Red (Taylor's Version): An Updated Take On An Iconic Album
On November 12, 2021, Taylor Swift released her eleventh studio album, Red (Taylor’s Version). This album is a rerecording of Swift’s fourth album, the original Red, released in 2012, and Swift’s second re-recorded album, the first being Fearless (Taylor’s Version), released in April of this year. For information on why Swift is recording her albums, see this article written by Toby. Red (Taylor’s Version) included the re-recorded versions of all 20 songs from Red (Deluxe Edition), not including the Original Demo Recordings of “Treacherous” and “Red”, plus nine “From The Vault” songs, which were songs that Swift intended to put on the original Red but ultimately didn’t, and one song that was previously released as a single in 2012.
The original Red represented Swift dipping her toe into the world of pop music, shown by hits such as “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, “22”, and “I Knew You Were Trouble”. While these were the songs that became popular, there was still evidence of Swift’s country roots in songs such as “Treacherous” and “Come Back…Be Here”. In a sense, Red is the epitome of the genre of pop-country, and a transition between Swift’s exploration of the two genres, bridging the albums Speak Now and 1989. Red (Taylor’s Version) further amplifies Red’s reliance on the two genres, with the added “From The Vault” songs having almost entirely country or pop influences. Although these songs still cohesively fit with the album as a whole, having similar themes and narrative styles, the stylistical extremes can be slightly jarring to a listener, especially one who has not been eagerly awaiting these Vault Tracks, like most “Swifties” were.
Perhaps the most anticipated new track featured on this album is one that is technically not so new at all. “All Too Well” is a song that is widely regarded as Taylor Swift’s best, by everyone from her own fans to Rolling Stone. It is an open secret that Swift originally wrote the song to be 10 minutes long, but ended up not releasing the full version on the original Red, as she was told no one would listen to a song that long. Still, “All Too Well” was praised for its lyrics, and the pure emotion Swift put into writing and recording the song. Once Swift had more than established herself as an artist who could release almost anything and have it be a hit (see the time eight seconds of static topped Canadian charts), why shouldn’t she have released the 10 minute version of one of her most beloved songs? In fact, why not create a short film accompanying the song starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, actors beloved by all for their roles in "Stranger Things" and "Teen Wolf"? The ten minute version of "All Too Well" only had room to disappoint, but it surpassed the expectations set for it. No lyrics were cut from the original (well, technically, one word was), and the added verses, choruses, and extended bridge added to the narrative to the song and made it seem more personal to the listener. It is important to remember that this version is not supposed to be perfect, but is supposed to be the uncut, raw version of the song. In fact, that sentiment should probably be extended to the rest of the album.
Overall, Red (Taylor's Version) is a refreshing album that reinvents songs written almost 10 years ago. Swift's writing style is so timeless, you forget that the vault tracks have sat for those 10 years. Hopefully this characteristic continues for the next re-recordings.