Words: Elise Kennedy
I didn’t see myself crying at 5am this morning, but that’s what happens when Taylor Swift releases an album. Red (Taylor’s Version) is probably the most anticipated of all the re-recordings for the majority of fans. Although I was only 14 when the original Red album was released and had never even kissed a boy, let alone gone through a break-up. I was in love with this album. Red (Taylor’s Version) is everything a Swiftie could honestly dream, as I sit here as a twenty-something having experienced the heartache that she describes, Taylor’s Version simply holds more power than the original. From the production, the vocals and the vault tracks, it’s crazy to fall in love with something so familiar yet so different.
Like with Fearless (Taylor’s Version) Swift has proved how much her vocals have matured and improved over the years. All the songs have been elevated to a new level – which continues to set the standard for the other re-recordings that are yet to come. This is really shown on tracks like “Holy Ground” and “Sad Beautiful Tragic” her vocals simply give a new layer to the tracks which make them all the more special, especially now that she owns them. In the title track it is shown well with Swift’s long notes sounding so controlled, compared to the original version of the song her vocal strength has improved so much it’s almost game changing.
All Too Well (10 Minute Version) on its own deserves five stars. This was by far the most anticipated track out of the 30 tracks that were dropped. Having been teased about its existence for nine years, it was the first track of Taylor’s Version that I listened to. It’s devastatingly beautiful to listen to. Her lyrics already painted the perfect picture of a break-up, but the 10 minute version amplifies all the feelings of heartbreak and devastation that Swift felt. The lyrics now perfectly play out like a movie – which makes it all that more exciting for the release of the All Too Well short film. The song reflects more information about Swift’s 21st – which already has its own song on the album with The Moment I Knew, and in a way All Too Well now changes The Moment I Knew from a “weeping on the floor” to a “sobbing in the bathtub with a bottle of wine” type of song. Although not one of the most heartbreak beautiful lyrics there is something joyful about Taylor saying “fuck the patriarchy”.
After All Too Well, the most anticipated tracks of Red (Taylor’s Version) is the vault tracks. Better Man and Babe – lyrically are already familiar with fans after Taylor gave the songs to Little Big Town and Sugarland respectively, but hearing Swift perform them the way she intended to as a 22-year-old in a weird way is a silver lining of the situation that lead to Swift needing to re-record her first six albums. We already had a clip of Taylor performing Better Man at The Bluebird Café back in 2019 but hearing her perform the full song – begging to the man just to be better, so she could still love him is something that hurts as it is relatable in so many contexts. Since hearing Little Big Town’s recording of the song I’ve always found it impossible to understand how this song got left off the original Red album but hearing it now with Taylor sounding so raw and vulnerable it almost doesn’t matter because it now comes from a different place, as she is no longer waiting on that person.
The album is full of collaborations with some old favourites with Gary Lightbody and Ed Sheeran but the inclusion of Phoebe Bridgers and Chris Stapleton has added some more voices to the Taylor Swift Universe. Out of all the collaborations, the standout for me is I Bet You Think About Me with country superstar Chris Stapleton. This song reminds me of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain in its tongue in cheek mannerisms throughout the song (personal favourite: “Oh my god, she’s insane. She wrote a song about me,”). With Stapleton’s world-class vocals in the background it really adds gravitas to the song – and exposes her pop fans to a new artist. The whole song has this 90s country feeling to it that could have easily worked with Shania Twain or The Chicks. Taylor clearly reminds us that she is a country star and a brilliant lyricist. The song explores knowing an old flame (in this case Jake Gyllenhaal) still speaks about you when you’re not around, even when all they did was put you down. It’s smug and fun, and it works being placed near the end of the album as she starts to heal from the breakup.
Red (Taylor’s Version) is everything the fans wanted, which is something so rare for a singer to achieve. Although the reason for her needing to re-record her older work isn’t great, she’s making the experience special for both her and her fans. Fans have been asking for years for a video of All Too Well (and the original ten-minute version) and to hear all the songs that never made it to the original albums. So, in a way it’s nice that all those things are possible, as Taylor proves that re-recording music (which has been attempted by other artists in the past) can be successful.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Red (Taylor’s Version) is a five star release.
Looking for more Taylor content? Read another of Elise’s articles, ‘From Fearless To Evermore…’ here
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