REVIEW: Stunning and nostalgic, “Red (Taylor’s version)” is a revisit to some of Taylor Swift’s most heartfelt work


!Original:Taylor Swift / UMGVector: SINGmeAsadSONG, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Red (Taylor’s Version)” is Taylor Swift’s second re-recorded album, featuring all 20 original songs from her fourth studio album “Red,” plus 10 never-before-heard tracks.

Jillian Keppy, PV Only Editor

Taylor Swift has had a whirlwind year including winning the album of the year Grammy award for her 8th studio album “Folklore” and an extremely successful re-recording of her 2008 country album “Fearless.”

Now, to top it all off, the 31-year-old songwriting legend has finally released the re-recording of her 2012 hit-filled album “Red.”

When Swift was denied ownership of her own music due to a contract she signed with her record label at just 16 years f age, she decided to re-record all six of her original studio albums under the label. The first of the six came in February 2021 when Swift released five new tracks from the “Fearless” era, as well as the re-recordings of all 20 original songs to make “Fearless (Taylors Version).”

Swift jumped from her second studio album, straight to her fourth , giving an autumnal track-list the perfect mid-November release. “Red (Taylor’s Version)” includes the re-recordings of all 20 original songs from the 2012 tracklist, nine  never-before-heard songs written in the same era as the originals and the highly-anticipated 10-minute version of arguably one of Swift’s most heartbreaking works, “All Too Well.” 

While originally not given much attention in its original release, “All Too Well,” deservingly so, gained traction within the last three years for its piercing lyricism and heart-wrenching bridge. When fans learned the song was originally 10 minutes long, but Swift was forced to cut lyrics in order to fit the mold of a conventional song, they began demanding the 10-minute version be put on “Red (Taylor’s Version).”

Swift exceeded expectations by releasing the re-recording of the original 5.5-minute version, the 10-minute version and a short film for “All Too Well.” Working with fan-favorite hitmaker Jack Antonoff, Swift modernized the longest track on her discography with new production and additional lyrics that tug at heart strings. 

Of course, Swift kept the renowned bridge that made “All Too Well” the emotional centerpiece of the album that it is. Arguably the most striking line of the bridge is “And you call me up again just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest.” Swift, rightfully so, said this is the line she is most proud of from the entire album/era.

New lines like, “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath,” from the chorus and, “You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine,” from the fourth verse allude to Swift’s short but intense and heavily publicized relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal in 2010. The three-month love affair inspired many of the original tracks on “Red.”

Hearing Swift’s mature voice and tone on some of their favorite songs has been nothing short of nostalgic for her fan base. Hits like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Getting Back Together” are some of Swift’s best-known works. For fans who grew up on those songs to be able to hear the Swift they know and love recreate those original masterpieces has been magical and has definitely aided in the roaring success of the album’s release.

While “Red” was the album that kick-started Swift’s crossover from country to the pop world, her country roots still shone through on much of the original album. Surprisingly, Swift did not shy away from incorporating her former country “twang” when re-recording originals like “Begin Again,” “Come Back…Be Here,” and “I Almost Do.” 

Keeping some of her country characteristics on the album allowed fans from earlier in her career to appreciate the re-records just as much as those who prefer her more recent work.

“Vault” tracks, or tracks that were not released with the original album, which Swift adds a bit of her country personality to include “Better Man” – which she wrote herself but originally sold to Little Big Town – and “I Bet You Think About Me,” featuring country mega-star Chris Stapleton. These country-leaning tracks, though never heard by fans until their release on Nov. 12 this year, have created a nostalgic listening experience for fans who have loved Swift since her “Fearless” days.

Swift also released a music video for “I Bet You Think About Me” which she co-directed with Blake Lively. This outrageous, Easter-egg-filled video fully encapsulates the complexities of “Red” and did a phenomenal job of bringing attention to a song that may not have otherwise had such a huge release.

Other tracks that incorporate a large industry artist include “Everything Has Changed” and “Run” (from the vault) which both feature Ed Sheeran.

Finally, the return of country favorites and the welcoming of a few new ones satisfied country Swift fans, and the resurgence of Swift’s biggest pop hits made modern Swifties happy. However, Swift gave fans of her more recent work in the alternative genre their own gift: Phoebe Bridgers.

Alternative indie rock star Phoebe Bridgers is best known for her “sad girl music,” as referenced by her fans and lyrics that resonate with young women. On “Nothing New,” a duet between Swift and Bridgers, the two beautifully harmonize to create a special piece of “Red” that scrutinizes change and grapples with fate. 

“Red (Taylor’s version)” is nothing short of perfect in the mind of a Taylor Swift fan. From having to solve a word search to learn the track names and features, to listening to a 10-minute long song about a three-month relationship, the album and release epitomize a Taylor Swift project, and fans are in heaven.