Album Review: Taylor Swift - 'Red (Taylor's Version)'

In a powerful and emphatic statement to own her artistry and creative works, after being denied this right by music industry bigshot Scooter Braun and Big Machine Records, Taylor Swift is on a mission to re-record her early releases. In the most recent step in this journey, Swift has re-released her 2012 record ‘Red’, which Amrit Virdi shares her thoughts on.

Upon the first listen, what struck me most is Swift’s vocal maturity. Being just 22 years old when Red was first released (hence smash hit 22) and now being 31 at the time of the re-recording, across the album Taylor’s vocal control is distinctly better. Along with the extra ad-libs, her voice sounds so much stronger in general – it is clear that, along with finding herself business-wise, she has a newfound confidence to make her mark on her own works.

30 tracks long in total, the record totals at a 2 hour and 10 minute long listen. This is thanks to the 10-minute version of fan favourite All Too Well along with nine other tracks ‘from the vault’ of Taylor’s unreleased songs from the Red era. While some may say this is far too long, the nature of the release meant that, as a massive fan of Swift myself, I found it to be all the more nostalgic, with the additional songs being a welcome addition.

"[State of Grace] can be interpreted as both a happy song and a life lesson, depending on how the sonic accompaniment helps you to interpret it. "

Tropes of heartbreak and revenge define the soul bearing lyricism, which fans theorise is aimed at Jake Gyllenhaal. Album opener State Of Grace, whilst defined by fun pop guitars and an up tempo drumbeat, ultimately sets the tone of the album with its closing lyric – ‘’love is a ruthless game unless you play it good and right’’. In a clever move, a seemingly sadder acoustic version of this song is also on the album, which emphasises the ambiguity of the lyrics and how it can be interpreted as both a happy song and a life lesson, depending on how the sonic accompaniment helps you to interpret it. Throughout the record, Swift revisits this, discussing the ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship in tracks such as Everything Has Changed, Stay Stay Stay, Treacherous and Run. All these tracks possess an air of innocence as they are mainly acoustic guitar-based tracks in major keys, before she goes on to explore other elements of the daunting concept which is love.

True to Swift’s impeccable ability to really tell a story through her music, the album wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t detail the breakdown and aftermath of a relationship to give the listener the full picture. The Last Time, which I think is a massively underrated collaboration with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody, All Too Well, The Moment I Knew and Sad Beautiful Tragic all detail the dreaded moments where you know the love is dwindling and the relationship is dying. ‘’Distance, timing, breakdown, fighting// silence as the train runs off its tracks’’ from Sad Beautiful Tragic was my favourite bridge in the record when the album was first released, and still remains to be to this day, as it simply yet metaphorically encapsulates the emotions in the song.

"Only just now seeing the light of day, [All Too Well (10 Minute Version)] is full of raw emotion, which I think sums up the tone of the album as a whole"

It’s not all doom and gloom though; when first released, ‘Red’ was seen to be Taylor Swift’s first venture into the world of pop as she stayed in the country lane for her prior three studio albums. Whilst her mature vocals give the tracks a different feel, the feel-good energy of some of her most known tracks Red, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, I Knew You Were Trouble and 22 is still there in the re-recordings, albeit in a refined manner. I Knew You Were Trouble in particular swaps its original electronic synths and production for the inclusion of more instrumentation. They have certainly retained their status as the ultimate breakup anthems, and I Bet You Think About Me featuring Chris Stapleton (‘from the vault’) is one to add to this list. Although it sees Swift go back to her country roots with the inclusion of harmonicas and hints of her Pennsylvanian accent, it can still be classed as an iconic track of empowerment, and humour, after the end of a relationship, especially when paired with the carefully crafted and witty music video directed by Blake Lively. Tracks like this also showcase the genre-bending nature of Taylor’s work, which we can only expect to see more of in the future re-recordings.

Writing about all 30 tracks in detail would lead to an academic length essay; instead, some key stand out moments which struck me are better to mention. Nothing New featuring Phoebe Bridgers (‘from the vault’), is an emotive and beautifully produced track, which has even gone viral on TikTok with the line ‘’how can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22’’. Phoebe and Taylor’s voices compliment each-other extremely well, as do Ed Sheeran and Swift’s on Run, which is produced like a classic Ed Sheeran acoustic track. And who can forget the 10 minute All Too Well; quickly becoming a fan favourite, Swift said the 10 minute version was the original recording of the song, which her and her band spontaneously ad-libbed in rehearsals back in 2011. Only just now seeing the light of day, the track is full of raw emotion, which I think sums up the tone of the album as a whole. Red (Taylor’s Version) is, if I dare to say it, better than the original recording of the album. While it is a statement of her crafted musicality, it is also an empowering statement of musical autonomy, making it all the more emphatic.

Written by: Amrit Virdi

Edited by: Elliot Fox

In article images courtesy of Taylor Swift via Facebook. Video courtesy of Taylor Swift via YouTube.