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Taylor Swift Triumphs with “Red (Taylor’s Version)”

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at George Mason University chapter.

On Nov. 12, Taylor Swift released the highly anticipated re-recording of her fourth studio album, “Red.”

Swift’s decision to re-record all her albums released prior to 2019 is ultimately a clever strategy to reclaim her art. In 2018, Swift left Big Machine Records for Republic Records. Despite this change in record labels, Big Machine Records maintained ownership over the “masters” – or studio recordings – of her first six albums.

Big Machine Records then sold to another entity owned by Scooter Braun (famed for managing artists like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato). Braun finally sold Swift’s masters to Shamrock Holdings in 2019. Swift publicly spoke against Braun’s decision, citing her past public conflict with the record executive.

Prior to the release of this re-recording, all streaming and purchases of Swift’s original version of “Red” would solely profit Braun. However, with the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” Swift is once again the owner of the album and songs that she wrote herself almost a decade ago. Not only is this an incredibly smart business move on the part of Swift, but this re-recording also allows the singer to revisit this nostalgic era of “Red” with her fans and unveil eight new bonus tracks that were originally scrapped from the 2012 album.

Swift has effectively had the entire world seeing red since the re-recording’s release. In addition to the album itself, Swift became the most-streamed female artist in a day on Spotify, delivered a show-stopping SNL performance, released and directed the “All Too Well” short film, collaborated on a music video with Blake Lively, and even partnered with Starbucks to offer “Taylor’s Latte.”

Amidst all the madness, Swift delivered a stunning, vulnerable album that has only bettered with age.

As this is a re-recording, the changes to Swift’s original twenty-one tracks are slight for the most part. Only the most astute of “Swifties” may pick up on Swift’s slight changes in breathing, production, and overall vocal clarity. Swift’s vocal maturity especially shines on tracks like “Treacherous,” “All Too Well,” “The Last Time,” “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” and “The Lucky One.” With a slower tempo, Swift is able to show off the depths of her lower register within the album’s more evocative and emotional tracks.

While songs like “Red,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “I Almost Do,” and “Everything Has Changed” are almost indistinguishable from their 2012 counterparts, there is a noticeable difference in Swift’s timbre on the album’s more upbeat tracks. On first listen, fans may feel slightly uncertain about Swift’s reimagining of fan favorites like “State of Grace,” “Stay, Stay, Stay,” “Holy Ground,” and “Starlight.” “22,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “Girl at Home,” in particular, have a significantly heavier production in Swift’s rendition.

However, it’s important to remember that Swift’s twenty-two-year-old vocals have been encased in amber and listened to for the past nine years. Naturally, some of the album’s most famous tracks may sound different at first. However, Taylor’s Version does not exist solely to be compared to its original. It stands on its own, with artistic changes that only become more endearing with each listen.

Perhaps, the album’s biggest attraction is its bonus tracks “from the vault.” “Better Man,” “Babe,” and “I Bet You Think About Me (ft. Chris Stapleton)” are the most reminiscent of Swift’s country roots and are each an introspective and unguarded examination of a crumbling relationship. Swift then slows down the tempo for “Nothing New” and “Run” where she is joined by the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Ed Sheeran. While both tracks are stunning vocally, “Nothing New” is an immediate standout. Beautifully articulating the timeless narrative of the aging female artist, this collaboration is made all the more devastating with its raw lyrics and haunting production.

It would seem that we get a first glimpse of Taylor’s subsequent album, “1989,” with “Message in a Bottle,” “Forever Winter,” and “The Very First Night.” All three are indicative of the incredible pop sound Swift would go on to produce after “Red.” While “Message in a Bottle” and “The Very First Night” are both carefree and upbeat, “Forever Winter’s” pop influence is contrasted by its deeply melancholy and heart-rending lyrics. Although these songs may feel somewhat out of place with Red’s more country influence, they remain some of the album’s best bonus tracks.

Swift concludes her version of “Red” with the song fans have been begging for her to release for years: her ten-minute rendition of “All Too Well.” While many have speculated who the scathing track was inspired by, the subject becomes a moot point when put up against Swift’s expert storytelling and songwriting ability. With added verses, a longer bridge, and over five minutes of added content, one of Swift’s most revered tracks is somehow made even more vulnerable and devastating. To put it simply: this version was worth the nine-year wait.

In the wake of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” fans are already speculating which album Swift plans to re-record next. While my bet is currently on “Speak Now,” I know better than to expect Swift to be anything but unpredictable.
You can listen to “Red (Taylor’s Version)” here.

Marissa Joyce

George Mason University '22

Marissa is currently a senior at George Mason University and serves as Senior Editor of George Mason's Her Campus chapter. At Mason, she is pursuing a double major in English and Communication. When Marissa isn't writing articles, she can be found over-caffeinated, tackling her extensive library of books, or curating her vinyl record collection.