Red (Taylor’s Version) was one of the best albums of 2021

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift released her newest album, Red (Taylor’s Version), on Friday, November 12th. And it is amazing. The mix of Taylor’s now more mature, adult voice and the never before heard “from the vault” tracks makes the re-recorded album even better than the already incredible original 2012 version. According to Spotify’s Twitter account, the album immediately gained traction and “broke the record for most-streamed album in a day by a female” and “the record for the most-streamed female in a day in Spotify history.”

Being a self-proclaimed Taylor Swift fan, aka a “Swiftie,” I was ecstatic to hear that she was re-recording one of my favorite albums, Red. Along with the original 19 songs from the 2012 deluxe edition, Swift announced that she was releasing nine, never-before-heard, “from the vault” songs: an acoustic version of “State of Grace,” the opening track, and the single, “Ronan,” for a whopping total of 30 songs, lasting about 2 hours and 10 minutes. However, the “from the vault” songs are not technically new songs. They are tracks that Swift wanted to be on the original album but ended up cutting out before the release.

You may be thinking, “but Taylor already released Red in October of 2012,” and you would be right. So, why is she releasing the same album twice? It all has to do with ownership. At 15, Swift signed a six-album record deal with the music label Big Machine Records, granting the company full ownership of the masters. In 2019 when Big Machine Records was sold to Scooter Browen, manager of Ithaca Holdings, Browen obtained the masters of Swift’s six albums. Swift was given no say in the transaction and claimed she wasn’t aware that it was happening. Then, in November 2020, the masters were sold once again, this time to Shamrock Holdings, a private equity firm. Swift had been trying to reacquire the rights to her music but was unsuccessful. That’s why in 2019, Swift announced that she was re-recording her first six studio albums, Taylor Swift, Fearless, Speak Now, Red, 1989, and Reputation

Like Swift’s first re-recording, Fearless (Taylor’s Version), Red (Taylor’s Version) stays mainly true to the original (besides the “from the vault” tracks). It’s primarily subtle differences, like the addition of more bass or a few tweaked notes in songs like “Sad Beautiful Tragic.” Taylor’s now-adult voice adds an air of nostalgia, and even power, to the newly recorded songs.  

A few weeks before the original release date for the album, Swift announced on Twitter that she would release it a week early. To honor this decision, I decided that I would stay up on the 12th and wait for the midnight release, and it was entirely worth it. I made the mistake of listening to (and this is a mouthful) “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault),” the final song on the album, first. The next thing I knew, I was hugging my pillow and sobbing my eyes out. Lest you get the wrong impression, it was everything I had hoped for. The original version was my favorite song on the 2012 album, yet Swift still managed to make it even better this time. The ten-minute version is technically the original version, though, as it was the version Swift wrote first, then having to cut it down to size later. Combined with Swift’s beautiful story-like songwriting, the melancholy melody creates a true masterpiece. Although the song is incredibly long, it doesn’t feel drawn out or boring. It is quite the opposite, in fact. It allegedly weaves the story of Swift’s three-month, whirlwind romance with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. She tells the tale of manipulation and heartbreak and leaves you wondering how you ever listened to the short version, which misses many vital details and emotions. This is, in my opinion, the best song on the album.

There are two main types of tracks on Red (Taylor’s Version), which adds some flavor to the listening experience. When you press shuffle you could either get a tragic, emotional ballad, like “Better Man” or “Come Back…Be Here” (which I think is perfect for screaming in the shower), or you could get an upbeat pop anthem, like “I Bet You Think About Me” or “Message in a Bottle” (which both warrant an in-room dance party with a hairbrush microphone). 

After the “All Too Well” 10-minute version, my second favorite song is “Nothing New” featuring Phoebe Bridgers. This track details the struggles of being a teenage pop sensation who’s starting to grow up. Lyrics like, “Lord what will become of me/ Once I’ve lost my novelty?” and, “Will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” pull at your heartstrings and evoke feelings of borrowed time and fears of being replaced. “Nothing New” is also Swift’s first song featuring another female artist, and Bridgers did not disappoint. 

Another fantastic song is “Red,” the title track. “Red” is the second song on the album and leans more toward the pop side. In this track, Swift uses colors to paint a picture of her relationship. Lyrics like, “Losing him was blue like I’d never known/ Missing him was dark grey, all alone” and, “But loving him was red,” explain Swift’s emotions through something we can all understand: colors. She also uses metaphors to describe her experience and captivate the listener. The opening lyric, “Loving him was like/ Driving a new Maserati down a dead-end street/ Faster than the wind, passionate as sin/ Ending so suddenly,” begins a trend that the rest of the song follows, granting the listener a glimpse into Swift’s relationship through her use of metaphors. 

Red (Taylor’s Version) mixes beautiful songwriting with 2012 nostalgia to create a masterpiece. Although Swift keeps listeners in suspense about which of her albums she will re-record next, I am confident that it will be just as good as Red (Taylor’s Version), if not better.

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