Taylor Swift released Red (Taylor’s Version) on Friday, gaining high acclaim and breaking many hearts in the Twitterverse.
I think all of us approached this re-release with a new perspective than when we first listened to the record. The beauty of this moment is that Swift also returned to this masterwork with more confidence and justified bitterness, while offering even more lyrical excellence.
I would describe myself as an original Swiftie. I really only paid attention to her first four albums. By the time Red rolled around, I loved the poppier songs like “Holy Ground”, “Starlight” and especially “The Lucky One,” which I still think is one of her most underappreciated songs.
This time — like most of the internet — I was captivated by “All Too Well,” which was actually one of the songs I would skip on the 2012 version. The new 10-minute version paints a picture of a relationship I was too young to really notice, much less understand, at the time. The accompanying short film was breathtaking, bringing Swift’s storytelling prowess to a new medium. I’m still not over the red scarf, a symbol of grief from past relationships that many of us can identify with.
Like Fearless (Taylor’s Version), the re-recorded tracks stay pretty close to the original. Swift’s voice has matured, and the instrumentation is more detailed. This depth works best for the slower, more emotional tracks like “I Almost Do.”
Still, I thought the pop-centric tracks lost some of their shine from the 2012 versions that were overplayed on Top 40 radio stations, especially “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Swift projects an image of maturity and growth on this album, but I miss the youthfulness in some of the originals.
The tension between youth and moving on has always been a part of Red. I have always sensed that Swift wrote this during a transitional point in her career, turning away from her country roots and adopting aspects of pop. I even hear some elements of folklore and evermore in this final recording.
The idea of Swift finding herself through this recording likely resonates with many listeners. Many were teens when the original came out, identifying with the cheery “22.” The same fans are now grappling with college and careers, finding resonance in “Nothing New” featuring Phoebe Bridgers: “How can a person know everything at eighteen / But nothing at twenty-two?”
I thought the Vault songs blended flawlessly into the overall mood of the original record. I came to this album more excited to hear the re-recordings of my favorite tracks, but was surprised by how much I identified with the depth of emotion in the new tracks. Maybe it was because I listened to the album this weekend while driving around my hometown while the rain was lightly falling.
Swift’s journey to re-record and gain ownership of these masterpieces is symbolic in itself. She is also breaking free from years of scrutiny over her public image. When future generations come back to these records, hopefully they will find Taylor’s versions first and hear them the way they were meant to be heard.
Red (Taylor’s Version) is a gift to Swift’s loyal listeners, who have grown alongside the legendary artist. I think the re-releases of Speak Now and her debut album will further challenge us to reckon with growing up. With all the pain and heartbreak in these albums, there are also fond memories of singing along to CDs and iPod shuffles. For me, these re-releases are all about rediscovering some of the first music I fell in love with.
Final Grade: A-
state news writer