On Friday, November 12th, 2021, at the stroke of midnight, Taylor Swift released Red (Taylor’s Version). Just seconds later, Spotify crashed as fans around the world overloaded the platform, eager to hear the re-recorded hits like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” However, perhaps more exciting to long-time fans and new listeners alike was Taylor’s addition of “From the Vault” songs. These are tracks that Swift wrote long ago – this time during the Red era of 2012 – and didn’t make the cut for the final album. Now, she breathes new life into some of the most emotional songs she’s ever written, nearly 9 years later. On Red (Taylor’s Version), there are 8 songs from the vault, 2 of which had been previously recorded by other artists; “Babe” was given to Sugarland, and “Better Man” became a Little Big Town classic. Both songs were written by Swift. These bonus tracks range from pop-synth hits, designed for the radio waves of Z100, to deep and dark manifestos about the trials and tribulations of heartbreak and getting older.
As I hit play at midnight last Friday, I anxiously awaited what I knew would be my new favorite songs for the foreseeable future. On three of these songs, Swift collaborated with other popular artists including long-time friend Ed Sheeran and the recently popular Phoebe Bridgers. “Nothing New” and “Run” (featuring Bridgers and Sheeran, respectively) are absolute forces within the greater context of the album, and go down as some of Swift’s best work. However, to me, the track “I Bet You Think About Me” featuring country-crooner Chris Stapleton has instantly risen to prominence in my Swiftian catalog of favorites. I’m not a die-hard country music fan, and I normally prefer Taylor’s ballads to her pop hits, but I haven’t been able to stop listening to this song. At this point, I’m predicting it will land at the number one spot on my “Spotify Wrapped,” even after just one month of listening.
The track chronicles a woman looking back on her relationship with a man from “upper-crust circles” who was fond of “cool indie music concerts,” “organic shoes,” and “million-dollar couches.” She stays up late into the night wondering about his new lovers, perhaps women with finer “pedigrees” than hers and woefully recounts the times he made her feel less than. However, I think that the song’s greatest feature is that despite the ever-present anger in her tone, the chorus breakdown reveals a new thought. Swift writes, “Now that we’re done and it’s over, I’ll bet you couldn’t believe when you realize I’m harder to forget than I was to leave… and I’ll bet you think about me.” To me, this may be one of Swift’s best lines on the album. Among all of the name-calling, cheap shots, and ruthless zingers she lobs at target, Jake Gyllenhaal (we all know who it’s about), the magic of this song is in the recognition that Taylor, the outsider, has had an everlasting impact on the man in question.
Chris Stapleton’s deep country voice only serves as background vocals to Taylor’s, but the track achieves the country twang of Swift’s albums past. In addition to the song itself, Taylor teamed up with friend, Blake Lively, to put together an Oscar-worthy music video. In the short, fan-favorite actor, Miles Teller, plays the man in question as Swift, herself, haunts him at his wedding, the sole guest in red among a sea of white (see what she did there?). While we soon learn that the woman in red is a figment of Teller’s imagination, the scene where the music cuts and Swift (now dressed in a white wedding dress) and Teller dance as if it’s their wedding. This imagery is a tip of the cap to the wistful undercurrent “what if?” on this song.
This song is a catchy, brazen, smart, and, to me, highly emotional take on a relationship gone wrong. But this time, Swift takes the power back. Understanding that, despite “Mr. Superior Thinking’s” condescending behavior, she still haunts him in his shallow, pseudointellectual everyday life. Isn’t that the best consolation prize after a break-up after all?