RED (Taylor’s Version) – Happy, Free, Confused, and Lonely in the Best Way

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Aiden Powers (he/him), Writer

Album: RED (Taylor’s Version)

Artist: Taylor Swift

 

Over 9 years after RED was released, Taylor Swift has returned with Red (Taylor’s Version). You may be asking yourself, why is she releasing the same album again, nearly a decade later? Well, the answer to that is a lot more complicated than you would expect.

 In 2019, Taylor’s master recordings of her albums were sold without her consent for over 300 million dollars to Scooter Braun, a man with who she has had bad blood in the past. Under her new label, she owns all her new albums, Lover (2019), folklore (2020), and evermore (2020). In April 2021 she released Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the new version of her 2008 breakout album. Through rerecording her past works, she is able to regain ownership of the songs she wrote and sang, and along the way, she can perfect her past works. 

The issue with rereleasing a decade-old album is how does one get fans to give up streaming the original recordings they know and love? Boasting 30 tracks, RED (Taylor’s Version) promises everything from the original plus 9 tracks “From The Vault.” By adding these unheard scrapped tracks from the original album, she is providing initiative for her fans to stream and buy the new versions. The original tracks are exactly as you’d expect them, nearly identical to the originals but displaying stronger vocals and more defined production. 

Objectively speaking, RED is an autumnal classic. Ranked as the 4th best album of the 2010’s decade by both Billboard and Rolling Stone, RED is a masterpiece as is. And as far as Swift goes, she is no longer vying for the respect of critics or fans alike. With 11 GRAMMYs (3 of those being for Album of the Year, the most for any artist) and 1o #1 albums, Swift has proven time and time again to be arguably the most consistent, talented, and influential artist of all time. By returning to her past works, she has been able to solidify the aesthetics and themes of each album, and carefully craft the legacy she wants each to leave behind. 

Alright, enough context, let’s talk about the music! I won’t be going in-depth for each of the original tracks simply because they have been out for 9 years, but I highly recommend listening to those tracks before the new ones (i.e. State of Grace, Holy Ground, All too Well).

 

The Vault Tracks:

 

  1. Better Man – This deep cut should be familiar to many country fans. Little Big Town released this hit in 2017, originally written by Swift. I personally loved their rendition of this, but getting to hear the original writer sing it brought it to life even more. With arguably some of the best songwriting in her career, Better Man is a catchy country ballad that wonders what the future could have held if her past lover was, you guessed it, a better man.

 

Favorite Line: “You push my love away like it’s some kind of loaded gun, oh you never thought I’d run”

 

  1. Nothing New (ft. Phoebe Bridgers) – If you know me you know that I am a massive Phoebe Bridgers fan, so this is a very exciting moment for me. It is hard to believe that this song was ever scrapped from the original record, as it is so incredibly moving. Phoebe was the perfect choice for this collaboration, she is known for her tear-jerking lyricism and melancholy melodies. I found this track extremely relatable and emotional, as they worry that with age they will lose what makes them so loveable.

 

Favorite Line: “I wake up in the middle of the night, and I can feel time moving, how can a person know everything at eighteen, but nothing at twenty-two?”

 

  1. Babe – Another song that might sound familiar to country fans, Babe was released in 2018 by Sugarland featuring Swift. The new recording features a much more pop production (credited to Jack Antonoff). It is incredibly catchy with its infectious “what about your promises?” echoing throughout the background, a notable difference from the original. Although not necessarily my favorite track, it is still very solid.

 

Favorite Line: “We’re a wreck, you’re the wrecking ball”

 

  1. Message in a Bottle – It’s easy to forget that in 2012 Swift was still a country star who hadn’t officially crossed over into pop. This being one of her first pop tracks, her craft definitely hadn’t been quite perfected yet. On paper it’s a good pop song, my issue is just that it lacks character or uniqueness and can feel rather basic. With basic bubblegum pop production and lyrics, it is missing the personality that makes most of Swift’s song so loveable. It’s still a lot of fun to dance around to, and not every track needs to be so serious, but it’s fair to say that Message in a Bottle was cut from the 2012 album for good reason.

 

Favorite Line: “A message in a bottle is all I can do, standing here hoping it gets to you”

 

  1. I Bet You Think of Me (ft. Chris Stapleton) – Placed directly after a very pop song, I Bet You Think About Me is about as country as it gets, with beloved country star Chris Stapleton providing soulful backing vocals during the second half of the track. On first listen this was instantly one of my favorites. From the lyrics to the melody, it’s such a carefree song that provides a much-needed mood booster prior to listening to 10 minutes of the most heart-wrenching lyrics in Swift’s entire catalog (more on that later). 

 

Favorite Line: “I bet you think about me when you say ‘Oh my god, she’s insane, she wrote a song about me’” 

 

  1. Forever Winter – Another pop song, but this time with good meaning behind it, Forever Winter has exactly what Message in a Bottle is lacking. In this track, Swift is trying to save a friend from themself, supported by triumphant pop instrumentals. Jack Antonoff’s musical touch is obvious on this track, with instrumentals resembling Bleachers’ 2017 album Gone Now.

 

Favorite Line: “Too young to know it gets better, I’ll be your summer sun forever”

 

  1. Run (ft. Ed Sheeran)Run feels like a blend of Swift’s 2020 track ivy and Big Red Machine’s 2021 track Brycie, the similarity between all 3 being they were produced by Aaron Dessner. His instrumentals are surely the highlight of this track. Although I am not a fan of Ed Sheeran in most scenarios, this duet between Swift and Sheeran is well done and cozy.

 

Favorite Line: “I could see this view a hundred times, pale blue sky reflected in your eyes”

 

  1. The Very First Night – This is another pop track, which is a lot of fun. The issue with this song is its placement, as it’s easily forgettable being placed right before the most monumental track on the album. The Very First Night is a fantastic pop song if you’re looking for something light-hearted, but it is easily upstaged by the other vault tracks.

 

Favorite Line: “Back then we didn’t know we were built to fall apart”

 

  1. All Too Well (10 Minute Version) – It is hard to even know where to begin for this one. All Too Well (normal length version) is already one of the greatest breakup songs of all time, but this new version takes it to another level. This is Swift’s magnum opus, and dare I say the best-written song of the 21st century. In an age where music is highly manufactured to be the perfect hit, often not even reaching the 3-minute mark, All Too Well completely breaks the mold. Very few artists are capable of creating a 10-minute song, and only Swift could do it this well. You just have to hear it for yourself (preferably alone in your car as the rain pours down on your windshield and autumn leaves swirl through the air). All Too Well (10 Minute Version) is sure to be the track that carries Swift’s legacy as a songwriter forever. ​​🧣

 

And did the twin flame bruise paint you blue? Just between us, did the love affair maim you, too? ‘Cause in this city’s barren cold, I still remember the first fall of snow… and how it glistened as it fell. I remember it all too well”

 

Favorite Track: All Too Well (10 Minute Version)

Least Favorite Track: Message in a Bottle

 

Overall Album Score: ★★★★★ (5/5)

 

Thanks for reading this album review! What did you think of this album? Let me know in the comments! Happy listening 🎵