December,” a glimmering, tender ballad laced with regrets. “Speak Now,” the titular track, is light and spring-like, where the quaint setup of a wedding turns into an original story with real heart. Swift’s ability to spin her lyrics like a storyteller is reminiscent of her country origins, but there’s no denying Speak Now is more universal than that. She creates an atmosphere that captures our imagination, and pulls at our own memories. Moving at a running pace, “The Story of Us” perfectly captures the confusion that follows the fallout. In “Better Than Revenge,” we witness a sophisticated tale of revenge, with important lessons at heart, while “Never Grow Up” is gentle, close to our eyes and ears. Horrifying, while exciting, electric, “Haunted” is full of anger and fear. The rocking orchestra in the background makes it feel like we’re caught in a horror movie, where we don’t know what’s coming next.
Swift’s songs are deeply stirring. They tell her stories and lessons, and we can’t help but see ourselves reflected in her music. The album is like a lifetime of knowledge, and for someone young, her lyrics are deft and insightful, always sitting at the heart of her music. In “Mean,” a banjo, guitar, and sleazy violin joins Swift, whose voice transitions back into the country flavor. Her chirpy underdog tune is universal and touching, strong without spite. “Dear John” is a rare gem like “Back to December,” only with different regrets. Deep, summery, we hear the voice of a broken heart caught in a poisonous relationship. It’s a special song, and reaches into Swift’s power to use words to create images so vivid they’re before your eyes. “Enchanted” takes us into winter, glimmering like the holidays. It captures the feeling of something really, truly, genuinely beautiful. “Innocent” drifts above the clouds. Like many of her other songs, it’s filled with regret, and lessons learned the hard way around. “Last Kiss” flows like water, and we’re touched by the memories she shares. But that’s not where the story ends.
In this album, we see someone who is at the epicenter of her own story. And as a young girl myself, listening to these songs changed my life. From moments of joy, rage, loneliness, and prevailing strength, Swift’s songs are unmistakably pure, brilliant. They never hesitate to transform her feelings and emotions into art. The last song on the album, “Long Live,” reminds us of that. It’s a hero’s tale, filled with dragons and glory, exciting from the bottom up. And amidst the legacy and the memories, we can feel something beginning. Swift tells us to speak now--it’s our time.