As the clock ticked closer to midnight and the release of “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” neared, people fearlessly began to dance to the beloved Taylor Swift songs they knew all too well.
When the High Dive doors opened July 6, people ran to jump, twirl and scream to the music as multi-colored strobe lights pierced through the smoke.
About 100 Swifties of all different levels of devotion came to High Dive on the eve of the “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” release to celebrate the re-release of the 2010 album. The entire night, the venue played songs from Swift’s discography.
Some attendees, like Taylor Mulholland, a 20-year-old Santa Fe accounting junior, have followed Swift since her debut album.
Mulholland knew she was destined to love Swift.
“My name's Taylor,” she said. “I had to be a Taylor Swift fan.”
Mulholland attended “The Red Tour” that spanned from 2013 to 2014. When she was in the fifth grade, she sang “We Are Never Getting Back Together” at a talent show. Now, she continues her appreciation as an adult.
“There's been times in my life where I kind of stopped listening to Swift, but I always come back,” she said.
At the release party, Mulholland loved being able to dance to songs from her favorite album, “Reputation,” in a floral red dress — an ode to one of Swift’s outfits from the “Speak Now World Tour.”
Many other attendees carefully crafted outfits inspired by Swift’s albums or tour outfits. Caroline Hartley and Sophia Vernon, two 18-year-old Gainesville residents, wore bright pink and pastel dresses and covered themselves in body glitter.
Pammy Brugger, a 24-year-old Ocala resident, wore dangly ghost earrings in reference to Swift’s song “Haunted.”
Brugger also made friendship bracelets to exchange with other people she met at High Dive. Fans trade friendship bracelets in reference to a lyric from Swift’s song “You’re On Your Own, Kid” from the “Midnights” album released last October.
She loves Swift’s ability to tell captivating stories and appeal to many different people, she said.
“Her music can span a lot of different genres and everything, and I love that,” Brugger said.
Brugger brought her friend Jay Isaacs, a 23-year-old Orlando resident, an unexpected Swift fan.
Isaacs describes herself as “more of a metalhead,” but still likes Swift’s music. Her favorite song by Swift is “Long Live” from “Speak Now,” and she was excited to hear the re-released version, she said.
After seeing a video of Swift singing at a Stand Up to Cancer telethon in 2012, Isaacs was moved by Swift’s kindness and started listening to “Speak Now.” She has kept up with Swift’s music ever since. She remembers her excitement when “Midnights” dropped while she was at work.
“I just remember all of us out there and the second it dropped we opened up Spotify,” Isaacs said. “We were just playing it and screaming the whole time.”
Isaacs drove all the way from Orlando to attend the release party with Brugger and their other friend, 24-year-old Ocala resident EK Melendez. Melendez really looked forward to hearing the new version of the “Speak Now” song “Back to December,” she said.
She was introduced to Swift by Brugger a few months ago when “Midnights” came out.
“I just remember [Brugger] playing the album again and again in the car when the new album dropped,” Melendez said. “It was the only thing we listened to.”
Another trio of unconventional fans, Mendel Zhang, Alex Jamison and Josh Reeve, are proof Swift can appeal to different people.
Zhang, a 21-year-old UF math and philosophy junior, invited Jamison and Reeve to the release party. The three stood in the middle of the room, singing and dancing to almost every single song.
Zhang grew up listening to Swift on the radio and found his way back to her music when “Midnights” came out. Similarly, Jamison, a 19-year-old UF computer science sophomore, also grew up jamming to Swift with his mom in the car. For Reeve, the 26-year-old UF alumni, Swift’s music just hits different, he said.
“Her music is really powerful,” Reeve said. “It's very emotional. I don't listen to it all the time, but I was excited to come out here.”
As the countdown to “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)” reached its end at midnight, High Dive played through the entire re-released version of “Speak Now” and attendees got to listen together to the new album for the first time.
The album saw some changes from the 2010 version. One change was the addition of six new “vault” songs that weren’t on the original album. Swifties also noticed a lyric change in the song “Better Than Revenge.”
The lyrics changed from the original “she’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress” to a reworked “he was a moth to the flame, she was holding the matches.”
Some fans found this change to be less misogynistic while others thought it was unnecessary.
Swift’s voice also sounds older and more mature, giving the songs a warmer sound, Mulholland said.
“They're a little bit softer than they used to be,” Mulholland said.
Though there were changes and the album has seen mixed reviews from fans all over the world, attendees of the High Dive release party still loved Swift’s more mature version of the classic album.
“She really just can't go wrong,” Mulholland said.
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Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.