- 18 Nov 21
Taylor Swift opens the vault yet again with her second re-released album, Red (Taylor's Version).
I remember being 14 years old singing every word to Taylor Swift's '22', dreaming about my early 20's, an untouchable time where everything in my life would have fallen into place. I have vivid memories of sitting wistfully in my bedroom playing 'All Too Well' and crying about a heartbreak I had never felt before.
Never would I have imagined that, shortly after turning 23, Red (Taylor's Version) would bring me back to those young yearnings, but with a new perspective on my generation's greatest heartbreak album.
Arguably her greatest album, Red marks a very important turning point in Swift's music journey, launching her from young country singer to epic international pop star. Red wasn't her first masterpiece, but it's the one that solidified her masterful pop songwriting as something ahead of its time.
Despite her gut-punching lyrics, Red was initially met with divided reviews, with some critics stating her fourth album was "mediocre" with "inauthentic and awkward" lyrics. Many wrote off her honest portrayal of young heartbreak, calling her a "woman child" writing "mediocre splashy pop" songs (and how embarrassed must these reviewers be now).
This all boiled down to how deeply Swift appealed to young girls, an audience that wasn't respected at the time (and isn't even today). If you experienced Taylor Swift's rise to fame while in primary or secondary school, you will remember the intense misogyny surrounding being a Swiftie. And yet, we all loved her, even if it was in secret, because she gave us an honesty that other artists couldn't.
Swift was unapologetic about her feelings, showcasing every painful detail of her shattering romances. Known as her biggest heartbreak album, Swift has said that Red resembles that of a “heartbroken person” trying to piece together the “mosaic of feelings" those moments create.
The beautiful vulnerability of her music has inspired many of today's young female songwriters to speak their teen angst loud and proud, like overnight-success Olivia Rodrigo and Gingerbread Man Records star Maisie Peters.
In 2012, many of Swift's fans loved her music, but couldn't relate to the grief of heartbreak as we were too young to have truly experienced it. With this re-release, not only has Taylor grown and matured over the past nine years, but her audience has grown with her and can finally appreciate Red (Taylor's Version) through their own experiences.
After the explosive release of Fearless (Taylor's Version) this year, Swift has continued to reclaim ownership over her old albums from her former label Big Machine Records. Her former manager Scooter Braun acquired the master recordings of Swift's first six albums in 2019 (alongside a new hoard of Swiftie enemies), despite the singer's objections.
This iteration marks a momentous shift as Swift now owns more than half of her albums, reaching five out of nine with this new release. Many industry professionals were skeptical that this re-recording process was something the singer could take on and was something that fans would accept. And, like in the past when people have underestimated her, Swift has once again proved everyone wrong.
Red (Taylor's Version), despite being an album that fans had already heard three quarters of, still has more to teach us about growing up and moving forward. Swift has taken the iconic tracks we all know and love and breathed new life into them through polished production and a new, mature sound.
I, like many Swifties, sat down to listen to the album front to back in one sitting like it was a sacred experience, a ritual. I grabbed my Starbucks (Taylor's Version)- Swift's favorite beverage, a grande caramel nonfat latte, now available through a Red TV collaboration- lit my fireplace and put my headphones in.
Instantly I was hit with waves of nostalgia. With my eyes closed, I could almost imagine I was laying in my childhood bedroom listening to Red on my mint green iPod nano for the millionth time. Even with the incredible hype around this album, I couldn't prepare myself for the warm fuzzy feelings I would feel revisiting this classic LP, every lyric still engrained in my mind.
Hearing Swift's adult voice, which has gained muscularity and confidence with age, brings the album to new heights, especially in the deep cuts of 'Come Back... Be Here' and 'The Moment I Knew'. She manages to bring technical perfection to old tracks while maintaining the spirit of the 2012 edition.
Hearing 'Begin Again', once so full of fragile optimism about the future, spoken by a 31-year-old who has found success and love gives hope that if Taylor can recover from her biggest heartbreaks, then we can, too.
The emotional roller coaster of dancing around my living room to iconic bangers '22' and 'We Are Never Getting Back Together' to holding back tears during Swift's charity song 'Ronan' proved to me once again of Swift's genius. She effortlessly delivers the complexities of life to fans through carefully crafted lyrics and musical motifs, all gift wrapped in a beautiful red box with a bow.
Alongside Red's original tracks, the blondie has gone back into the vault, gifting nine new songs to her adoring fans, written in 2012 that didn't make the original cut.
In 'Nothing New', Swift finds her best duet partner in Phoebe Bridgers, with the combination of Bridgers's inconic ghostly vocals balancing Swift's unfailing brightness perfectly.
Quickly becoming a Gen Z fan-favourite, the song's hard-hitting lyrics contemplate the complexities of growing up. “How did I go from growing up to breaking down?” Swift muses. “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22? And will you still want me when I’m nothing new?”
The moment we all were waiting for, however, came at the end with 'All Too Well (10 Minute Version)'. Swift initially teased in a Red era interview that her magnum-opus five-minute hit was originally double that length before being trimmed down.
And after years of waiting, the 10-minute track is everything Swifties could've asked for, with the singer going deeper into the story. Holding nothing back, Swift doubles down on melodrama through piercing lyrics like "til we were dead and gone and buried, check the pulse and come back swearing it’s the same after three months in the grave."
This 10 minute heartbreak epic hammers the last nail into ex-partner Jake Gyllenhaal's coffin, singing, “I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age.” It was almost as if Swift could tell the future, with 40 year-old Gyllenhaal's current partner being 25 years old.
She takes the time to fully delve into her old grief and rage about this relationship. When her partner failed to show up for her birthday, her dad tried to cheer her up, telling her “it’s supposed to be fun, turning 21” — a gut-punching moment for all listening.
The ten-minute masterpiece was turned into an 'All Too Well' short film, starring Stranger Things actress Sadie Sink and Teen Wolf star Dylan O'Brien (who, conveniently have a similar age gap to Swift and Gyllenhaal- her MIND).
Above all, the 'All Too Well (10 Minute Version)', which quickly topped the Spotify charts despite the length, gives Taylor a chance to lay it all on the table with no mercy. In the end, the singer spends a minute fading out, singing lyrics, “Did the twin flame bruise paint you blue? Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?”
Following the release of Red (Taylor's Version), Swift thanked fans for inspiring her to reclaim her art, telling her 89 million Twitter followers: "It never would have been possible to go back & remake my previous work, uncovering lost art & forgotten gems along the way if you hadn't emboldened me. Red is about to be mine again, but it has always been ours. Now we begin again."
She continued an incredibly successful weekend by breaking two Spotify records: most-streamed album in a day by a female and most-streamed female in a single day. Following a series of late night show features, the singer released a music video for her 'From The Vault' song 'I Bet You Think About Me' Featuring Chris Stapleton, in which Blake Lively made her directorial debut.
But the pop queen did not stop there. On November 17th, Swift decided to emotionally devastate her fans even further with the release of 'All Too Well (Sad Girl Autumn Version)'. The 10 minute song was recorded at Long Pond Studios, the same place that Swift recorded her Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions documentary just last year.
At the end of the day, Taylor Swift doesn't need to be remaking her old songs. She isn't running out of gas, far from it – her peak is still on the horizon. What's amazing about this album is how it celebrates the journey she went on as she continues breaking the bounds of what is possible for musicians everywhere. For Swift, this is only the beginning.
Listen to Taylor Swift's Red (Taylor's Version) below.
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