“Red (Taylor’s Version)” transforms 2012 classic


Both pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

Left: Album cover of “Red,” 2012; Right: Album cover of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” 2021

Pravar Mukkala, Opinions Editor

After its release nine years ago, “Red” was praised as the quintessential Taylor Swift album, not only because of the plethora of genres and the experimental nature of the record, but because each song, and the entire album itself, tells a story.

Once Swift’s masters (original recordings) to her first six albums were bought, she decided to re-record them so she would own them. “Red (Taylor’s Version)”, the second such re-recorded album, contains re-recorded versions of twenty songs on the 2012 album, the charity single “Ronan,” and nine “From the Vault” songs, including a ten-minute version of the fan-favorite ballad “All Too Well”.

The album, which amassed 90.6 million streams on Spotify on the first day after its release, is an alt-pop-rock record with heavy country influence. Its thirty songs range from borderline-dubstep to folk and from heart-wrenching ballads to dance-pop tunes. While this sounds conflicting and confusing, the album is a cohesive no-skip journey.

Starting with a crisp, catchy drum beat, “State of Grace” opens the album with what can be interpreted as an introduction. The arena-rock sound and the lyrics “Love is a ruthless game/Unless you play it good and right” establish the lyrical and musical themes of the album.

Delving deeper into the album, some standout songs were “Treacherous,” “Begin Again,” and “The Last Time”. “Treacherous” is a foot-stomping country-pop ballad, and the song really shines in terms of production. The way the lively acoustic guitar transitions to an energetic electric guitar and the pressure builds up and erupts at the bridge makes it the best song on the album.

“Begin Again” is one of the songs on the pop-rock-packed album where Swift’s country roots shine through. A violin solo precedes the bridge of the ballad, and Swift’s vocals suit the delicate song’s backing instruments perfectly.

“The Last Time” is an alt-rock duet between Swift and Gary Lightbody. The singers’ voices mesh incredibly well, and the song’s harmonies are soothing to listen to.

While “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is an amazing replica of the original album, some songs turned out noticeably different, including the 2012 and 2013 hit singles “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble”. Swift’s new renditions quite failed to hit the exact same notes in some parts, and while the songs were by no means ruined, the change was jarring because of my familiarity with the older versions.

The real jewels of the album were the “From the Vault” songs that were written for the 2012 release but were held off. All nine of these tracks were very different but in a good way. “Message In A Bottle,” a bouncy pop song; “Run,” a guitar ballad featuring Ed Sheeran and beautiful harmonies; “I Bet You Think About Me,” a petty country song; and “Better Man,” a country-pop track, were some of the best ones.

However, the one song on the album that everyone was looking forward to was “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”. When Swift wrote the original version of the song (“All Too Well,” the fifth track of both the 2012 and 2021 albums), she sat down with a guitar and made up lyrics as she went, venting into the microphone. It turns out that this was recorded, and the original ten minutes of sing-screaming was saved. Swift liked the song a lot, but ten minutes was long for a song. She cut it down to five and a half minutes to be released, and the ten-minute version was stowed away.

To end “Red (Taylor’s Version),” Swift recorded this long version of “All Too Well” as well. The sprawling ballad, produced by Jack Antonoff, is backed by murky synths and a steady drumbeat, and the lyrics are chock-full of imagery that knocks everything else on the album out of the park.

All in all, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is a better version of Swift’s best album. With strong drum beats, stunning harmonies, and contrasting musical styles, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is an album anyone would enjoy, including fans of pop, rock, country, or folk. Anyone who likes Swift’s older albums and is a fan of Phoebe Bridgers or Lorde would love the album as well.