Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably caught wind of several anti-Jake Gyllenhaal memes or viral funny posts about an infamous red scarf. The catalyst behind these silly jokes was the re-recording of Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, “Red,” which was originally released in October 2012. Flash forward nine years: The newly released “Red (Taylor’s Version),” by the 11-time Grammy winner, is taking the world by storm. If you’re anything like me, and Swift has a permanent residence as your number one artist on Spotify Wrapped year after year, you probably already know the reasoning behind her re-recording all her older songs. As for the casual listener of Swift, I’m here to give you a bit of background information as to why Swift is doing what she’s doing.
Over the past year, Swift has been fighting back against her old record label by re-recording her back catalog. Swift signed with Big Machine Records in 2005 when she first began releasing music and stayed with the label until it came time to renew her contract. Swift attempted to negotiate with Big Machine to gain ownership of her recordings, but she ultimately failed and parted ways with them. In 2018, she made the switch over to Universal Music Group. The next year, Swift’s master recordings, as well as her old label, were sold to Scooter Braun. Finally, Swift made the decision to re-record her entire back catalog in order to finally have control of her music. In April 2021, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” was released and achieved massive success, but nowhere near that of her most recent, “Red (Taylor’s Version).”
This record-shattering, heartbreaking, chaotic, sad, beautiful and tragic album contains 30 songs. The first 20 songs on “Red (Taylor’s Version)” are all of the original songs that were previously on the first release of “Red” (Stolen Version). The few differences between the original songs and the re-recorded songs are that her voice sounds more mature, the beats sound crispier and Swift actually owns these beautifully crafted pieces of art. The remaining 10 tracks are a mix of new and old tunes that originate “from the Vault”: songs that didn’t make it onto the original version of “Red.” For example, “Babe” is a song that Swift wrote back in the day but just never made it onto the track list of “Red.” In 2018, Swift gifted the song to country music duo Sugarland and recorded background vocals for this track on their album “Bigger.” Another new song on “Red (Taylor’s Version),” “Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)” is for the people with a crippling fear of abandonment and who believe they reached their peak at the age of 18. The chokehold this song has on me should be illegal. The way that Swift and Bridger’s voices blend together leaves my soul levitating up in the sky for the entire four-minute duration of the song.
One of the most popular songs on “Red (Taylor’s Version),” despite not being a single, is the gut-wrenching Track 5, “All Too Well.” The five-minute song has been worshipped by Swift’s fans for years. During an interview in 2012, Swift revealed that the first draft of “All Too Well” was over 10 minutes long, which her record label at the time thought was way too long for a song. Ever since then, Swifties, the nickname for Swift’s fanbase, have had an ongoing joke that she should release the 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” Flash forward nine years later, “All Too Well (Ten Minute Version)” broke the record for the longest song to be number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This is an amazing achievement considering the fact that Gen Z barely has the attention span to watch a 15 second TikTok, let alone listen to a song that is 10 minutes long.
Along with the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” “All Too Well: The Short Film” was premiered. This film, written and directed by Swift herself, is based on the plot of the song’s 10-minute version and stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. They portray a romantic couple with an intense relationship that eventually falls apart, with a short appearance by Swift during the last few minutes. The film is full of buried little symbols that correlate to specific lyrics found throughout the entire “Red” album. For instance, there is a scene in which Sadie Sink is blowing out candles on a birthday cake, looking sad. This part alludes to the song, “The Moment I Knew” which was inspired by a certain actor, notorious for refusing to shower, not attending Swift’s 21st birthday party.
Overall, I believe Swift did a spectacular job with “Red (Taylor’s Version).” Her vocals sound so much stronger and mature, but she was still able to keep each re-recording as similarly sounding to the originals (minus “Girl At Home,” which sounds like it would be played in some club in Los Angeles, but that’s beside the point). With each continuing album release and re-recording, Swift always manages to shatter records, most of them being her own. I am super stoked to see what else Swift has up her sleeve for the future and will continue to stream as if my life depends on it.