By Sarah Lewis, MA English Literature
Red (Taylor’s Version) presents a newly recorded version of Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album from back in 2012, only now she owns the music herself, after the master recordings of her work were sold off against her wishes in 2019. Earlier this year Taylor released her own version of Fearless, beginning a process that will eventually allow her to reclaim all of her own content.
It is undoubtedly impressive just how much excitement Taylor Swift can elicit from her fans for the re-recording of an old album. Much of this excitement was generated by the 10-minute version of ‘All Too Well’, which was known to be in existence, but had not yet received an official release. ‘All Too Well’ famously provides a moving account of Taylor’s three-month relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal, which ended painfully back in 2010.
The cry-your-heart-out anthem has long been a fan favourite, and highly anticipated extended version did not disappoint. The already heart-breaking lyrics have been broadened to include anecdotes of a ruined 21st birthday and biting remarks about the couple’s age gap. Taylor’s poetic writing is at its best as she asks, ‘Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?’. The track fades out with a delicious melody and ghostly layered vocals that expand an already beloved song into a tear-inducing masterpiece.
Taylor was well aware of the gravity of this 10-minute release and marked the occasion with a self-directed short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. Putting her evocative lyrics on screen is another stroke of genius, where the already emotional extended song is gifted a new lease of life through strong acting and brutal dialogue.
The extended ‘All Too Well’ is one of nine new songs added to the album ‘From the Vault’, meaning tracks that were not included on the original album. Other highlights from these new releases include ‘I Bet You Think About Me’, for which Blake Lively has directed a surreal, entertaining music video.
Additional new tracks include a further collaboration with Ed Sheeran on ‘Run’, to go alongside the re-recording of ‘Everything Has Changed’. ‘Nothing New’ featuring Phoebe Bridgers is another unheard release full of emotionally resonant lyrics, including the line ‘How can a person know everything at eighteen, but nothing at twenty-two?’.
Old favourites are also given a new lease of life on the album, where ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ sound cleaner and fresher than ever, curtesy of Taylor’s increasingly mature vocal range. A further benefit of the re-release is that it allows fans to revisit the lesser-known tracks from Red that perhaps didn’t get the attention they deserved back in 2012. ‘Stay Stay Stay’ is one such song, which further exemplifies the album’s strong generic range, featuring country rhythms and storytelling reminiscent of Taylor’s early career.
And it has become clear that the Red (Taylor’s Version) experience is an ongoing one, with rumours of more music videos on the horizon, as well as the recent release of the ‘Sad Girl Autumn Version’ of ‘All Too Well’, which manages to make the much-loved track even more moving. Far from being a dull repetition, the re-recording of Red has gifted fans with new music and an enriched experience of an already excellent album, presented with the confidence of an artist who now owns her own work.
Featured image: Republic
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