Taylor Swift is breaking records on an album that was first released 9 years ago. “Red (Taylor’s Version),” the second of her albums to be re-recorded, was released on Nov. 12, 2021. This album is an updated version of the original album “Red”, with the difference being that the songs are now owned by Swift herself.
The album contains all the original songs off of “Red” which were intentionally made to sound as close to the original versions as possible. A surprising exception to this effort is the song “Girl at Home” which now has an electro-pop beat in the background that makes it sound more like a track off of “1989.”
There is also a disconcerting change in “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” where some of the background vocals sound as if they are sung by a chorus of children. Additionally, her voice is noticeably more mature than it was in 2012, and Swifties will certainly notice differences in inflection. Otherwise, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is the same agglomeration of different sounds, genres and themes as before. It tells the story of recovering from the heartbreak of an intense and tumultuous relationship, though now with almost a decade’s worth of extra wisdom and hindsight.
In addition to the original tracks, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” contains songs “From The Vault” that were written for “Red” but were cut from the original album or were given to other artists. The most notable of the Vault songs is “All Too Well (10 Minute Version),” which is an extended version of the original “All Too Well”. Though “All Too Well” was never released as a single, it quickly became a favorite of both critics and fans. Swift mentioned that a 10-minute version existed years ago, and fans have been begging her to release it ever since. The new version exceeds all possible expectations. It is significantly angrier, contains explicit lyrics and was accompanied by a short film that was written and directed by Swift herself. Though it has been out for less than a week, it is already being regarded as her magnum opus. The release of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” has also sparked a resurgence of vitriol at Jake Gyllenhaal, whom the song is known to be about.
Another breakout song is “I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton),” which describes Swift’s breakup with a wealthy, upper-class man (ostensibly Jake Gyllenhaal). Swift revives her long-forgotten country accent and states that she was “raised on a farm,” which may induce an eyeroll, considering that it was a Christmas tree farm, and both of her parents worked in finance. The song adds an additional sprinkle of country to an album that is already a mix of genres. The highlight of the song is the biting insults in the outro, which include making fun of her ex-boyfriend’s “organic shoes” and “million-dollar couch.” It also mentions his “indie music concerts,” which is reminiscent of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and its lyrics about “some indie record that’s much cooler than mine.” The song is accompanied by a music video directed by Swift’s close friend Blake Lively, that is full of Easter eggs, including the iconic “All Too Well” scarf.
The most interesting collaboration on the album is “Nothing New,” which is a duet with Phoebe Bridgers. Swift has a history of having her female counterparts sing background vocals while her male partners are featured prominently, so it was a relief to many fans when Bridgers did not receive the same treatment. The song details Swift’s fears of one day being irrelevant and forgotten, which is particularly poignant from her 31-year-old self who is certainly far from being insignificant. The song mentions how Swift feels she will be replaced by a young star who will “...know the way and then she'll say she got the map from me I'll say I'm happy for her then I'll cry myself to sleep,” which is an eerily accurate prediction of Olivia Rodrigo’s rise to fame. The energy and “Old Taylor” feel of the song make it irresistible.
Overall, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is an overwhelming success. Not only is Swift reclaiming her music in an unprecedented fashion, she is doing so while breaking records. The album broke Spotify’s records for most-streamed album in a day by a female artist and most-streamed female in a day, which is mind-blowing for an album that first came out in 2012. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” remains at the top of the charts, Swift got her own Starbucks drink and even the Empire State Building lit up red in honor of the new album. With this being her 4th album in 2 years, one might think Swift would take a break for a while, but fans have so much more to look forward to. There are still 4 more re-recordings left to complete, and there are rumors of a long-awaited tour on the horizon. The release of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” makes one thing clear: Taylor Swift *is* the music industry.