Picture this, it’s the 22nd of October 2012, two months before the end of the world; the Twilight saga is just about to end, and The Hunger Games is ready to take over its reign; One Direction is the hottest boy band in the world. But most importantly, Taylor Swift has just released her fourth album ‘Red’. ‘Red’ painted a picture of Swift’s life at twenty-two, that was tainted by one of her first major heartbreaks, the one to Jake Gyllenhaal, an actor who was her senior by nine years, as they dated when Swift was nineteen going on twenty.
The 12th of November 2021, lauded in a new chapter of that very album. ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’, brought along the old songs her fans have grown to love and cherish, all of them re-recorded which has allowed her to own the rights to the masters this time around, and nine tracks that didn’t end up on the original record, six of them had never been heard before. Yet, maybe its most talked-about addition, is the ten-minute version of the gut-wrenching hit, ‘All Too Well’.
The now 31-year-old singer-songwriter is no longer haunted by tales of her dating past, her supposed fake niceness, or the dismissiveness of her stellar songwriting that takes inspiration from her own life. No, in 2021, we’re finally over slut-shaming, the complete disregard of teenage girls and their emotions. Taylor Swift has risen, finally appreciated, to be the voice of a generation, the millennial version of artists like Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon.
Her previously unreleased songs, or as Swift calls them, “tracks from the vault”, sees her combine forces with frequent collaborator Ed Sheeran on ‘Run’. They once again establish why these two pop-giants seem to be a match made in heaven as they bring out the best in each other’s vocal powers. Country singer Chris Stapleton appears on ‘I Bet You Think About Me’, a four-minute forty-five-second continuation of the Nashville-inhabitant’s country start. As their voices melt together and combine to be sweet as honey, Swift takes the lead and uses her best storytelling voice and brings the listener an easy-to-sway-to song that enriches her discography. But the best feature on ‘Red (TV)’ proves to be the one alternative artist Phoebe Bridgers brings to life, ‘Nothing New’. Both artists sing “How can a person know everything at 18, but nothing at 22?” in their respective verses with unprecedented mighty intent. Unlike the other artists featured on the record, Phoebe Bridgers’ part seems to belong to her as much as it does to Swift, while their angelic artistic qualities complement each other.
A compilation of songs most known for its ability to translate the emotion of heartbreak and despair has some brighter moments in its two hours and eleven minutes of existence. ‘Stay, Stay, Stay’, ‘22’, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and ‘Holy Ground’, serve their original purpose as seemingly happy, light-hearted, ultra-pop moments, while vault track ‘Message in a Bottle’ is added to the list. These up-tempo tunes are providing a much-needed pause in the otherwise too emotionally damaging album, yet it is not where ‘Red (TV)’ shines.
The near-perfect record reaches its ultimate high on its final sequence, ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’. As famous verses like “Well, maybe we got lost in translation. Maybe I asked for too much. But maybe this thing was a masterpiece ’til you tore it all up,” and “But you keep my old scarf. From that very first week. ‘Cause it reminds you of innocence, and it smells like me. You can’t get rid of it. ‘Cause you remember it all too well,” are still a focal point in her lyricism, added on verses that talk about the age-gap between Gyllenhaal and herself and the more detailed thought-through frames she penned down, are the ones that get most of the attention this time around. However, Swift’s rendition of what the famed actor once told her might be true, “If we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine,” but the love affair created ‘All Too Well’ and subsequentially ‘Red’, and therefore, it is fair to say that Swift came out on the better end.
A deeply personal album that has been broken into pieces and now lives inside the minds of many all over the world is once again bringing us together. A lot changed since ‘Red’s’ original release. The world didn’t cease to exist, but we got something else instead, a widespread deadly virus that’s still looming around every corner. The Hunger Games series has concluded and the next franchise to pick up its space in the collective mind has yet to come around. One Direction is no longer together but Taylor Swift is still here. Taylor Swift, the now-iconic artist, has been in the industry for over fifteen years, and with every era, she puts out, she is creating new memories whilst keeping the nostalgia alive, nostalgia, that’s fueled by her persistence and brutal yet magical honesty. ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’, an album so raw and poetic, has found its spot in the ever-changing music industry, a place that will forever be engraved as a storyteller’s land that blurs the lines between a diary entry and universal appeal.
Written by: Lauren Dehollogne