Cover Photo By Julia Basan
Cover Photo By Julia Basan.

Taylor Swift offers nostalgia, healing in Red (Taylor’s Version)

All’s well that ends well as Taylor Swift continues to surprise audiences and critics alike with her storytelling, lyricism prowess, and vocal maturity.

By Chloe Mari Hufana | Saturday, 13 November 2021

American pop star Taylor Swift released Red (Taylor’s Version) on Nov. 12 through Republic Records. With the re-recording of her fourth studio album Red, the 30-track album includes nine previously-unreleased “From The Vault” tracks and features the long-awaited 10-minute version of  fan-favorite “All Too Well.”

It was the year 2012一the Mayans predicted the world’s end, the British welcomed world-class athletes to the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and Xi Jin Ping was elected as China’s new top leader. At the same time, Swift transitioned from teenage country singer into a sought-after pop star with the release of Red, her fourth studio album.

Fast forward seven years later in 2019, a treacherous battle against Swift’s former label owner Scooter Braun of Big Machine Label Group barred her from buying her own masters. Braun then sold her masters to private equity firm Shamrock Capital for $300 million, which Swift tweeted that it was the second time her music was sold without her knowledge.

Ownership means musicians receive greater shares of streaming revenues, which remain controversially low. The leading music streaming platform Spotify reported profits for the first time since 2019, yet they continue to underpay artists. Swift is at the forefront of fighting against the injustices faced by artists all over the world. 

The release of Swift’s Fearless (Taylor’s Version) last April is a symbol of protest for music giants to compensate for the hard work of their artists fairly. Moreover, the singer-songwriter went on Twitter by saying, “Red is about to be mine again, but it has always been ours.” As the 13th track “The Lucky One (Taylor’s Version),” goes, “You don’t feel pretty, you just feel used.” Musicians strive to fight the wolves, hungry for profit and fame.

The color of courage and fierce

Since her debut album, the then-16-year-old country singer projected an image of innocence with her curly, blonde hair, cowboy boots, and guitar. Red (Taylor’s Version) showed Swift’s fiery perspective on love, breakups, and moving on. Her signature crimson-red lipstick reflected the turbulent love affairs she narrated in the album. 

A magnum opus of a last track, the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” served as a culmination of everything she had experienced and learned as a twentysomething. Her long-awaited release of the song narrates about an older lover, breaking things off with her and who stood her up on her 21st birthday, “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would’ve been fine….” 

The song is highly speculated to be about American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who is nine years older than Swift. Her ardent lyricism about love and heartbreak earned its place as a fan-favorite. Sure enough, the 10-minute version doubled the melodic blues everyone first experienced in 2012. 

Further piercing through the hearts of listeners, Swift sings about the implications of her whirlwind romance. The lyrics “soldier who’s returning half her weight” hint about her struggles with an eating disorder, which she confirmed in the Reputation Stadium Tour Netflix documentary. The track is accompanied by a short film directed by Swift and starring American actor Dylan O’Brien and American actress Sadie Sink, which was released today, Nov. 13 on YouTube. Indeed, the nine-year wait was worth it. 

The titular track “Red (Taylor’s Version),” however, cements itself as Swift’s pinnacle of feverish love songs. Greatly encapsulating the rollercoaster of emotions one feels when in love, the pop-rock tunes and almost-raging lyrics of the song resonate feelings of being alive and getting through the grim situation found in “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) [From the Vault].”

Other than Swift’s touches of melancholy and musings about the universal feeling of love, Red (Taylor’s Version) also symbolizes her fierce fight against her bullies and persists to be a beacon of justice for artists whom label owners oppress. 

Unparalyzed by the passing of time

Since the release of Red in 2012, Swift has truly made herself as a pop sensation of her generation. Alongside her ever-growing fame is her unceasing talent for writing songs about love, heartbreak, moving on一which her fans grew up with since Fearless in 2008. Thus, the resonance is definitely strong with Red (Taylor’s Version).

Red (Taylor’s Version) reflects not only the fans that grew up with Swift’s songs lulling them to comfort but also of Swift’s maturity nine years forward. From what was once a public figure slandered with misogynistic sentiments, Swift now sings about a secured woman in a relationship and even traveled through the stories of other people in “Ronan (Taylor’s Version),” and her recent folklore and evermore albums. As time flies, everyone’s ever-changing, “now, we begin again.”

Last June, Swift announced on  Twitter that she’ll be making Red her own, “I’ve always said that the world is a different place for the heartbroken,” giving her interlude to the album, calling it a “fractured mosaic of feelings.” Fans and non-fans alike have attached certain memories to certain songs in the album, and listening to them now sends a specific wave of nostalgia. 

You would have vibed with “Everything Has Changed” nine years ago without fully knowing what it meant. But today, Swift and her pal English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran delivered their third collaboration together about “run like you’d run from the law” through “Run (Taylor’s Version) [From the Vault].”

Meanwhile, the jolliness of “Stay Stay Stay” might have nudged a memory in your mind about the puppy love you once had in high school, which now holds a different meaning as you connect it to a significant other. 

While “Begin Again (Taylor’s Version)” summarizes the album’s theme of time and moving forward, new love, and first times, the idyllic and solemn tunes Swift injected in the song give a particular blanket of comfort that “for the first time, what’s past is past.”

As her listeners enveloped the old Red album with melancholia and heartbreak, Swift confesses on her announcement tweet that through her process of redoing her version of Red, “something healed along the way.” The album hopes that your past self who’s “confused, lonely, devastated, and tortured by memories past,” has healed from the troubles you felt, as well as the sadness you have associated with Red. 

Take this new version and connect fresh and radiant memories with it, like it’s made of starlight. As she sings in “The Very First Night (Taylor’s Version) [From the Vault],” “I wish I could fly, I’d pick you up, and we’d go back in time.” Ten years down the road, even if Red (Taylor’s Version) is an album for the heartbroken, realize how much you have evolved with Swift’s music throughout the years.

Supplementary recommendations

  • “Stay Stay Stay (Taylor’s Version)” - This bubbly classic from Red, now popularized by TikTok, sings about taking time to fall in love and holding on to that person.

  • “Nothing New (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) (Taylor’s Version) [From the Vault]” - Swift’s first collaboration with American singer Phoebe Bridgers is about artists growing up in the public eye, afraid of being replaced by younger ones. Swift, a phenomenon, and Bridgers, an up-and-coming rookie, perfectly blend their voices and experiences in this hard-hitting track.

  • “The Last Time (feat. Gary Lightbody) (Taylor’s Version)”  - Swift’s collaboration with Northern Irish-Scottish rock band Snow Patrol frontman is brutally honest and akin to “exile” from her 2020 album folklore. Lightbody’s voice in Red (Taylor’s Version) seemed softer than his bass voice in the previous version.

As the world is truly ever-changing, Red is now Red (Taylor’s Version), two different albums released in two different times. Remember that you were another person nine years ago and will be a different person nine years from now.

Red (Taylor’s Version) illuminates a light at the end of a tunnel; truly a glistening beacon of change and better tomorrows.