The insanity of being a Swiftie is realizing that even if you’re a newer fan like me who joined during the ‘Lover‘ era, this is already my fifth time experiencing an album release and let me tell you, it’s a goddamn delight every single time. I can’t be the only one who treats release day like an actual holiday, right? In fact, with this release, we might need an entire week off because this crisp, cold autumn, we have been blessed with ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’, the re-recording of the 2012 smash-hit album. Along with re-recordings are a slew of unreleased songs which were left on the cutting-room floor. On that floor also lies the ten-minute version of a little song called ‘All Too Well’ which has been raised up to the spotlight with not only an official release but an accompanying short film. It is safe to say that this whopping two-hour, autumnal heartbreak album is finally getting the moment it deserves.
The earliest memories I have of the original ‘Red‘ era was looking up the music videos of ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and singing my ten-year-old heart out. God, it is just now hitting me that I was only ten years old during this era. Now I’m nineteen, turning twenty next week and… that’s enough thinking for today! I have experienced this era twice now and I am still not 22 years old. I don’t know if that’s hilarious or tragic. Probably a bit of both. These singles took over the world in 2012 and if quarantine has taught me anything it’s that I genuinely feel like I missed out on this era in pop culture. I was too young to go out to a Starbucks with my nerdy glasses, plaid shirt and copy of ‘Twilight: Breaking Dawn’ in my hand. It’s so weird because even though I lived through it, I still look back at it as a time I wish I was living in like the 80’s or ’90s. I saw the music-videos, I sang the songs but I still don’t have that connection I have with an album like ‘1989‘ or ‘reputation‘. Funnily and embarrassingly enough, I only listened to the full album for the first time last year so it still feels relatively new to me. This was merely the reintroduction to Taylor that led me to where I am right now and this time I get to experience it in full on Swiftie mode.
While I went into ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ just having listened to the original a few days prior, ‘Red‘ is an album I was again, familiar with for the past year. There were some definite standouts namely ‘State of Grace’, ‘Red’, ‘All Too Well’, ‘The Last Time’ and ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’. As I listened to the album many more times there were some songs that grew on me but I can’t really say that this was an album I had on repeat, especially with Taylor releasing new material every couple of months. I just never had the time to really sit with this album and process it but now I do! Just like with ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’, songs that needed to grow on me because new favourites here. I have a much deeper appreciation for the album. I see the bigger picture, I understand the song placement and the meaning of most details and references. In fact, my overall understanding of the record was in large part due to the ten-minute version of ‘All Too Well’ which really encapsulates the entire story. It truly is a stunning feat to behold, it showcases Swift’s artistry, elegance and penmanship like no other song in her discography has quite done before. It’s a lyrical masterpiece and it absolutely deserves every passionate piece of praise it’s been getting.
Just like the majority of her records, ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ also features an unfolding story with each track, this time centring around heartbreak and a doomed relationship. Opening up with a trio of tracks all detailing how, well… treacherous love can be. From the event of an opening that is ‘State of Grace’ which treats love like a risky game that has damaging consequences unless it’s played right. The title track ‘Red‘ is a feast for the ears both musically but especially lyrically with some of Swift’s most clever and downright brilliant lyrics in the entire record. Comparing her love for him to driving a fancy new car like a Maserati down a dead-end street is easily one of my favourite lyrics of the entire record. The following track ‘Treacherous‘ details the slippery slope she knows she is at the edge of if she follows on in the relationship. All three tracks are wary of love but at the same time they have this smitten almost entranced charm to them, They’re tainted with tinges of sadness but they still feel light, unlike the next five tracks. These tracks feature waves of rage, regret, sarcasm, loss and snarkiness that give this record such a captivating energy and momentum that almost makes it feel like the listener is going through this breakup with Swift herself. The notable production upgrade on the pop tracks is especially pleasant with a clearer, more bass-heavy production that adds a real edge to a half-country, half-pop record. Tracks like ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’, ‘Starlight’, ‘The Moment I Knew’ and ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ all sound intensely clearer, crisper and ultimately more satisfying to listen to than the original versions. Even songs with smaller production sound better here. Tracks like ‘I Almost Do’, ‘Sad Beautiful Tragic’ and ‘Everything Has Changed’ have become new favourites thanks to Swift’s more mature vocals and matching tone. This is a truly updated re-recording which justifies its existence in more ways than one.
The exciting slew of Vault Tracks were definitely more experimental but in all honesty, when it comes to Taylor’s music, I found that deluxe tracks and now vault tracks are a hit or miss. You might get a ‘New Romantics’, ‘right where you left me’ or ‘Mr. Perfectly Fine’ or you might get a ‘Girl At Home’, ‘Superstar’ or in this case ‘Babe‘ and ‘Message In A Bottle‘. Even with ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version) I never really gravitated towards the deluxe and vault tracks other than for maybe two songs. With ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ it’s more or less the same thing. None of the vault tracks scream replay value to me purely because they’re so fucking sad. ‘Forever Winter’ is easily my favourite one but it makes me cry so I don’t think I’m gonna go back to it a whole lot. ‘Nothing New’ was also another standout but again, it’s so sad especially when you realize that it’s not true! Just look at Swift’s wholesome relationship with singers like Conan Gray and Olivia Rodrigo. They’re simultaneously breaking hearts together as a songwriting family! We then get vault tracks like ‘Message In A Bottle’ and ‘The Very First Night’ which feature two of the most outdated and generic pop melodies I’ve ever heard. They are insanely catchy and I do find myself singing them way too often for my comfort. They’re cute but I’m more of a ‘Forever Winter’ and ‘Nothing New’ type of fan aka an ‘evermore’ fan. It was particularly rewarding to hear the horns in ‘Forever Winter’, saying to myself with the utmost of confidence that it’s produced by Jack Antonoff and sure enough it was.
To me, the biggest selling point of these re-recordings aren’t necessarily the vault tracks, at least not yet. It’s the fact that we are reliving these iconic eras in Swift’s career. When has that ever happened where an artist revives an old era and makes it new again? It’s not only great for the fans but the progress is so evident that you cannot deny how far she’s come. ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ is a testament to her artistry and it’s incredibly exciting seeing this iconic era being relived through the eyes of a more confident and assured Taylor who marries the old with the new in this fantastic record.
‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ is now available to stream now.