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A Swiftie’s Review of Taylor Swift’s Red Re-Recordings & Vault Tracks

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Friday, November 12, 2021, was quite possibly the best day to be a Swiftie yet. To preface this review, I’d like to let you know I am currently writing this drinking “Taylor’s Latte” from Starbucks and listening to the album for the third time… and it’s only been out for about 12 hours.

I’d also like to preface by saying that I’ve been a die-hard Swiftie since her debut album, so if I were to tell you, “I love Taylor Swift,” that would be an understatement. And while I loved her original albums, I am beyond ecstatic that she is going to own all her music again. Getting to live through the original recording of Red as an 11-year-old, pretending to relate to the heartbreak, then getting to listen to these heartbreaking lyrics like they’re brand new, and being able to relate to them at 20 is like a dream. I know that my feelings about this album are going to change over the next few weeks, it always does as I discover new meanings and emotions in her lyrics, but here are my initial thoughts and feelings about Red (Taylor’s Version).

First of all, we have to talk about the ten-minute version of “All Too Well.” The second it started, my jaw dropped. I may have been okay, but I was not fine at all. The delicate intro followed by such mature vocals had me hooked from the beginning. The lyrics of the original version of this song were heartbreaking, but the addition of the new verses in this version absolutely destroyed me. If Swifties hated Jake Gyllenhaal before, now what? “I’ll get older, but your lovers stay my age” and “He’s gonna say it’s love, you never called it what it was, ‘Til we were dead and gone and buried.” She absolutely wrecked him, and I’m so here for it. This song was everything I wanted it to be and more. I am also turning 21 in a few months and you already know my Instagram caption will be, “It’s supposed to be fun turning twenty-one.” Not to mention that gut-wrenching short film. That deserves a review in its own right.

I’m not gonna lie, after listening to “All Too Well (Ten Minute Version),” I had to skip the re-recordings and go straight to the vault tracks because I simply could not wait! How she could ever choose which songs to put on the original version of this album, I have no idea because every single one of the 30 songs on Taylor’s Version of Red is absolutely phenomenal. She starts off so emotionally and lyrically strong with her version of “Better Man,” which we know she wrote for Little Big Town. I love Little Big Town’s version, but the amount of emotion in Taylor’s voice as the sole writer of the song cannot be matched. This is also true for “Babe,” originally performed by Sugarland, but also written by Taylor (and Pat Monahan). The fact she was able to change Red‘s overall genre from Country to Pop, while still adding country tacks from the Vault, (“Babe”, “Better Man”, and “I Bet You Think About Me”), and she did it while maintaining a natural flow through the album is something only Blondie could do.

I also really loved the depth and emotion in “Nothing New.” When she said “will you still want me when I’m nothing new?,” I immediately saw the parallel to “Call It What You Want” on Reputation when she says, “Loves me like I’m brand new“. I also found a lot of similarities between “Nothing New” and “The Lucky One” where it’s this feeling of fear (and maybe… defeat?) as an older artist sees younger artists “filling in her place,” if you will. This seems to be an old fear, or perhaps a shrinking one, as Taylor has shown so much love and support for artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Girl in Red and Conan Gray who all look up to and seek guidance from Taylor as their “name goes up in lights.”

I will not be going into great detail on my feelings about “Ronan” simply because I cannot even think about the song without wanting to sob on my bathroom floor. However, I will say that the depth of emotion in Taylor’s voice while singing “Ronan (Taylor’s Version)” is even greater than the original version. I didn’t think that could be possible.

I’m also obsessed with the pop masterpiece that is “Message In A Bottle.” I found this one to be very similar to “I Almost Do,” not in the musical composition, but in the fact that she is confessing her feelings that she wishes she could share but doesn’t feel like she can openly. Considering this album consists of Country, Pop, and Soft Rock genres now, Blondie has, once again, proved that she can sing or write any genre. (Although, we’re going to choose to ignore “Thug Story” from the 2008 CMT Awards with T-Pain.)

There’s been a bit of controversy over Taylor’s re-recordings sounding “the same,” and I feel like this is a good place to address this. First of all, she has to be very careful when altering the original compositions, because she doesn’t want people to nostalgically prefer her old versions over the new ones, and continue to make Scooter Braun money after he essentially stole her music. That being said, I feel like Taylor has very tastefully made minor alterations that have had great impacts on her re-recordings, especially with the Red (Taylor’s Version) Album. Like can we talk about the music in “Girl At Home” compared to the original version? She completely elevated the song, and I will never understand how her label could tell her she has to do the country version.

Additionally, I have to bring up the voice crack during “touching” in “I Almost Do” when she sings the line, “In my dreams, you’re touching my face,” because that split second was absolutely heart-breaking, I even had to rewind a few seconds just to listen to it again because I was just completely emotionally shattered when I heard it.

I’d also like to comment on the spoken parts of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version),” because I was absolutely blown away by the level of maturity and poise that was brought to that song by the tone of her spoken lyrics. Instead of the childish, sassy tone of the original, her tone was very calm and direct, almost disappointed, which really shows just how much she’s grown past the situation. Now, it feels like she can look back on the entire relationship without the “burning red” hatred she once felt, and more of an elevated view. Jake Gyllenhaal should be weeping.

In conclusion, stream Red (Taylor’s Version), bring tissues, delete Red (Stolen Version) from your phone and always remember that it’s a really good day to not be Jake Gyllenhaal.

Kate is a sophomore Mechanical Engineering student with a concentration in Biomedical Engineering at Bradley University. In her free time, she enjoys shopping, watching Netflix, working out, creating art projects, and cuddling with her dog and two cats. Kate is the Assistant Graphic Designer on Bradley University Her Campus's Social Media Team as well as Public Relations Exec Chair for Epsilon Sigma Alpha, a member of Society of Women in Engineering, and a member of Bradley's Honors Program.
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