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Ranking “RED” in Preparation for Taylor’s Re-record

In order to emotionally and mentally prepare for Taylor Swift releasing the re-record of her 2012 album RED on November 12th, I decided to sit down and personally rank the songs included on her original album. RED (Taylor’s Version) will most likely follow the same lyrics to the original tracklist of 19 songs but may make some small vocal changes, like what we saw in her Fearless (Taylor’s Version) songs in order to make the songs even better. In addition to her re-recorded songs, Taylor’s Version of RED will also include 11 “new” songs “From the Vault,” some of which have been publicly released, but not under the original RED album. These are some of the most anticipated songs to hear next Friday, such as “Ronan”, which was released as a single in 2012, and “Better Man”, which is performed by Little Big Town but written by Taylor. RED is considered to be Taylor’s real transition from country to pop and includes some of her popular “radio hits,” but also some incredibly vulnerable lyrics that create emotional masterpieces. 

This list will, of course, be based on my own opinions of the songs but I also wanted to consider the tracks’ lyrics, sounds, storytelling, and additional thoughts on their upcoming re-releases. I really do love all of these songs and having to choose which ones I would rank over others was like choosing between best friends. The 19 songs are in rank order from my least favorite to my most favorite.

Girl at home

“Girl at Home” is the last song featured on the RED (Deluxe Edition) album, which is an odd choice for a closing number and one of Taylor’s more forgettable pop songs. It really isn’t as meaningful or emotional as most of her others, and the lyrics get repetitive, so it’s not a song I chose to re-listen to. But, I do love the “girl code” messages included in the song: “I don’t even know her/But I feel a responsibility to do what’s upstanding and right.”

Everything has changed

Well, I hate to rank this one so low, but she’s had other collaborations that are so much more memorable, and I don’t know anyone who feels very strongly about their love or distaste for this song. However, I do love the music video and it’s a sweet delivery of a story about starting to fall in love. A high point of this song is that Ed Sheeran’s voice sounds great with Taylor’s so I’m definitely excited to hear their collaboration on the Vault Track “Run.”

I almost do

If I had to guess, this soft pop-country ballad isn’t in anyone’s list of absolute favorite Taylor songs. There are other heartbreaking and more unique “wishful thinking” and “if I could only” songs in her discography, so this one gets lost in RED. I have to say that the best lyric is her exclaiming, “I bet it never ever occurred to you/That I can’t say ‘Hello’ to you and risk another goodbye.” Even in these lower ranked songs, we can all see proof of her incredible songwriting. 

We are Never Getting Back Together

Yes, “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” arguably the best song to sing with friends about an on again/off again relationship or breakup to make yourself feel better still isn’t one of my favorite RED songs. This got played on the radio constantly and solidified Taylor as a new pop sensation, and practically everyone remembers this song because it’s so fun and upbeat, but angry. It was the first single released on this album and created intrigue into Taylor’s new era, but I believe it has been upstaged by her other songs with better lyrics and narratives.

The Moment I knew

“The Moment I Knew” reminds us that the ultimate heartbreak is heartbreak at a birthday party. It was only included on the 2012 deluxe album, so I think more people will grow to appreciate it on the re-record and fall in love with its vulnerability and storytelling. And Jake Gyllenhal, count your days. You should’ve gone to her birthday party. 

Starlight

“Starlight” reminds us of the fun, color, and light of being young and in love and having freedom to go on adventures. It just makes me want to dance around in sparkles and go to a ball and pretend to be a duchess and a prince and have undying optimistic hope and just dream about a future filled with love. I do love the track and its sound, which only shows how incredible the rest of the pop songs on the album are. 

22

Yes, I will be planning my 22nd birthday around this song and making my friends dress in Taylor Swift spirit to celebrate because this is one of her most iconic songs of all time. “Happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time” is how we’re all constantly feeling now, so we can’t stop ourselves from singing along. And, I can’t wait to hear her repeat “Who is Taylor Swift anyway? Ew,” while being one of the most famous and decorated singer-songwriters in our generation.

treacherous

“Treacherous” was once one of Taylor’s most provocative songs before “1989” and “reputation,” and it slows the sound of the album down after the first two opening songs to tell her story of taking the leap to save a treacherous relationship. It perfectly sets up the other stories in this album: choosing to stay with some lovers despite dangers, or letting them go. The change of tempo and beat drop for the line “Two headlights shine through the sleepless night/And I will get you, and get you alone,” is one of the highlights of the song and I highly recommend belting along to it in the car. 

stay stay stay

“Stay Stay Stay” is definitely one of Taylor’s hit or miss songs with her fans. Personally, I love it, but I know people who simply don’t enjoy it. Maybe it’s too happy and cheesy for some, but I appreciate the song’s storytelling about a young couple learning to love each other and have healthy communication. It’s a great love song that doesn’t take itself as seriously as some of her others, and lyrics like “I’d like to hang out with you for my whole life” emphasize her youth, humor, and joy that shine through this whole song. 

i knew you were trouble

Maybe this song will always remind me of the screaming goat, but this song is undeniably amazing. It’s a huge leap from her country songs in Taylor Swift and Fearless and the music video makes her seem much more edgy and modern. The pop rock sound immediately grabs our attention with its lyrics, and we hear Taylor expressing her frustration over ignoring the red flags in her past relationship. 

come back… be here

“Come Back…Be Here” is another song on the deluxe album that will definitely garner more attention and love next week. Anyone that has questioned a long-distance relationship will relate to “This is falling in love in the cruelest way/This is falling for you and you are worlds away,” and the song brings in the heartbreak of holding out hope for love and realizing how attached you are. 

the last time

“The Last Time” is another standout of Taylor’s collaborations, featuring Gary Lightbody and sharing two perspectives of a relationship coming to an end. This slower ballad gives us a chance to appreciate Taylor’s vocals and the track’s instrumentations, and the folk rock sound foreshadows some of her music on “folklore” and “evermore”. Gary Lightbody will return for this collaboration on Taylor’s Version, and I’m looking forward to hearing them together on this again.

sad beautiful tragic

“Sad Beautiful Tragic” is a song that you just sit in a bathtub and cry to. The storytelling of a love affair fated to end is gut wrenchingly sad, but the song is beautiful and the slow, melancholy sound lets us take it all in. We hear Taylor’s frustration through her singing, questioning “Distance, timing/ Breakdown, fighting/ Silence, the train runs off its tracks/ Kiss me, try to fix it/ Could you just try to listen?” and it’s perfect. 

holy ground

“Holy Ground” is one of Taylor’s all time best pop tracks and should’ve gotten just as much radio time and attention as the RED singles. I recently saw a TikTok showing that the best way to dance to this song is to constantly jump and down, and I couldn’t agree more. The quick pace of the lyrics and country-pop sound are so energetic and vibrant, it instantly puts me in a good mood whenever I listen. 

begin again

“Begin Again” is ranked high up on a lot of Taylor fans’ track listings of this album and I appreciate how much love it gets. It’s a perfect final track for the original album (excluding the songs on the deluxe version) and closes RED with a bittersweet but promising message. “Begin Again” gives us all hope about chances for new and healthier relationships, and promises that we will all learn that love does more than “break and burn and end.”

state of grace

“State of Grace” was absolutely the best choice for an album opener and sets the whole RED era tone: upbeat, fun, and learning to navigate new relationships. The most outstanding lyrics of this song prove why RED deserved its Grammy nomination for 2012 Album of the Year: “So you were never a saint/And I’ve loved in shades of wrong/We learn to live with the pain/Mosaic broken hearts/But this love is brave and wild”. So at midnight Friday morning, I’ll start my RED (Taylor’s Version) listening experience with this song.  

red

“Red”, what a perfect title track! It keeps the energy up after “Begin Again” and gives us incredible visuals of Taylor reflecting on falling in love and missing a lover. We should all just learn about similies in school through this song: “Losing him was blue like I’d never known/ Missing him was dark grey all alone/Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you never met/But loving him was red”. And one of her Lover songs, “Daylight”, has a great callback to this song that conveys her emotional maturation: “I once believed love would be (Burning red)/But it’s golden.”

the lucky one

I think this is the most controversial choice on this list because I truly believe this song is one of Taylor’s most underrated, but one of her best. The story of a celebrity choosing privacy and peace over fame and fortune reminds me of how much Taylor has been ripped apart by the public. I can’t wait for Taylor’s version of this one, especially after her seemingly finding a balance between her music career and private life. She wraps up Hollywood culture perfectly: “And they tell you that you’re lucky/But you’re so confused/’Cause you don’t feel pretty, you just feel used/And all the young things line up to take your place.”

all too well

“All Too Well” embodies its lyric of “so casually cruel in the name of being honest,” and I cannot imagine how much more heartbreaking the explicit 10 Minute Version will be on the new RED album. I think many Taylor fans consider this to be her best song in her entire discography, and for good reason. The lyrics are painfully truthful and give us an idea of her betrayal, memories of her relationship, and emotional turmoil. I can’t imagine the creativity and talent it takes to write and perform the lyrics “And maybe we got lost in translation/Maybe I asked for too much/But maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up,” but Taylor does so with ease. For everyone who is able to relate to some part of this song, I wish you all the best of luck of listening to it on the 12th and experiencing this song and album all over again.

Maria Sell

Conn Coll '23

Maria (she/her/hers) is a junior at Connecticut College studying American Studies and Sociology and is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves getting to play on the Women's Water Polo Team with her teammates here and enjoys reading, baking, and coaching water polo outside of school!
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