Taylor Swift released the highly anticipated album "Red (Taylor's Version)," on Nov. 12, and she did not disappoint.
Swift’s 2012 album, “Red,” was the ultimate autumn soundtrack that intricately tells the story of a 22-year-old Swift grieving one of her first loves and finding her way through all the magic and misery of being in her early twenties.
“Red” was Swift’s first album to break into the full-blown pop genre with it’s singles, but she still kept in touch with her country roots on the album’s deep cuts.
In 2019, the master recordings of Swift’s first six albums were sold by her former record label’s president Scott Borchetta without her permission to music manager Scooter Braun, despite her protests and requests to have the opportunity to purchase the songs she wrote.
This prompted her to begin the process of re-recording these albums earlier this year with the re-release of "Fearless," her sophomore album from 2008, in April.
Swift practically broke the internet with the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version).” The album consists of 30 songs, 20 from the original 2012 deluxe edition tracklist, one song that was released as a single but never put on an album, and nine never heard before ‘From The Vault’ tracks.
Track 21, "Ronan," was originally only released as a single in September of 2012. A mother, Maya Thompson, who had lost her three year old son, Ronan, to cancer had written a blog where she documented his journey and wrote letters to him after he passed away.
Swift came across this and wrote the song based on the blog posts. Thompson gave Swift permission to perform the song at a benefit for cancer research, and to release it as a single, which Thompson was credited as a co-writer on. All the money made off of the single went to cancer research.
When Swift’s masters were sold, the rights to “Ronan” were sold with them. Swift approached Thompson to ask for her permission to re-record the single and add it to “Red (Taylor’s Version),” to which Thompson immediately said yes.
Each track on the record shines with a new flare and improved quality. The From The Vault tracks, however, brought an even greater perspective to the narrative, each adding a new piece of the puzzle to the story Swift is telling.
One spectacular new track was "I Bet You Think About Me" featuring country singer Chris Stapleton. This epic throwback to Swift’s roots in country music brings up memories of
“Mean,” with witty and clever lyrics about a condescending, pretentious hipster boyfriend belittling the younger narrator’s every move.
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The best line is “I bet you think about me when you say ‘Oh my god, she's insane, she wrote a song about me.’” The “Don’t date Taylor Swift, she’ll write a song about you” narrative was everywhere in 2012, making this sarcastic lyric especially satisfying.
Other vault tracks like "Message In A Bottle" and "The Very First Night" are full fledged pop Swift. They are sonically kindred to songs like “Good Time” by Owl City and “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in the best way, enhanced by Swift’s ingenious lyricism.
"Babe" is a song Swift originally wrote and gave to Sugarland, but now added her version to “Red (Taylor’s Version).” It is similar to the album’s eighth track, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," all about finally being able to let go of the person who broke her heart.
"Better Man" is a particular gem from the vault with cutting and heartbreaking lyrics akin to the album’s earlier tracks "State Of Grace" and "Treacherous", all about wishing someone could be right for her, but the relationship ultimately being doomed because the other person’s heart isn’t in it.
"Nothing New," featuring Phoebe Bridgers, is a fan favorite from the vault tracks. The lyrics have been floating around the internet for a few years, since Swift released excerpts from her old journals in 2019, which included these lyrics, but there’s never been a recording released.
On "Late Night With Seth Meyers" this week, she explained the song’s meaning. She said that it was about the fears that came along with no longer being a young breakout star. She was afraid that fans would lose interest in her. She expresses this fear in her 2020 documentary “Miss Americana:” “I want to work really hard while society is still tolerating me being successful.”
While she wrote this song about her experience as a musician, it’s relatable to so many young women who feel like the older and wiser they get, the more society gets bored of them. The song is devastatingly beautiful, and Bridgers’ vocals add such magic to it.
One of the vault tracks features Swift’s long time best friend, Ed Sheeran, who also features on "Everything Has Changed". "Run" is an endearing track about wanting to retreat with a lover, a theme Swift echoes in many of her songs. Their voices and lyrical styles compliment each other gorgeously.
"Forever Winter" may be one of the most heart-shattering songs Swift has ever written. At first listen, one might think it’s about not wanting a romantic partner to leave, but it quickly becomes clear that it’s actually about the aching frustration of seeing a loved one struggle with mental health and addiction issues.
“I'd fall to pieces on the floor if you weren't around,” Swift sings, “Too young to know it gets better / I'll be summer sun for you forever / Forever winter if you go.”
Swift is describing the paralyzing feeling of wishing you could make all your loved one’s problems go away, so much that you’d take them on yourself to ease their pain, but you can’t. This song is so earnest and deeply relatable to anyone who has experienced this.
"All Too Well (Ten Minute Version)" is the extended version of “Red’s” fifth track and may be the most important song of Swift’s career. This will live on as Swift’s “Purple Rain,” her “Piano Man,” her “Bohemian Rhapsody.” You get the point. It’s everything that she is great at, with some of her most devastatingly beautiful and piercing lyrics of all time.
It tells the story of a relationship in extraordinary detail. She brings up the now-famous scarf sitting in a drawer somewhere at her ex’s sister’s house, how his mother showed her childhood pictures of him and how he couldn’t keep his eyes off her as they drove in upstate New York.
She describes these painfully specific details and romantic moments to build to the incredibly powerful bridge where she tears it all apart, revealing the utter devastation and heartbreak she felt.
In the final verse, she describes all the small details of what she felt after the breakup: used, lost, hurt, and paralyzed, before ripping into him in the final chorus and outro, letting him know everything he lost.
The ten minute version of "All Too Well" had been part of the album’s lore for years among Swifties. When she was promoting the album in 2012, Swift had mentioned that the original song was ten minutes long before she cut it down to five and a half minutes. Now, she rounds out every detail of the story.
This song builds to several climaxes and is so enthralling that the song’s ten minute and thirteen second run feels like a minute. The first verse and chorus are the same as the track five version, a flashback introducing the listener to the magical parts of the relationship. Then, in the middle of the second verse, Swift introduces the first of the never before heard lyrics, saying “And you were tossing me the car keys, ‘fuck the patriarchy’ key chain on the ground.”
Swift’s songwriting talent shines when she zooms in on a very specific moment, and then zooms out to the fuller story, the lasting feeling. That’s exactly what this jewel of a song does, and it is perfected by Swift’s longtime friend and Bleachers singer Jack Antonoff’s masterful production.
It’s absurd to think that this version of the song has been sitting in the metaphorical vault for a decade, just waiting for the world to hear it in it’s full, soul-crushing form as it was meant to be.
On the album’s release day, Swift released a self-directed fifteen minute short film to go with this song, starring actors Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. Sink and O’Brien were absolutely electric together, completely embodying the characters while Swift’s writing and direction gave a perfect visual to this beloved story.
It begins with a black screen, showing a quote by poet Pablo Neruda saying “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
The film is packed with easter eggs and references to other songs on “Red (Taylor’s Version),” as well as songs and videos of other albums, including references to "White Horse," "Champagne Problems" and "Lover."
The film goes through each chapter of the relationship with titles flashing across the screen for that sequence of scenes. At the end, in the scene titled “Thirteen Years Gone,” we finally see Swift portraying an older version of Sink’s character at a book reading of her character’s novel entitled, “All Too Well.” Each sequence title was a chapter in her novel inspired by this treacherous relationship.
The short film is beautifully done, giving so much context and life to the story, which was already enhanced by the ten minute version.
Taylor Swift has definitely secured her title as one of the greats in music. As she continues this brilliant era of revisiting and reclaiming her older work, she is redefining the music industry forever and paving the way for every other artist to have the right to own what they create.
This re-recorded version of “Red” shows all too well what a brilliant artist Taylor Swift is.