By Anaka Bretzke
There are some albums that will go down in the history of modern music. Taylor Swift’s fourth-studio album, “Red,” is proving to be one of them. The masterful country-pop album originally released in 2012 under Big Machine Records ended up at No. 2 on Rolling Stone’s best albums of 2012 and No. 99 on their 500 greatest albums of all time list, sold over 1.21 million copies in its first week and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. It’s been deemed the autumn heartbreak album by most Millennials and Gen Z-ers.
Everything has changed in Swift’s life since 2012. She’s written three full-pop albums, two sister indie folk albums during quarantine and she embarked on three high-grossing world tours amongst many other accomplishments. Most notably, in 2019 Swift left her record label of 14 years, Big Machine, and signed with Republic Records.
She made the switch after Ithaca Holdings, Scooter Braun’s media company, purchased Big Machine for $300 million. Braun also acquired all of Swift’s master recordings, meaning she no longer held the rights to her own discography.
In response, Swift is re-recording her first six studio albums, taking back rightful ownership of her work. She released the first of her re-recordings, “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” this past April. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” will be the second re-recording to be released on Nov. 12.
For the majority of Swift’s fanbase (i.e, me and my peers) who were 7 to 14 years old when the album first dropped, get ready to pull out the tissues.
On the original version of the record, Swift included 16 songs. This time around, she put every song that was meant to go on “Red” originally, making for a hefty load of 30 songs.
No song, however, is without purpose. For Swift, including the additional tracks completes her already lyrically spectacular album, presenting it to fans as it was meant to be listened to. The original feels like a rough draft compared to this one, fully capturing the story of Swift’s young heartbreak (I’m looking at you Jake Gyllenhaal) in bright, burning red.
The re-recordings on the new album are clean, stripped-down renditions of her older music, arguably making some of her best classics even better. Swift’s vocals are more mature now compared to 2012, making her classic tracks more heartbreaking than the first time. Each and every song sounds like a recording of an intimate live performance. This sophistication can be heard especially in her new renditions of “The Last Time” with Gary Lightbody, “Sad Beautiful Tragic” and “Begin Again.”
Another fairly noticeable trait change of Taylor’s version of “Red” is that it’s more pop-y than before genre-wise. “Girl At Home” and “Holy Ground” are the two re-recording stand-outs that sound way more like pop songs on this version.
The only quibble present in the re-recordings is in her hit song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Every time she sings “we” in the chorus, it’s so extremely autotuned that it sounds like a Kidz Bop cover of the song. However, that’s one chorus out of 30 that failed to hit the mark.
Her more ambitious tracks are perhaps the ones she left out the first time. The new selections, deemed “from the vault” tracks, are the backbone of the album, truly capturing everything miserable and magical about love all at the same time.
Standouts include “Nothing New '' with Phoebe Bridgers featuring heart-wrenching lyrics about growing older. The country-twang duet “I Bet You Think About Me” with Chris Stapleton would have already been a hit if included on the original album. “Run,” featuring Ed Sheeran, is arguably the most emotional duet with the singers to date.
Taylor’s version would not be what it is, however, without her long-awaited 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” It’s everything and more that fans could have hoped for. It’s twice as long as the original 2012 version and twice as good. Remember the tissues, you’re going to need them for this track.
Swift herself has said, “the world is a different place for the heartbroken,” and this album is like a warm fireplace, with a warm knitted blanket, crafted specifically to comfort the heartbroken.
An album is a moment stuck in time for an artist. While Swift stays true to the autumn-heartbreak-magic of the original album, she, like always, has outdone herself. Her talent and song writing abilities are apparent and unmatched, even for tracks that were written almost a decade ago. While most artists end up dabbling back into their older work when they’ve run out of creative energy and new ideas, Swift is doing it to reclaim her old work and it has paid off evidently here. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is an exceptional album and a promising second entry of her collection of re-recordings.