Image: Beth Garrabrant.
Global superstar Taylor Swift has gifted us all with the re-recordings of her fifth studio album, Red. Dubbed Red (Taylor’s Version), the album arrives packed with thirty tracks, including a number of unreleased songs that existed within fandom folklore. Songs fans never knew existed, and the infamous ten minute version of one of the greatest songs Swift has ever blessed us with, All Too Well.
Bigger and better, the new recordings remain faithful to the original production, however bringing a more refined quality. Swift teamed up once again with Dan Wilson, Shellback, Jacknife Lee, Jeff Bhasker and Butch Walker on production duties on tracks across the record, whilst also enlisting some fresh blood including Christopher Rowe, Paul Mirkovich, Elvira Anderfjärd, Espionage, Tim Blacksmith, Danny D, as well as longtime collaborators Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner. And of course, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeran reprise their verses on The Last Time and Everything Has Changed (which has been elevated to a whole new level) respectively. Girl At Home, a deluxe edition track from the original album, arrives with the biggest change - transforming from an acoustic-led track to the 80's inspired synth-pop of Red's successor, 1989.
Red is undoubtedly one of Taylor Swift's masterpieces. Meandering between country and pop, it's hard to believe the album could get bigger, but once again Swift exceeds all of our expectations. Focusing on the original songs that appeared on Red, the re-recordings offer slight vocal variations throughout the collection of songs. The power and strength in Swift's voice a decade on, conjure even more emotion that will have long term fans feeling everything they did back in 2012. Most importantly, Swift still hits the mark on her spoken word "he calls me up and he's like, "I still love you"..." bridge on We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. For anyone who was in their mid-teens like this writer and didn't have a full grasp on love and heartbreak. It might hit a little harder.
Then we arrive at the songs from the vault, tracks that didn't make the albums original track list. Songs that Swift offered to other artists to record, such as Better Man (Little Big Down) and Babe (Sugarland), and songs fans never new existed. Swift enlists Sheeran once again, this time on Run, Phoebe Bridgers on Nothing New, and Chris Stapleton on I Bet You Think About Me, whilst staying solo on Message in a Bottle, Forever Winter and The Very First Night. The new additions continue the conceptual nature of the original release, capturing the complexities of heartbreak and the trove of emotions that linger. As Swift says herself, "Happy, free, confused, lonely, devastated, euphoric, wild, and tortured by memories past."
Nothing New is a powerful moment, where Swift takes aim at those who pry into her personal life and the expectations placed upon women. Swift and Bridgers' both deliver achingly delicate vocal performances, perfectly accompanying one another. The singer delivers one of her best break up songs on Better Man and retains her country accent on I Bet You Think About Me as she ruminates on a pretentious ex-lover who lost the best thing he ever had. Swift ditches her usual 2am thoughts for 3am on Forever Winter, which offers the heartbreaking view of realising your partners mental health has deteriorated. Swift and Sheeran penned Run on the day they met, and their voices still seamlessly highlight each others tones all these years later. Message In A Bottle serves as a sonic bridge between Red and 1989, with The Very First Night a bonafide hit. Swift recalls on a fleeting past relationship and the hope to be together once more, painting vivid imagery with her signature moving lyricism.
And then we arrive at the ten minute version of All Too Well. The songs’ opening melody has moved from piano to electric guitar, already offering a new realm for the song to exist in, and break our hearts all over again. Antonoff's production brings a driving sense of hope, until we hit the second verse and Swift delivers gut-wrenching lines such as "check the pulse and come back swearing it's the same after three months in the grave." The power and emotion in Swift's voice is unparalleled at the songs bridge, with the track also exhibiting some of the singers most evocative and heartbreaking lyricism, with new lines such as "You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath" offering us a deeper understanding of the flame that extinguished on All Too Well.
Earlier this year, Swift released her first re-recorded album, Fearless (Taylor’s Version). The new recordings remain faithful to the original production, with slight vocal and lyrical variations throughout the collection of songs. The musician enlisted her original band members on the recordings, whilst also bringing on more recent collaborators Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and Christopher Rowe on production duties, alongside Swift. Colbie Caillat returned for their collaboration, Breathe, with Swift enlisting Country superstar Keith Urban and Maren Morris on two previously unreleased songs.
In 2019, after the private sale of the masters of her first six studio albums, Swift announced she planned to re-record the albums in an attempt to devalue the original masters. Having not been offered the chance to purchase the masters herself, Swift’s former label sold their catalogue, in a move that the singer stated “Stripped me of my life’s work”. As of November last year, Swift has been able to begin re-recording her first five albums.
Red (Taylor’s Version) is out now!