Music Review Reading Comprehension.

This interactive reading-comprehension exercise about a music review is part of a complete lesson on the vocabulary of music in our free upper-intermediate English course.

Read the following review of Taylor Swift’s 1989 and the glossary then answer the questions below.

Album Review: Taylor Swift – 1989

Genre: Pop/R&B
Label: Republic
Reviewed: October 30, 2023


Taylor Swift’s latest re-record, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), closely mirrors the original, but the inclusion of five previously unreleased tracks provide additional insight into her groundbreaking pop debut. This is the latest of her albums that Swift has re-recorded, with the objective of taking ownership of her own work, after she was unable to take ownership of the original recordings. By recording and releasing the albums again and clearly distinguishing between the original recordings and the new, she has effectively reclaimed her work (and the revenue that it creates) from the industry that didn’t want to sell the original studio master recordings back to her.

Pop Stardom Emerges

In 2014, Taylor Swift transformed into a pop sensation with her fifth album, “1989.” Platinum success, a stage show that featured models as backing dancers, and a diamond covered microphone marked her shift from intimate country based songwriting to bright, punchy pop. Despite being her first official pop album, it dominated charts and earned Grammy acclaim, receiving ten nominations and winning the Grammy for Album of the Year. This win established Swift as the first woman to ever win the award twice, after previously having won with her album “Fearless”. Swift would go on to win a third Grammy for best album with “Folklore” in 2021.

Exploring the Vault

The re-record, 1989 (Taylor’s Version), sheds light on this time in the artist’s life, providing additional context. The added tracks range from impressive to weak, offering glimpses into Swift’s vulnerability. While lacking the precision of the original, they reveal a more human side, adding depth and detail behind Taylor’s superficially pleasing aesthetic.

Though 1989 (Taylor’s Version) may lack some of her signature nuances, the vault tracks occasionally suffer from being too wordy. Despite this, Swift’s ability to encapsulate the complex emotions post-breakup remains a standout. The title of one track, “‘Slut!,’” may mislead; it delicately explores hiding relationships from tabloid scrutiny.

Standout Track: “Say Don’t Go”

The most remarkable addition, “Say Don’t Go,” co-written with Diane Warren stands, out with its tense atmosphere, bridging the ’80s influence of 1989 and the angst of Red. This song in particular demonstrates Swift’s musical evolution.

Collaborative Dynamics

Collaborating mostly with Jack Antonoff, the absences of master songwriter Max Martin and former collaborator Shellback are noticeable. While some new songs could fit Antonoff’s later work, they may be fragments developed much later. Despite stylistic changes, the vault tracks provide context, making the original songs more understandable.

Extended Runtime

The extended runtime of 1989, now about 81 minutes, helps balance its cloying moments. Songs like “Welcome to New York” gain depth against wearier breakup tracks. However, not every song benefits; “Bad Blood” feels more basic, and “How You Get the Girl” retains its saccharine sweetness. The inclusion of the new songs adds to rather than detracts from the themes of nostalgia, love, and resilience that tie the tracks together, creating a cohesive listening experience

Despite any flaws, the record’s high points remain intact, showcasing Swift’s songwriting prowess. While some may consider 1989 artistically inferior, its enduring songs prove otherwise. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) doesn’t wear a debutante smile like the original version, but it hasn’t lost its appeal.

Text adapted under fair use from Pitchfork.


  1. Anthemic: Having the quality of an anthem, a song that stirs emotions and symbolizes a particular group or cause.
  2. Grammy: An abbreviation for the Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony honoring outstanding achievements in the music industry.
  3. Master: In the context of music, it refers to the original recording from which all copies are made. Re-recording an album involves creating a new master.
  4. Nomination: The act of officially suggesting someone for a position or award; in the context of the text, it refers to being considered for a Grammy award.
  5. Platinum: A term used to indicate high sales in the music industry, often associated with achieving a specific number of units sold.
  6. Release: The act of making something available to the public, like an album or a song becoming available for purchase or streaming.
  7. Runtime: The duration or length of time during which something, such as a movie or a piece of music, lasts or is presented.
  8. Saccharine: Excessively sweet or sentimental.
  9. Tabloid: Gossip magazines or newspapers.
  10. Tumblr-teen euphoria: Describes the ecstatic and enthusiastic feeling reminiscent of teenage experiences, often associated with content on the social media platform Tumblr.
  11. Vault tracks: Unreleased songs added to the re-record.
  12. Wordy: Excessively verbose or using more words than necessary to convey a point; mentioned in the text to describe a writing style.

When you have finished reading the music review, try to answer all of the reading comprehension questions below.

You can use the numbered buttons to navigate between the questions. When you have finished, click the “finish” button. Click the view questions button when you have finished to review the solutions and your answers.