The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
It’s been a big year for Swifties. Between the surprise drop of evermore in Dec. of 2020, Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April and now Red (Taylor’s Version) a few weeks ago, every Taylor Swift fan has had something new (or old!) to dive into. Although the majority of the songs on Taylor’s various versions will be familiar to her fans, these vault tracks are fresh and exciting additions to the Taylor Swift canon.
To celebrate the release of the Red (Taylor’s Version) vault tracks, here is a ranking from worst to best! (Note: song titles have been shortened to omit (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault) for the sake of brevity).
“Run (feat. Ed Sheeran)”
None of the Red (Taylor’s Version) vault songs are bad, per se, but if there was one that could be cut from the tracklist, it would be “Run (feat. Ed Sheeran).” It’s a sweet little song about running away from fame and responsibilities with a new lover. Although it’s a lovely acoustic track, it doesn’t do as much as some of the other vault tracks do for the Taylor Swift oeuvre. Ed Sheeran does a decent job in this duet, but his superior performance lies in Taylor’s Version of “Everything Has Changed.” The most important part of “Run” is arguably the seedling lyric in “this thing was a shot in the dark” from the iconic line in “Getaway Car”: “we never had a shotgun shot in the dark.”
Best lyric: “And I’ll sing like no one cares / No one to be, no one to tell”
“Forever Winter” is a gorgeous song about supporting a loved one as they struggle with their mental illness. Taylor’s vocals are fantastic in this song and the use of trumpets really helps to set the wintery atmosphere. This is another track that plants the seeds for future Taylor songs, such as “this is me trying” and her feature on Big Red Machine’s “Renegade.” “Forever Winter” doesn’t do as great of a job conveying concern for oneself or another person as either of those songs do as a result of the disjointed lyrical and instrumental components, and because of this disconnect, it is falling low in the rankings. It also slips a bit in the ranking because I can’t help but think of Bella’s New Moon Depression Montage from the lyrics, despite the upbeat tempo.
Best lyric: “I’d take that bomb in your head and disarm it / I’d say I love you even at your darkest”
“Message In A Bottle”
Thank you to Taylor Swift for releasing this peppy song! “Message In A Bottle” has to be one of the happiest songs in the Taylor Swift canon. From the sugary, sweet production to the fluffy lyrics, it was a precursor for some of the love songs we got on Lover further on in her career (re: “Paper Rings”). I’m glad it was omitted from the final cut of the original version of Red (I don’t think it would have worked thematically) and 1989 (it’s a little too sugary). This is another song that ranks low not based on its own flaws, but because it pales in comparison to the strength of other vault tracks.
Best lyric: “You could be the one that I keep, and I / I could be the reason you can’t sleep at night”
“The Very First Night”
This track is one of the most upbeat on the entire record, and for the most part, it works! The country-pop crossover that Taylor was initially trying to bridge with Red is palpable here, and I personally would have put it on the original album in place of some of the less memorable songs (I’m looking at you, “Starlight”). It’s a great example of what was to come in her career with the next album. This ranks farther down on the list because, although it is an undeniable bop, it’s not as strong lyrically as some of the upcoming tracks. Of the two poppiest vault tracks, those being “The Very First Night” and “Message In A Bottle,” this is the better of the two.
Best lyric: “We broke the status quo / Then we broke each other’s hearts”
“Babe” is one of two vault tracks that had previously been released, but by another artist or group. In this case, the song had previously been released by Sugarland (feat. Taylor Swift) in 2018. Although some fans were familiar with this track prior to Red (Taylor’s Version), Taylor gives the song a much-needed makeover. The song is punchier, sassier and has much better production this time around. The inclusion of “what about your promises, promises?” sprinkled in throughout the song is so catchy and adds to the sarcasm and general drama of the song. The drums are also much better on this version and add the extra punch.
Best lyric: “I break down every time you call / We’re a wreck, you’re the wrecking ball”
“I Bet You Think About Me (feat. Chris Stapleton)”
Now, this is the country anthem we should have gotten on the original cut of Red instead of *cough* “Stay Stay Stay” *cough*. This feels the most Speak Now of any of the vault tracks, and I mean that in the best way. This song is cheeky, loud and true to Taylor’s roots as a country artist. Chris Stapleton’s backing vocals add gravitas to the song and make it feel grander and bolder than if Taylor had sung it herself. Considering Taylor makes multiple references to being told she’s not funny on this album, she’s absolutely hilarious and this song (plus the amazing music video that evokes the Speak Now era) is proof.
Best lyric: “But it turned out I’m harder to forget / than I was to leave”
“Better Man” is another vault track that was originally released by a different artist, namely Little Big Town. Taylor’s version is so heartbreaking due to the strength of her vocals and the scarce production. “Better Man” is simple in premise, but that’s why it’s such a hard hitter. Is there anything more heartbreaking than realizing a relationship could have worked out had the other person just been better? Wasted potential doesn’t negate love, but it can be a deal-breaker in a long-term relationship, and I think Taylor does such a great job of displaying how emotional it can be to let go of someone because of this. It feels almost like a plea as well, for whoever the song is about to change and make come back once they’ve learned how to be a better person. Although it’s a romantic song, I can’t help but feel like the themes can also be applied to friends and family dynamics, too. For how simple the song is, it captures the potency of loss so well.
Best lyrics: “And I see the permanent damage you did to me / Never again, I just wish I could forget when it was magic”
“Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)”
I can think of no better duet for the reigning queen of sad pop and the reigning queen of indie rock to sing together than this masterpiece. “Nothing New” is one of those songs that is almost too relatable. Between “how long will it be cute / all this crying in my room” and “how did I go from growing up to breaking down,” these lyrics called me out, broke me down and then rebuilt me. Although most of us are not in the public eye and, thus, will not face scrutiny for no longer being relevant, I think it can be considered a universal experience that growing up can be harrowing due to the expectations placed upon all of us by some external force, whether that be parents, peers or society at large. Taylor and Phoebe’s vocals go well together and the themes of the song hit extra hard in the context of both of their careers. I think we can all agree that there’s something special about Taylor Swift singing “will you still want me when I’m nothing new?” while in the process of releasing two very successful re-recorded albums, with more coming down the road. Even when she’s singing songs we’ve heard thousands of times before, she has our full support!
Best lyrics: “How can a person know everything at eighteen / but nothing at twenty-two?”
“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”
What can I possibly say about “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” that hasn’t already been said? Widely considered to be her magnum opus, “All Too Well” already gave us so much, but this new 10 minute version helps to situate Taylor’s feelings and contextualize her headspace during the original Red recordings in an entirely new light. Where the shortened version of “All Too Well” is more dual-sided in its approach to love, the 10 minute version rips all sense of forgiveness to shreds. She lays bare the power dynamics present in the relationship in question, including a startling age gap (“I get older but your lovers stay my age”). The minute-long outro is haunting and unforgettable. Although the song tears apart its subject, Taylor also seems to be giving her past self more grace. The entire song feels like one big hug to a former self. It’s the best vault track, but we knew that even before we hit play, didn’t we?
Best lyric: “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath”