Taylor Swift retreads heartbreak with release of Red (Taylor’s Version)

Senior Mallory Boring reviews Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version), the second of her re-released albums. Photo courtesy of Taylor Swift on Twitter.

Mallory Boring | Staff Writer

Taylor Swift continued her mission of reclaiming ownership of her first six studio albums with the release of Red (Taylor’s Version) on Nov. 12. This follows the April 9 release of Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the first of Swift’s re-recordings. The album contains 30 tracks and features artists such as Ed Sheeran, Chris Stapleton, Phoebe Bridgers and Gary Lightbody. 

The “new/old autumn heartbreak album” includes the original 16 songs, bonus tracks off the deluxe version, Ronan and nine songs straight from “the vault”. Swift first teased the nine new songs on Red in a video shared to her social media platforms on Aug. 5. Fans used clues in the video to solve a crossword puzzle with the song titles and guest features of the new tracks. The full tracklist was released the next day on Aug. 6.

As was the case with Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Red (Taylor’s Version) is true to the original album. The few changes made are subtle and ultimately improve the songs. For example, in the chorus “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version)” the background vocal “wee” is more clear and interesting than the original. Swift’s only major departure from the original album comes on “Girl At Home” which has been revamped into an upbeat pop hit with the help of producer Elvira Anderfjärd.

I was overwhelmed with excitement when I solved the puzzle and discovered that Swift was including “Ronan” on Red. “Ronan” is one of Swift’s most heartbreaking songs and also one of my personal favorites. In 2011, three-year-old Ronan died from neuroblastoma. Two years before that my friend Mason died from Leukemia. In “Ronan” Swift manages to capture the heartbreak that childhood cancer causes. 

On this album Swift revists hits like “22” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” that hinted at her future success and impending pop transition. I was shocked how much better “22 (Taylor’s Version)” was the first time I heard it. There’s something about the lines “I don’t know about you/but I’m feeling 22” in Taylor’s version that wasn’t there before. I also immediately noticed how much more effortless Swift’s voice sounds on “I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version)”. It’s evident just how much Swift has grown as an artist since the initial release of Red. Yet somehow, Swift manages to preserve the feelings behind the songs while simultaneously polishing the quality of every note.  

Leading up to Red (Taylor’s Version)’s release I was most anticipating the “From the Vault” tracks. Two of the tracks “Babe” and “Better Man” had previously been released by Sugarland and Little Big Town, respectively. Taylor’s versions of both tracks superseded my expectations. “Babe (Taylor’s Version)” in particular blew me away. I can’t get over the line “what about the promises” which is repeated throughout the song. 

The Vault tracks, like the rest of the album, span a range of emotions. My current favorite vault tracks are “Message In A Bottle”, “Nothing New” and “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”. I like “Message In A Bottle” for what it adds to the album. It’s upbeat and catchy, foreshadowing Swift’s 1989 turn to pop. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, “Nothing New” finds Swift questioning the treatment of women in the spotlight. She asks “will you still want me when I’m nothin’ new?” The answer has been a resounding yes as is evident from the response to Red (Taylor’s Version) which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is the crown jewel of Red (Taylor’s Version). Every lyric is striking, every note flawless. This extended version comes after years of requests from fans. In the song Swift describes a highly toxic relationship in vivid detail. It’s clear long before Swift asks “did the love affair maim you too?” that this relationship left its impact. The most poignant line in the entire song is “And I was never good at telling jokes but the punch line goes/“I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age.’” It’s a perfectly aimed shot at an ex who never found her funny. In the sixth verse Swift shows off her vocal prowess on the lines “and how it glistened as it fell/I remember it all too well”. “All Too Well (10 minute version) is worth every second it takes to listen to it. 

In addition to the album, Swift wrote and directed “All Too Well, The Short Film” starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. The 15 minute film accompanies the newly released 10 minute version of Swift’s “All Too Well.” It is thought to depict the relationship Swift was in that inspired “All Too Well” and much of Red. In the film Sink stars as “Her” which appears to be a stand-in for Swift, while O’Brien takes the role of “Him”. Swift takes the role of “Her”, later on.. 

Swift has used her re-recordings as an opportunity to experiment with her work and collaborate with longtime friends. For the 10 minute version of “All Too Well” she brought in frequent collaborator Jack Antanoff. Swift also took the opportunity to work with close friend Blake Lively for her “I Bet You Think About Me” music video. The video marks Lively’s directorial debut. Where the “All Too Well, The Short Film” depicts Swift’s past relationship, the “I Bet You Think About Me” video is Swift’s imagining of her ex’s future. In the video Miles Teller plays the groom haunted by his ex on his wedding day, Swift plays the ex and Keleigh Sperry Teller is the bride.

Once again Swift has proven herself to be both a master artist and a master business woman. Swift has turned her journey to reclaim ownership of her art into a pleasurable experience for herself and her fans. This endeavor has been both profitable and successful for Swift just two albums in. With the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), Swift has demonstrated what fans have been saying for nearly a decade now—Red deserved a grammy. 

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