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What We Needed This Fall: Red (Taylor’s Version) Review

 On Friday, Taylor Swift dropped her highly-anticipated album, Red (Taylor’s Version). An entirely renewed and re-recorded version of the 2012 release, it included all tracks from the original and deluxe albums, as well as unreleased songs from the Red era. Accompanying the album is a short film written and directed by Swift, titled after the song “All Too Well.” Red (Taylor’s Version) is the second in the series of Taylor re-recording her past albums, following Fearless (Taylor’s Version) that was released in April 2021. 

    For timing, Taylor couldn’t have picked a better release date for Red (TV). We’re in the middle of ~sad girl autumn~, which is a season that couldn’t be more perfectly encapsulated than within the songs of Red. The first release of the album was in October 2012, and almost a decade later, it still rings true that fall is a perfect time to reel over a love that didn’t make it to Christmas. With a feature from another sad girl autumn favorite Phoebe Bridgers, the album makes me want to curl up in a knit blanket in the fetal position and feel myself get older by the minute.

    The re-recorded album tracks from Red (TV) reminds me of the re-recordings on Fearless (TV) in the way that her voice and the instrumentals are much more crisp and remastered while recreating small details from the original. Swift’s producer Jack Antonoff’s influence can be heard in the revamped tracks, such as the folklore-esque echoes in the ending of the 10-minute version of “All Too Well (TV)” and the poppy, 1989-ification of “Girl At Home (TV).” I especially liked how Taylor kept some iconic pieces in her songs such as the giggle and “That’s so fun!” at the end of “Stay Stay Stay,” as well as the “Who’s Taylor Swift anyway? Ew,” that can be heard in the background of “22.” These seemingly small insertions can be seen as little callbacks to all the details fans have found and cherished during their first listenings of Red

For the tracks “From the Vault,” Taylor included some songs she wrote that were originally given to other artists, such as “Babe” first released by Sugarland and “Better Man” by Little Big Town. Along with those were songs that were never released before – my favorites being “Nothing New” featuring Phoebe Bridgers and “I Bet You Think About Me” with Chris Stapleton. The vault tracks range from somber and nostalgic ballads to upbeat bubblegum pop heard in “The Very First Night.” 

    Personally, I was most excited to hear that there was going to be a Phoebe Bridgers collab when Taylor first dropped Red (TV)’s tracklist. I went in knowing that Taylor has never let a female feature on a song sing a full verse and that they are mostly used as background vocals – see “no body, no crime” featuring HAIM and “Breathe” with Colbie Caillat – so I didn’t want to get my hopes too high. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Phoebe get a verse! I think it would’ve been criminal of Taylor to include Bridgers in an emo anthem about aging as a woman in music and reduce her perfect voice for it to background harmonies. Ed Sheeran’s features also exceeded my expectations – my biggest concern was his current pop-sellout status that I thought would threaten the whole operation of Red (TV) if that same energy was brought on. I needed him to channel whatever he had in 2012 when he wrote “Lego House,” “Kiss Me,” and “Give Me Love,” and I’m happy to report that Ed delivered! “Everything Has Changed (Taylor’s Version)” kept the loving charm of the original recording and the vault track he’s featured on, called “Run,” is a very calming, soft-strummed duet between the two. 

    The prized gem on Red (TV) in many’s opinion is the long-awaited 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” Fans first heard of the extended song’s existence when Red originally was released, and was spoken about like a myth until Taylor confirmed it would be included in her version. After listening to the track, I commend Swift for holding so much back the first time around. I am more grateful, however, that she threw away any veil of secrecy and just aired Jake Gyllenhaal out by citing very specific events for this re-release of the album. With lines like “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath,” and “You said, ‘If we had been closer in age maybe it would’ve been fine’/And that made me want to die,” I feel like this is “Dear John” levels of a personal call-out to Gyllenhaal. But as always, Taylor’s incredible songwriting skills makes it feel like all of our superstar actor boyfriends ditched us on our 21st birthdays. The accompanying short film that includes the song exemplifies the vivid imagery “All Too Well (TV)” creates for listeners. Even down to the actors (Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink) having a similar age gap to Gyllenhaal and Swift during their relationship just shows how detail-oriented and precise Swift’s creative moves are to convey her story and experience. 

    There’s something to be said about listening to an album as a middle schooler detailing love and loss, which were both concepts foreign to me at the time, and being able to get a remastered version of both released and unreleased songs at the age of 20. I feel like the same can be said about a now 31-year-old Taylor recording songs written as a heartbroken 22-year-old. We’ve seen obvious growth from her as both a person and musician since Red in 2012. She has even called back to Red in “Daylight” from her 2019 Lover album, writing, “I once believed love would be burnin’ red, but it’s golden.” I wonder how it was for her to sing about being in the emotional throes of a breakup as a young 20-something a decade later, knowing how her life has panned out since then.     In conclusion – I’m a Swiftie for life and I love reliving 2012. Red (TV) can best be described as maple lattes, the leaves changing, and a nice pine-scented candle while being Taylor Swift’s emotional punching bag, accompanied by some of the best lyricism in her career. If that sounds like a good time to you – like it does to me – get cozy and listen to Red (Taylor’s Version).

Grace Bradley

U Maine '23

Hello all! My name is Grace and I'm a third-year Communication major with a minor in Journalism here at UMaine! Originally from Connecticut, but I wanted more trees! Biiig music, art, and politics gal. Give me every outlet of expression!!
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