Almost ten years after the release of her pivotal album “Red,” Taylor’s rerecording is still resonating with listeners.
In the fall of 2012, Taylor Swift released an album that changed the trajectory of her career forever. “Red” marked the switch from the star being a country crossover, to more mainstream pop. But “Red” was also the album that defined Swift’s abilities as a lyricist. The album, in all its vivid imagery, vocally expressive attention to nuances of love and heartbreak. It represents everything that makes her great.
In her most recent addition to her re-recordings, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” stays true to the original. Bringing back the original musicians and guests that were featured on the original album, the re-recordings sound almost exactly like the originals, with only minute differences between them. While the re-recordings serve the original album justice, there are moments that feel dated. Of course, this is bound to happen out of the nature of redoing an album from 2012. Songs like “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “22” are still fun to listen to, but I’m transported back in time to when I was 12-years-old hearing them for the first time.
But despite the moments that feel dated, there are the songs that hit just as hard as they did before. The album’s title song “Red” still manages to vicariously mourn the relationship I made up in my mind. The album’s closer “Begin Again” still offers the same sense of hope of new love, but now with a more mature sounding Taylor behind it. In fact, every track feels like a visit from an old friend. An older, wiser Taylor is singing these songs not from the standpoint of experiencing it for the first time, but of recounting memories and sharing them with someone long after the fact.
Even on an album that is almost ten years old, Swift is still finding new things to say on old subjects. For those who know “Red” like the back of their hand, the real draw to this album is the vault tracks that were released. It’s exciting to hear the tracks that could have been, but it’s understandable as to why some of them were left off. Tracks like “Babe” and “Better Man” are nice to hear by the wordsmith herself, but better suit their purposes for the musical acts they were given to.
“Nothing New” featuring Phoebe Bridgers is a standout of the vault tracks. The track grapples with the ideas of being replaced, but for the first time this theme is explored through her own eyes, speaking on her own fears being in the music business. Bridgers complements her voice, speaking to all women in general about these fears as Swift’s first female feature to have her own verse on a song.
There is one song on the album that is at the center of everyone’s attention. After years of hinting at it, we finally received the “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).” The original song is her magnum opus. The imagery, recalling moments in such specific detail of a slow-burner account of the end of love, is the album’s highlight and the best of her career.
“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” is an expansion of the original, and while it’s a spectacle to listen to, past the seven minute mark it’s a bit of overkill. Swift’s final verse on the song feels disconnected from the rest, and undermines her own account of the in-process of pain the song.
“Red” is often praised as Swift’s best album. It’s not a perfect record; reflecting the time it was written in, there are some duds. But “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is a good reminder to the adult version of ourselves from when the album first came out that sometimes we have to revisit our past and all its messy bits to get to our future. And as one of her re-recordings — all about ownership — “Red (Taylor’s Version)” reminds us to own ourselves — insecurities, faults and all.