On October 22nd, 2012, I was 19 years old and already a lifelong Swiftie. I had high hopes for her upcoming album given how much I enjoyed the three that came before: “Taylor Swift,” “Fearless,” and “Speak Now.” If we were peers in the year 2012 you know that I wore red lipstick every day. I was ready for “Red.” What Swifties could not prepare for was just how quickly we were about to have a new favorite album. Taylor had embraced a pop or even rock feel on a number of tracks, already starting to make her transition into pop music from her country roots. I knew from the first listen that this was my new favorite album.
After controversy surrounding Swift’s rights to her own music when her first label, Big Machine Records, sold off her music to Scooter Braun, she re-recorded “Fearless,” her second studio album, to the delight of fans young and old who made it go to number one as fast as you could say “it’s a love story.”
It is November 12th, 2021, I am 28 years old, and I am listening to a new version of my favorite Swift album. I am not alone in this experience, and so I have sought out the reactions of my friends while writing this album. I felt so excited to be able to revisit my old favorites that had been lovingly made new and to enjoy the brand new tracks, dubbed “from the vault” by Taylor herself, including a few new duets and songs she had written for other artists, now recorded in the voice that crafted them. I recruited four friends (K, Tasha, Rach, and Liz), also elder Swifties like myself, to share their reactions and feedback now that we are all re-living the power of this album. Submissions have been edited slightly for clarity.
- State of Grace (Taylor’s Version)
K: Twin fire signs, four blue eyes AND THEN SHE USED THAT IMAGERY in 10 minute All Too Well? Jail, she belongs in jail.
Tasha: I love the flow of the lyrics on this song so much. It’s kind of echo-y and sounds like a memory.
As far as album openers go, I can’t think of a better one. The very first few notes get me excited right away for what’s to come. This song makes me feel as brave and wild as the love she describes in it.
- Red (Taylor’s Version)
Tasha: So many good one liners that Taylor is known for in this song and the message is still so relatable, even ten years later.
With this song, Taylor Swift cemented her name as synonymous with both the color red and the season autumn. If you asked me for my dream car back in 2012 I would have said an old Maserati without ever having seen a photo of one. Also, I didn’t even own a car at this time, so where did I get this audacity?
- Treacherous (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: This song was the height of romance to teenage me, and as an adult in a loving relationship now, Taylor was right: nothing safe is worth the drive
Tasha: Oh man, this one gives me chills every time. You can so clearly imagine the picture Taylor is painting with her words.
Even if you are not a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, I feel like you’re lying to yourself and the world if you can’t at least acknowledge her talent as a lyricist. She collabed with Dan Wilson on this one, the same man who wrote “Closing Time” by Semisonic and “Someone Like You” by Adele.
- I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: It was never my favourite, but her voice is so much more mature now though.
Tasha: I still can’t hear it without the goat sound. I would have laughed really hard if there had been a goat in the background of the lyric video.
The goat scream version of this song, published in 2013, has an impressive three million views on YouTube. This one is really fun and definitely captures her desire to step into pop music.
- All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: I’ll never not cry hearing this. The way she sings “you called me up again to break me like a promise” breaks me.
Tasha: Absolutely iconic. One of my absolute favorites then and definitely still one now. Only to be beaten by the ten minute version.
Girlie is the blueprint, we knew this already. There’s nothing quite like the devastation and raw emotion in this one. Taylor has said over the years that the fans transformed this song into a classic. It was not released as a single and never had a music video prior to the release of the new short film (link below), but this is the one that people recognize and request from her. Genius lyricism and production from start to finish!
- 22 (Taylor’s Version)
Tasha: After hearing the ten minute version of All Too Well, this one hits different. The cause for celebration is more evident now. It’s such a bop I hope we get a remix next month called 32.
Isn’t it just so funny how Taylor Swift also invented turning 22 years old? Just crazy that we as a society weren’t doing that before the original “Red” came along. And Tasha is right, an age-appropriate update (Taylor turns 32 on December 12th, 2021) would be pretty cool.
- I Almost Do (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: Such an underrated song.
Tasha: Can never not cry about this one.
Similar to “The Last Time,” this one was so very underrated by the fans. I’m glad y’all are ready to appreciate it now though! I’m with Tasha, this one is a tear-jerker.
- We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version)
Tasha: Something about growing up really leveled up the speaking up part of this song. Her voice very clearly says she has no time for this shit.
Liz: WeeeEEE :)
If you don’t like the “weeee’s” then I probably don’t like you.
- Stay Stay Stay (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: The MOST underrated Taylor song, and I finally understand it, having found someone I want to hang out with for my whole life.
I mean, if you’re with Rach on this, I’m happy for you and everything, but the rest of us might just bop our heads and pretend. Taylor’s giggle at the end is the main character, though.
- The Last Time (Taylor’s Version) [feat. Gary Lightbody]
K: This is going to become the fan favorite that it always should have been, and I won’t gatekeep it even if I want to.
Tasha: I don’t know how their voices sound even better together but the harmonies give me chills.
The transition from the playful and upbeat “Stay, Stay, Stay” to the melancholy piano opening of “The Last Time” still gets me every time. If you don’t already know, Gary Lightbody is the frontman of the band “Snow Patrol,” and he brings so much emotion to this song. I was overwhelmed the first time I got to listen to this updated duet by how beautifully their voices mesh, and I got full body chills when the strings come in for the final chorus. Every single second is a masterpiece. (Seriously, this video is fun and all, but the new version is exquisite.)
- Holy Ground (Taylor’s Version)
K: Literally insane.
Rach: The STRONGEST intro of any Taylor song.
My friends make points. Boot stomping. Head banging. Amazing!
- Sad Beautiful Tragic (Taylor’s Version)
Liz: Always loved it but it sounds soooo much better with her mature voice, it just cuts deeper for me.
Tasha: Please pass the tissues.
This one hurts after a breakup, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. This is also my primary example of mondegreen, I never heard “a beautiful tragic love there” until recently, but rather “a beautiful tragic love ____.” Whoops. Please don’t revoke my Swiftie Card, instead take Rach’s, because she skipped this masterpiece entirely.
- The Lucky One (Taylor’s Version)
K: Listening to this, when I’ve always associated with Britney, on the day she was freed from her conservatorship was an out of body experience.
Rach: I feel like this is even more poignant given what Taylor has had to deal with in the last few years.
I’m with my friends on this one, absolutely always had a Britney Spears connection in my mind. People even pointed out the comparison in her official lyric video for this track. Between Britney’s conservatorship, Taylor’s personal experience with sexual assault, and things that have transpired in the past decade like the #MeToo movement, this song feels all too poignant.
- Everything Has Changed (Taylor’s Version) [feat. Ed Sheeran]
Rach: I understand this song now (also Ed sounded better too).
Tasha: I hate that I forget this song exists. But I do love that I constantly feel like I’m rediscovering it because it brings me so much joy.
Taylor and Ed have been friends for years and Ed told us on Twitter that this is the second one they wrote together. I think everyone who met someone in 2012 was singing this song, and now we have a brand new version for our dating scene in 2021.
- Starlight (Taylor’s Version)
Liz: Everyone hates on it, but I think this song is so cute.
Tasha: This song is how I imagine love is supposed to feel.
Oh my, what a marvelous tune. This beautiful song is thanks to Conor Kennedy, yes from that Kennedy family, because Taylor was inspired when she saw a photo of his grandparents, Bobby (a.k.a. Robert F.) and Edith. It makes me think of those nights at the end of summer that are slowly getting colder and getting dolled up for a party together.
- Begin Again (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: AND SHE BEGAN AGAIN.
Tasha: Ugh the hopeful tone of this song gives me a full body happy feeling. There’s so much beauty in the feeling of something new.
If you say you haven’t gone to a cafe on a Wednesday and added this song to your Instagram story, I feel like you’re lying.
- The Moment I Knew (Taylor’s Version)
K: This takes on such new DEPTH with the 10 minute All Too Well – it’s so painful???
Rach: This broke my heart even more after the 10 minute version and hearing her Dad’s perspective and remembering she was only 21.
WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST GO TO HER BIRTHDAY PARTY, JAKE? WHY?
- Come Back…Be Here (Taylor’s Version)
K: Banger then, Banger now.
Tasha: I read a Reddit thread swearing this was about Zac Efron and like same girl I felt that.
*caps lock* *keyboard smash* So those are my feelings about this one.
- Girl At Home (Taylor’s Version)
K: Hot take, I liked this way more before? Maybe I’ll get used to it, but I prefer the old version.
Liz: Always liked this song but now it’s even better with the new production
Tasha: Men ain’t sh*t. Good for Taylor for putting this dude in his place.
When this song started to play, I thought I had accidentally clicked on a different video. The production on this track is the most different from any of the re-recorded songs, thanks to the skills of Elvira Anderfjärd, who has produced a couple of remixes already for Taylor. The 21-year-old Swede is making her mark with writing credits with other top artists Tove Lo and Katy Perry, and her star will only continue to rise.
- State of Grace (Acoustic Version) (Taylor’s Version)
Liz: Superior to the regular version, IMO.
Tasha: Someone bring me more tissues.
I already raved about the original version of this song, which is the best album opener of all-time. And this is the best acoustic version of a song of all-time, thanks for asking. While Taylor has many god-tier bridges in her discography, the lyric “these are the hands of fate, you’re my Achilles heel” in this version hits me in the chest at full-force every single time.
- Ronan (Taylor’s Version)
Rach: I can’t listen to it, or I cry.
Liz: Listened to it once and never again, I can’t handle it.
ICYMI, this song is about a real boy named Ronan and is co-written by his mother, Maya Thompson. Taylor based the lyrics on Maya’s blog, crediting her as co-author, which details her experience watching her young son pass away due to cancer. Hence the reason you might not want this one on your regular morning playlist.
- Better Man (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
K: The second verse of this is literally so good, the little inflections in her voice?????? Crazed.
Rach: HOW DID THIS NOT MAKE THE ORIGINAL CUT?
Taylor wrote this song originally for the “Red” album, and when it did not make the final tracklist, she held onto it for a little while before eventually sending it to the band Little Big Town in 2016 who recorded it for their album “The Breaker.” Taylor has performed it live a couple of times over the years, and this was a widely-anticipated Vault Track by many of my friends. She did not disappoint!
- Nothing New (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) [feat. Phoebe Bridgers]
K: The way she was able to write a song about her personal feelings about being a woman in the music industry but somehow also create the sad 20-something girl anthem? The way she perfectly described how society views young women and how it tries to place an expiry date on us of 25? HOW CAN A PERSON KNOW EVERYTHING AT 18 AND NOTHING AT 22?? idk Taylor but you’re RIGHT and SICK for saying it.
Liz: This song absolutely wrecked me but I have listened to it as soon as I get up every morning since it came out. I’m FINE, it’s FINE.
In a win for women everywhere, Phoebe Bridgers came on as a collaborator, and she was really excited about her contribution. Girl, same.
- Babe (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Rach: It hits so, so different from Taylor.
Tasha: I’ve been dying to hear her version for so long. I like the Sugarland version, but Taylor’s voice was all over these lyrics, and I’m so happy we get to hear her version now.
I’m with them! This track is another old Taylor song (co-written by Patrick Monahan of “Train”) that was given over to the band “Sugarland” and released the single in 2018 with Taylor in an acting role in the music video and, in a fun twist, they performed it live with Taylor during her Reputation Stadium Tour in 2018.
- Message in a Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Rach: LOVED THIS.
Liz: Really expected the album to be almost entirely heartbreak songs but this one is so cute and so fun.
Elvira co-producer again? We stan. The quality is so fun, this one is easily a new bop for us to fall in love with.
- I Bet You Think About Me (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) [feat. Chris Stapleton]
Rach: I bet he did think about her.
Liz: Maybe my fave vault song (tied with “Nothing New”) and the music video is 100% perfect.
This is the one I’m dedicating to my ex!
- Forever Winter (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
This one makes me think of someone who is having a hard time dealing with life and you’re promising to love and help them during this hard time. Rach and Tasha both admitted to skipping this one, which tells me that I need new Swiftie friends, y’all. This song and one from her debut album called “Tied Together With A Smile” are sisters, in my opinion. I think it’s a beautiful song for a friendship or a romantic relationship and it’s so beautiful, because it’s hers.
- Run (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) [feat. Ed Sheeran]
Rach: I love I love.
Tasha: Double dose of Taylor and Ed is always a win for me.
First song they wrote together! I actually have seen two pretty best friends, as a matter of fact. I genuinely love this one as a new addition to this album. In a song about heartbreak, it’s fun to think about the moment you and your person say, “f*ck it, let’s run.”
- The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
Rach: So good!
Liz: 1989 references…
For any couple who misses each other! This one is so much fun and upbeat, and yet the lyrics are? Sad? Oh, and the hint that this one is about Harry Styles? “Back then we didn’t know we were built to fall apart.” Is “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” coming next? Nice mention of Polaroids, too, Taylor, we see you.
- All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)
K: I…? The face I made while listening to this for the first time was just mouth dropped open, screaming? I love the production and how it’s a little less devastated and angrier than the original? The new verses are so perfect (it’s a patriarchy keychain, people!!! That’s what the commas mean!!!) The fact that he dated her for being young (and has continued to do so) but yet broke up with her because of their age gap? “The idea you had of me, who was she” line is one of the ones that hits about that friendship I referenced earlier and also ties into “Nothing New” and the whole young ingenue thing. She talks about in such a visceral way that I screamed when I realized. WHO WRITES “Just between us did the love affair maim you too?” WHO DOES THAT? The added tie-in of her 21st birthday and the realization that that moment absolutely influenced “22?” And that “22” comes right after “All Too Well” in the original track list? She’s insane! The line “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath” has caused me so much psychic damage that I will never fundamentally be the same person. And all of this is ON TOP OF the original devastation of the song which is just so much? Idk, this is currently my favorite song of all time, and we will see if that ever changes, but woof she has done it again, and I’m still reeling!
Rach: I have listened to this song over and over, dissected every lyric, played it for my boyfriend and explained every line, went through every part to my mum — I just had to make sure everyone heard this masterpiece. I listened to it for the first time at the bus stop and tried to keep a neutral expression; it reached the line “you said maybe if we had been closer in age it would have been fine and that made me want to die” and I literally gasped. I started tearing up at “it’s supposed to be fun turning 21.” This is Taylor’s best song. It’s a story. It’s a narrative. It’s pure emotion.
Liz: It has some amazing lines but it’s gonna take time for me to get used to a different version of ATW.
Tasha: Iconic, everything I ever wanted, nothing will ever top it. I didn’t think it could get better but it did. It paints such a vivid picture.
THIS IS IT! WE WAITED NINE YEARS FOR THIS, AND SHE DID NOT DISAPPOINT!
- General overall reactions:
K: I wish I could have captured my face listening to this for you because it was truly crazed, she’s insane. “Red” came out when I was 14 and a freshman in high school, and while I don’t have any romantic relationships to relate it to, I was in a very intense and somewhat unhealthy friendship with another huge Taylor fan when it came out (as such is the young, sapphic experience, am I right?), so this album will always remind me of that situation and some of the songs are really accurate to how that felt.
Rach: It was so emotional; I was 16 when Red first came out and I’m 25 now. I went from a teenager who didn’t know what love was, envious of grown-up Taylor, to an adult who cried for the 21 year old who had her heart broken by the stupid man who didn’t come to her birthday party.
Liz: So many emotions, I was 16 when it came out and listened to it everyday on my way to school…hope Jake Gyllenhaal is recovering from this but also if he doesn’t, that’s ok with me toooooo :-)
Tasha: I have so many distinct memories that go with this album. Songs remind me of exactly what I was feeling then. It’s such a perfect blend of that nostalgia that we are all constantly chasing, and the grownup mature sound from Taylor that we have all been in love with recently. The improved vocals just enhance the magic of the rerelease.
So there you have it, 30 magical tracks bringing us joys old and new after a decade. The marvel of her writing talents still shine after all this time, with gorgeous instrumentation and production throughout. This album was snubbed at the Grammy’s back then, but do I smell another Album of the Year award for Miss Swift coming soon? This group of “Senior Swifties” votes yes.