In 2012, Taylor Swift graced everyone with the release of her fourth studio album Red. The album was considered by many to be the best album of her career, the highlight of her discography, which accentuated her untouchable songwriter status. But the album wasn't considered to be great due to its commercial success - the album was touching and resonated on a deep level with listeners around the world. Swift's ability to take her experience of heartbreak, so undoubtedly and utterly personal to her own life, and execute her story of healing so universally that all listeners could relate to it was truly incredible.
Now, nearly a decade later, Swift has revisited this record - doubling its length, polishing its tone, and delving deeper into the heartbreaking narrative of her life that took the world by storm. Solidifying the album as a modern classic.
The album measures up to be an astounding 30 tracks, 10 of which were released for the first time - tracks that Swift refers to as songs "From the Vault," which were songs she had written for the original Red record but didn't make the final cut. If you want to learn more about these tracks, you can click here to read the history behind these long-sought-out songs!
She has collaborations with Ed Sheeran, Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Stapleton, and Gary Lightbody. The project as a whole stemmed from the plan Swift created to rerecord her first 6 albums in order to gain ownership of them. The Red rerecording is the second album to do so, following suit of the Fearless rerecording released this April.
Fearless (Taylor's Version) Album Cover
Revisiting Older Songs
One of the most anticipated aspects of listening to the Red rerecording was, undoubtedly, to hear Swift's voice sing the original Red tracks once more. Revisiting the songs almost a decade later - Swift's voice at 31 singing the life lessons that she once sang at 22 years old.
In "The Lucky One," for example, Swift sings back upon the hardships interwoven with massive fame, in a seemingly bittersweet reminiscence of her experiences. "And they tell you that you're lucky / But you're so confused / 'Cause you don't feel pretty, you just feel used," she sings in one of the verses. In the bridge, she sings passionately, "It was a few years later / I showed up here / And they still tell the legend of how you disappeared," which, in the current context of her career, acts as a subtle parallel to the musical hiatus the artist had taken in 2016. In her Netflix documentary detailing this event, she stated that "Nobody physically saw me for a year," describing that she had to "deconstruct an entire belief system, toss it out and reject it," as an unfortunate consequence of fame and being in the spotlight. Without intending to, parallels between Swift's lyrics and stories from back then intertwine within the events and experiences of her career now. Taylor Swift's voice isn't the only thing that has aged alongside this record - she has too, which makes the rerecording of Red so intriguing to listen to. Not only has she grown alongside the album, but audiences and fans of Swift have too - and both Swift's and listeners' newfound experiences definitely add deeper meanings to the words.
The Vault Tracks
Alongside the revisit of the original album tracks, the vault tracks have been highly anticipated as well. In an interview with Seth Meyers, Swift describes the vault tracks as songs she'd written and loved, but didn't make it on the original album because she'd wanted to save them for the next album. Then the next album would be a completely different thing, and the songs would get left behind - and couldn't be released on new albums because they belonged in the moment in time that they were written. After hearing these vault tracks, they undoubtedly do belong in Red, and the intricate world the album had created. The country charm that songs like Better Man or Babe inhibit simply wouldn't have matched the eccentric synth-pop that was Swift's next album, 1989.
One of the most Red-esque vault songs that fit was the indie-folk ballad Nothing New. In this, Swift sings alongside Pheobe Bridgers about the struggles of being a female artist in the entertainment industry. "[It was] really, really special to me because it was the first time I was not a shiny new artist," the singer describes. The song stemmed from this feeling, and the hardships that come after an artist has had their peak - after someone is no longer anything new. The coming-of-age elements of the song, of not wanting to grow up - to be 18 once more, not 22 - are greatly executed through both Swift and Bridgers' soft melodic voices. Due to this, Nothing New as a vault track was definitely one to stand out from its counterparts.
The Powerful Lyricism
As previously mentioned, Red is definitely one of the most lyrically strong works Swift has produced in her career. The powerful lyricism woven throughout this album further cements and emphasizes Swift's gripping narrative. In one album alone, she was able to capture the intricate and fleeting emotions of broken loves, fragility within relationships between others and herself, and the feelings of uncertainty in entering her twenties. To reduce Red to the label of just another "breakup album," ultimately diminishes the world that Swift so carefully rendered. Not only does Red orchestrate the story of a passionate love falling to ash, but it also addresses many other themes within this.
"The heartbroken may go through thousands of micro-emotions a day trying to figure out how to get through it without picking up the phone to hear that old familiar voice. In the land of heartbreak, moments of strength, independence, and devil-may-care rebellion are intricately woven together with grief, paralyzing vulnerability and hopelessness."
- Taylor Swift via the Red (Taylor's Version) album forward
Later on in the album, Swift even describes the album to be "All over the place, a fractured mosaic of feelings that somehow all fit together in the end," which is a perfect way to describe Red.
Some of the best lyrics in Swift's career have come from this album. In the opening track, she greets listeners with the song State of Grace. In this, she hits us with the words, "We are alone with our changing minds / We fall in love 'til it hurts or bleeds / Or fades in time," and her signature, punch-in-the-gut bridges - this time, highlighting the hopefulness of love:
"This is the state of grace
This is the worthwhile fight
Love is a ruthless game
Unless you play it good and right
These are the hands of fate
You're my Achilles heel
This is the golden age
Of something good and right and real."
And that is just in the album's first song. Lyricism like this is sewn all throughout the album, throughout all 30 songs. In Treacherous, we get, "All we are is skin and bone / Trained to get along / Forever going with the flow / But you're friction." In I Almost Do, we hear, "I can't say hello to you and risk another goodbye." In Sad Beautiful Tragic, there are the heart-wrenching first lines, "Long handwritten note, deep in your pocket / Words, how little they mean, when you're too late." The entirety of Red feels like a handwritten note - a letter of some sorts, the most personal of diary entries that Swift somehow executed so gracefully that audiences around the world could relate in their own ways.
The All Too Well Short Film
To top it all off, Taylor Swift also released a short film for one of the vault tracks on the album - the long-awaited and highly anticipated 10-minute version of All Too Well. The song on its own and its film counterpart could've received an entirely separate, in-depth review and analysis - though, simply watching the film and listening to the song could do it justice and convey the message perfectly fine.
All Too Well was, for a huge portion of Swift's audience and fanbase, the highlight and the crowning jewel of the Red rerecording. If the album had to be summed up with one song, it'd be this. Swift's vivid lyrical storytelling paired alongside the visuals of the film and performance by stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brien enhance the story of Red to a whole new level, allowing a deeper insight into the glorified breakup Red details. From fictionalized to real-life scarf parallels to The Moment I Knew references, the film does an excellent job at allowing listeners to graciously immerse themselves further into the world of Red.
The Impact of Red (Taylor's Version) on the Music Industry
Commercially, Red broke various records. It broke the Spotify record for "most streamed" album in a day by a female, surpassing herself as the record holder with Folklore. All Too Well (10 Minute Version) even broke the record for the longest song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, breaking streaming habits and culture, with the song being the last on the album and measuring to be an astounding 10 minutes long. Taylor Swift's album rerecordings as a whole are changing the music industry.
Overall, Red (Taylor's Version) is simply an affirmation of what Taylor Swift is capable of. With a decade-old, rerecorded, re-released album breaking such massive records, it was a clear indication of the point Swift is at in her career. With the unconventional nature of the album still managing to be a full-blown success, redefining and deepening her cultural imprint (will you ever see a scarf the same way?) it's evident. The massive success of this album further proves Taylor Swift's hold on the music industry and listeners around the world - paving the way for new directions for music and upcoming artists.