Red (Taylor’s Version) Album Review: A Decade Later

Sad girl autumn has officially arrived. In her quest to find Taylor Swift’s missing scarf, Htet Htet Nay Aung dives deep into the musical embodiment of heartbreak and why it is so revered.

Taylor Swift announced the release date for Red (Taylor’s Version) in June 2021, surprising fans who had speculated that the re-recorded 1989 album would be released first. Photo taken from Instagram.

 

BY
Htet Htet Nay Aung
People and npTribune Section Editor
Hype Issue #54

Published on
December 24, 2021
4

Taylor Swift is no doubt a household name. Dubbed the Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards in 2019 and the first-ever recipient of Billboard‘s Woman of the Decade Award, Swift does not need any introduction wherever she goes. The official soundtrack for sad girl autumn is here, but you probably know these songs all too well.

Red (Taylor’s Version) is the second of Swift’s re-recorded albums to be released. It is a full-length album with 30 songs, of which 21 are original tracks from Red, with nine additional songs that were not on the original 2012 release joining the tracklist.

Red (Taylor’s Version) is just the right companion to welcome the chilly, cosy yet heart-wrenching autumn, before you proceed to sob in the softest sweater you own. If you aren’t a fan of Swift, hopefully you won’t mind the endless mentions of Jake Gyllenhaal and missing scarves filling up your social media timeline.

It is certainly not nothing new in comparison to the original release. Swift’s deeper, fuller and more mature voice gives the same melancholic tunes a new depth to become the revered heartbreak album of the season.

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Red (Taylor’s Version) vinyl release includes four vinyl records with 30 songs and handwritten lyrics to the 10-minute re-release of ‘All Too Well’. Picture taken from Taylor Swift’s official website.

No matter how much production might be added to her songs, such as the tracks on Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift always manages to strip each song down to its simple essence: her voice, her raw, yet charming lyrics and the strumming of her guitar. That’s where the beauty and timelessness of Swift’s songwriting lies.

That might exactly be the reason why listening to an emotional album like Red (Taylor’s Version) feels like such a personal experience. Swift’s songwriting and vulnerability bring us back to why we listen to music in the first place: to feel something.

“I know from our conversations that you guys are all about lyrics and all about a feeling…So I’ve always written songs with the lyrics, the feeling and melody in mind,” Swift said in Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour, her concert film on Netflix.

I know from our conversations that you guys are all about lyrics and all about a feeling…So I’ve always written songs with the lyrics, the feeling and melody in mind.

- Taylor Swift, 32

American singer-songwriter

Swift re-recorded the 21 original tracks to be identical to the initial record in terms of mixing, production and lyrics. The re-recorded album has aged like fine wine as the singer’s tonality and vocal techniques have evolved, giving the songs that she wrote in her early twenties a more mature sound.

If you’re an avid listener of Swift’s music, you might be able to feel how this change has brought out the same emotions conveyed in the 2012 release in a new and refreshing way.

By re-recording her albums, Swift was able to relive a period in her life with an entirely different state of mind. Having grown both as an artist and as a person, Swift has outdone herself by giving this record a new meaning for her and her fans.

“I wasn’t a fan yet when the original Red album was released. But with Taylor’s Version, it’s amazing to experience the era so many years later and relate to it more now since I’ve also grown [older],” said Shwe Sin Oo, 23.

I wasn’t a fan yet when the original Red album was released. But with Taylor’s Version, it’s amazing to experience the era so many years later and relate to it more now since I’ve also grown [older].

- Shwe Sin Oo, 23

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Swift’s performance of ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)’ on Saturday Night Live with the self-written and directed short film playing as the backdrop. Screenshot taken from YouTube.

Undeniably the fan favourite on the album, ‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)’ ranked number one upon its release, while its full 10-minute version currently holds the record as the number one hit with the longest run time on the Billboard Charts.

A fan favourite from the 2012 release, ‘All Too Well’ has also been heralded as Swift’s best song, according to the Rolling Stone.

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Swift posted a video of herself stunned at the news of ‘All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)’ topping the chart, thanking her fans for sending a “10-minute song to number one for the first time in history.” Screenshots taken from TikTok.

“And there we are again when nobody had to know, you kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath”

“The idea you had of me, who was she? A never needy, ever lovely jewel, whose shine reflects on you”

10 minutes and 12 seconds may seem too long for radio airplay, yet it is too brief to capture the volatility of an entire relationship. But with Swift’s lyrical prowess, she is able to connect with her listeners and captivate them with every aspect of the story that she paints, making them feel the weight of her emotions.

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All Too Well (The Short Film) stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, whom Swift said were the only actors she could imagine playing the roles. Photo taken from Instagram.

The short film intimately exhibits her relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal, who is the subject of most of the songs written on the album.

“And I was never good at telling jokes, but the punchline goes
I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age”

Although the short film is Swift’s personal and heartfelt story, it could easily serve as a cautionary tale for young women in relationships with much older men. In the film, Sadie Sink plays a younger version of Swift, who is gaslighted and manipulated by her boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal, portrayed by Dylan O’Brien.

This highly anticipated visual storytelling of the fan favourite song shed a new light on other songs on the album, helping listeners gain a deeper insight on Swift’s headspace at the time of the recording. And if you’re wondering if it left all the fans sobbing, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

However, Red (Taylor’s Version) has also been gaining attention from unfamiliar listeners such as Toh Jun Rong, 26, who found that the album had a “much higher production quality overall than the original album”. He also mentioned that he “personally enjoyed her current fuller and more powerful vocals”.

In a recent interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Swift mentioned that one of the most exciting aspects about re-recording her albums is adding the “From The Vault” songs that never made it to the original tracklist and being able to revisit them.

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I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version)’ is one of the new tracks from the album. The music video was directed by American actress Blake Lively who also took part in writing the music video alongside Swift. Screenshot taken from YouTube.

Among the notable collaborations with artists such as Ed Sheeran and Chris Stapleton, Swift’s mellow and dreamy collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)’ stands out from the crowd.

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Swift (right) reached out to Phoebe Bridgers (left) for a collaboration as she felt ‘Nothing New (Taylor’s Version)’, which talks about the uncertainties and fears that women face in the music industry, needed the voice and soul of a fellow female artist. Photo taken from NME.

“Are we only bidin’ time until I lose your attention? And someone else lights up the room, people love an ingénue”

“And will you still want me when I’m nothing new?”

“But I wonder if they’ll miss me once they drive me out”

The poignant lyrics sung in their soothing voices have gained remarkable attention from female fans who share the same sentiments. The fear of being left behind or thrown away by the rest of the world after you reach a certain age might just be a universal fear for women, and it is especially amplified for women in the spotlight as compared to their male counterparts.

Currently 32 and better than ever, Swift is no longer the broken-hearted and lost young woman in her early twenties who wrote the heart-wrenching songs on Red.

As you journey through the intense emotions that this album may bring, keep in mind that with this re-recording, Swift has shown us that time does indeed heal wounds all too well.

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