COLUMN: “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is a simple triumph
When Taylor Swift released her fourth studio album, âRed,â in 2012, I was 10 years old with no concept of adult heartache or the cost of fame. What I knew was that I hated Jake Gyllenhaal for what he had done to my favorite artist.
I’m 19 now, with a harder understanding of the feelings that made “Red” such a visceral experience for fans around the world, but I still feel the same about Jake Gyllenhaal. In some ways, however, I owe him a bitter thank you, because this album is to me what “Abbey Road” is to my grandparents’ generation: formative and necessary.
I spent last Thursday night in the concert t-shirt I got in fifth grade – yes, it still suits me – thinking about the version of myself who wore it to Ford Field in Detroit for see the Red Tour live. And when midnight struck and Spotify crashed down as a result of millions of fans trying to listen to one album at a time, I felt grown in a way that I had never really conceptualized before.
“Red” took me through all the hardest times of my life so far, and releasing the version that was stolen from Taylor was like releasing all those versions of myself that had leaned on so loud on his music. Continue. Hearing the opening of âState of Graceâ felt like stepping into adulthood hand in hand with an older, more powerful version of the artist who provided a soundtrack to my childhood.
In many ways, re-recording the Masters of Taylor Swift is a lot like getting old – it requires going back to your youth and rehashing the feelings, issues, and beliefs that consumed life in that time while recognizing that the ownership of your past is an integral requirement to be a whole person in the present.
Sonically, âRed (Taylor’s Version)â is more adult, with a more mature sound and the aged voice of Swift, but it still evokes the feeling of being 22 and being heartbroken.
To understand the seriousness of a re-released Taylor Swift album, we need to consider exactly what it entails. The original songs, as well as the first set of bonus tracks, come with at least five “Vault” selections that were considered but ultimately cut from the album’s first release. If we’re lucky, there will be a music video or, in the case of “Red”, a short film about the heartbreaking classic “All Too Well”.
On top of all this, Swift’s management company, Taylor Nation, is launching new products as the downturn approaches. The drop week itself includes media appearances (seeing appearances on late night comedy shows and a performance on “Saturday Night Live”) and a social media storm that typically only occurs during federal elections or natural disasters. For die-hard fans, it’s like the intersection of every big party, your birthday, and winning the lottery.
When “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was announced in August, the countdown was unbearably long for the album which arguably marked Swift’s transition from still being in awe of having reached this stage to claiming her place. of global superstar with a place in the collective memory of the world.
Including collaborations with Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Stapleton and Ed Sheeran, Swift breathed new life into âRedâ by expanding its proverbial reach. She’s an artist who can work with whoever she wants, and the result is a version of the album that covers genres and styles while remaining thematically consistent.
“Nothing New,” which sees a verse from Bridgers, echoes the two artists’ favorite stripped down sound on recent albums “Punisher” and “Folklore,” as the lyrics lament how a person can “know everything at 18, but nothing at 22. âOnâ I Bet You Think Of Me, âStapleton’s backing vocals and a twang-ier vibe remind listeners of Swift’s country days, right down to the narrative lyricism Swift attributes to his love for country icons The Chicks and LeAnn Rimes. âRunâ with Sheeran is the epitome of âRedâ and was revealed to be the first song Swift and Sheeran wrote together, preceding fan favorite âEverything Has Changedâ.
In other tracks from the Vault, Swift’s transition from country to pop becomes evident. “Message In A Bottle” and “The Very First Night” have a cadence and lyricism similar to the hits of “1989”. The changes to the production of “Girl At Home” create a distinctly pop sound reminiscent of recent Jack Antonoff favorites like “Cruel Summer” and “Getaway Car”. While dexterity is the norm for Swift, âRed (Taylor’s Version)â clears the bar with room to spare. Balanced by the timelessness of the original tracks, the new songs give fans space to imagine a larger scope for an already expansive album.
Closer to the album, an unfiltered ten-minute rendition of perhaps one of the best breakup songs ever written, “All Too Well” sums up all the messy feelings of the “Red” era: Rage combined with the heartbreak and pain of the loss with the realization that you deserved better. It also has some of the most enduring designs on the minds of fans – we all know that somewhere in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s house, Taylor’s Gucci scarf is floating around, and there’s a red light in the North. New York State which almost crashed about 10 years ago. by a guy who kept staring at the girl in the shotgun seat.
Swift’s new words deal a devastating blow to the ex-who-must-not-be-named, professing he was keeping her “like a secret” while she kept it “like an oath.” The lyrics, “I’ll get old but your lovers remain my age,” is a clear reminder of the age difference between Swift and Gyllenhaal, and certainly doesn’t reflect well the fact that the 40-year-old actor has been dating a French model from 25 years since 2018.
The main reason for the greatness of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is its simplicity. Without trying to break records or destroy previous notions, this album entered the minds of millions of people and became something much bigger than a set of songs about a breakup. It’s simple in the sense that these are emotions we all experience at different times in our lives, and anyone who listens to these songs will be able to relate to at least one of them.
If music is supposed to make it easier to understand and articulate the things that bind us together, âRedâ is the encyclopedia of grief. It is a comfort to know that it will always exist in conjunction with the difficult and happy parts of our lives. All I know at this point is if someone important isn’t showing up at my 21-year-old party, there are a few songs for that.
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