When Taylor Swift’s Red first came out over nine years ago, I vividly remember going to the mall, walking into Justice, and seeing stacks and stacks of the CDs next to the sparkly camisoles; meanwhile, “I Knew You Were Trouble” was playing over the store speakers. Now I am 20, and in my anticipation of the rerelease of Red, I felt the exact same butterflies in my stomach as my 11-year-old self did that day inside Justice. Much like that day, I’m positive that the release of Red (Taylor's Version) will forever be a core memory for me.
The rerelease of Red is an exciting moment for Swifties, not just because the album includes never-before-heard songs, From The Vault, nor is it because of the long-anticipated 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” well at least not entirely. Swift is currently in the process of rerecording five of her nine existing studio albums in an effort to reclaim the rights to her creative works, and in the process, she is making a powerful statement regarding artists’ lack of control over their own art within the music industry. Swift went into depth on this in a February 2021 tweet announcing the rerelease of Fearless, her second studio album. In this post she says, “artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work.” Artists understand the background, intent, and message of their own work better than anyone else, and Swift believes they should have a say in what is done with their creations.
Red (Taylor’s Version), not only includes the 20 original songs from Red (Deluxe Edition), but it also includes Swift’s 2012 charity single “Ronan,” and nine previously unreleased songs, From The Vault. Don’t worry, you’ll still know all the words to your old favorite songs; they sound pretty much the same in the rerecordings, with the primary difference between the old and new songs being in Swift’s vocal maturity.
New Sad Girl Autumn anthem just dropped
In the original Red album, Swift only has two collaborations, “Everything Has Changed,” with Ed Sheeran, and “The Last Time,” with Gary Lightbody. In Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift brings both of them back, along with two new collaborators: Phoebe Bridgers and Chris Stapleton. For Taylor’s version, in addition to rerecording “Everything Has Changed,” Sheeran also recorded an unreleased vault song called “Run” with her; while Stapleton is featured on another vault track called “I Bet You Think About Me.” But perhaps the most ruthless thing Swift has done to those of us who observe Sad Girl Autumn, is release “Nothing New,” a collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers, who is notorious for her sad songs. The song is about coming to terms with growing up, and how the older she gets, the more she realizes how little she actually knows about the world.
In addition to the three aforementioned vault song collaborations, Swift also released never-before-heard songs: “Message In A Bottle,” “The Very First Night,” and “Forever Winter.” The first two, with more upbeat dance beats, act as a sort of segue into 1989, the pop album Swift released after Red. “Forever Winter,” has a slower tempo and tells a story. It fits in well with the rest of the album, but also sounds similar to her more recently written songs. The lyrics in this song, as well as several of the other vault songs, have a similar maturity to the lyrics in Swift’s most recently released sister albums, Folklore and Evermore, making it evident that the vault songs have been recently workshopped. However, Swift seems to have still kept much of the original lyrics from when she first wrote the songs, and the juxtaposition of her more recently added verses next to the older ones makes her lyrical growth that much more prominent.
Two of the vault songs have actually been released before, just not by Swift. “Babe” was originally written by Swift in 2018 for Sugarland, a country music duo. The song, “Better Man,” was also written by Swift for a country music group, Little Big Town, and was originally released in 2016. Swift finally recorded the tracks herself and they are now included in the album. While these artists both released great versions of the songs, it’s nice to finally hear Swift record them in her own voice and style.
This thing was a masterpiece
The most-changed song on the album would have to be “Girl At Home,” hands down. Swift loves genre hopping. On the original album, it was more of a country song, but in Taylor’s version, it’s one of the most pop-sounding songs featured. It almost sounds like it belongs in 1989. If you loved the song as it was before, my condolences, but I think the new version completely revives the song and taps into its full potential. It is much catchier as a pop song, and this makes it more memorable. Just by switching from the acoustic instrumentals to an electronic beat, it has gone from being one of the least popular songs on the album, to one you’ll want to sing along to.
I had to save the best for last. The 10-minute version of “All Too Well” is indubitably the best thing that has come out of Red (Taylor’s Version). Although it is 10 minutes long, it moves swiftly. With Swift’s skill for storytelling keeping you locked in for the entirety of the song, hard hitting one-liners sprinkled all throughout the track will make you audibly gasp. The line, “Then he watched me watch the front door all night, willing you to come / And he said, ‘It’s supposed to be fun, turning 21’,” gives listeners some previously unknown context about the significance of “22,” the song that comes immediately after “All Too Well” chronologically in the album. This lyric gives a new sentimental meaning to the upbeat party track, showing how Swift made turning 22 a milestone for herself after her 21st birthday was ruined.
The success of Red (Taylor’s Version) nearly a decade after the release of the original album is a testament to the timelessness of Swift’s songwriting. The pictures she paints are relatable and relevant to listeners, and even if you can’t personally relate to the songs, she tells stories so vividly, in a way that makes you feel like you have personally experienced them. Although the stories are timeless, the recent additions have still been major improvements. The songs and lyrics that she’s added to this version of the album show just how much Swift has grown, not only in her songwriting skills, but also in how she has matured as a person. Swift is more of a genius than she’s ever been, and she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
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