“Taylor really meant it when she said ‘it feels like one of those nights we won’t be sleeping,’” joked a fan after seeing the track list of all thirty (30) songs on Red (Taylor’s Version).
For the uninitiated, Taylor Swift has been systematically going through all her studio albums prior to Lover and re-recording them, so she could take full ownership over them after she was denied the permission to buy her master recordings back from her old record label. She had started with Fearless, which came out Apr. 9, and just released her version of Red on Nov. 12.
The album starts with “State of Grace,” the drum intro transporting listeners to a time in 2012, when the song was first released. Upon hearing the first notes of her voice, we can hear how much her vocals have matured in the last decade, while still being able to hold the youth she had in the original version.
As you continue to listen through the first half of the album, expect to hear all the fan favorites from “All Too Well” to “Holy Ground” as well as the radio hits like “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
When it came time to listen to both “The Last Time” and “Everything Has Changed,” fans were excited; not only would we hear the development in vocal strength of Taylor, but also her features, Gary Lightbody and Ed Sheeran respectively. As someone who personally has never listened to Gary’s music, it was astonishing to hear the decade of difference in his voice and how much more life it brought to one of my favorite songs from the original version. As for Ed Sheeran; I had already known how his voice had evolved through these past years. But it will never stop to amaze me how perfectly their voices compliment each other.
As I progressed through the album and arrived at the song “Girl at Home,” I was personally excited to see other fans’ reactions to it, since it is one of her few songs that I tend to see many people express their displeasure towards.
I wasn’t prepared at all for the major changes she had added to this specific song.
A once country-pop song turned techno was not at all what fans had expected from this updated version. One fan took to Twitter, saying “I love how every song was perfectly crafted and baked in the oven to be the exact same as the stolen version and then she threw girl at home in a blender without a lid and gave it to us like that.”
The reaction to this new production was very split, with fans tweeting such things as: “I’m not a girl at home slanderer anymore,” showing their love for the re-recording, while others said “Taylor ily but girl at home…” and then later responding to a particular comment with “i cried”, expressing their distaste for particular changes in this song.
There was no time to even dwell on that, though, because then it was time for the vault tracks. “Vault tracks” are something Taylor has been adding to her re-recordings; when creating the album, she had extra songs that she had stored, intending to put them on the next album. But if there is anything we know about Taylor, it is that she changes her genre and style for virtually every album, so they were left in the drafts until now.
She started the vault tracks with “Better Man” a song concert attendees had previously heard live by her, but since she had originally written it for Little Big Town, it was never added to the album. In this song, she expresses how she had wished that the person she was with was a better man; knowing it was toxic and that she was “better off on [her] own” but still missing him despite all this.
Moving on from that is her first substantial vault track, one that we as listeners have never heard before: “Nothing New” featuring Phoebe Bridgers. An ongoing joke in the fandom is that when Taylor gets a woman to be featured on a song, she all but tapes their mouth shut since they never get anything more than background vocals. This all changed, however, in this song since Phoebe was a major part of it, really adding a specific diversity of experience to the song.
My absolute favorite vault track, “Forever Winter,” shows off Taylor’s beautiful vocal range, as well as the softness in her voice. While singing about someone who was close to her she exclaims “all this time, I didn’t know you were breaking down,” feeling guilty and absolutely defenseless in helping them get better.
It was after “The Last Night” however, where listeners stilled in anticipation and excitement; it was time for “All Too Well (10 minute version).”
Taylor had originally written “All Too Well” while having a bad day in the studio after a messy breakup. She was allegedly so emotional that she just went on for around 24 minutes playing chords and creating lyrics. It was easily cut down to ten minutes since the other time was just her playing around trying to figure out what to say, but was then again cut down to five minutes and 29 seconds for the album. Upon finding out there was a longer version, Swifties would proceed to practically beg Taylor almost daily to give it to us.
The ten-minute version of this song was absolutely heartbreaking, especially to hear the parts of this relationship we had not heard in the first version. The specific lyric “you kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath” really let us feel her pain; it felt so intimate—as if we were reading straight from her diary.
The album concluded with a short message from Taylor thanking us for everything we have done and just introducing the album as a whole.
The whole experience of the album was a rollercoaster, and felt so nostalgic. One fan described her experience, saying, “I felt like a 10 year old girl again. But now I was experiencing this album with more insight, passion, and excitement than I did the first time.” Red (Taylor’s Version) is definitely worth all two hours and 11 minutes of your time; whether you are a Swiftie, a local, or just browsing for new music. This album, a mosaic of genres, is almost guaranteed to have a song for everyone.