Album Review: Red (Taylor’s Version)

We look at Taylor Swift's rereleased new album Red

Neve Watson
23rd November 2021
Grab your bottle of wine, blanket, and a box of tissues. Are we good to go?

Red was lifechanging to me. It was the first Taylor Swift album that I fully remember being released, along with all the build-up, including the We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and the I Knew You Were Trouble music videos. As an avid Taylor Swift fan (as everyone who knows me will tell you) I was highly anticipating Red (TV). It certainly didn’t disappoint.

For context: in 2019, Swift announced that she was re-recording her first six albums, Taylor Swift through Reputation – she owns everything from Lover onwards - in order to regain control over her music. Her manager at the time, Scooter Braun, had taken ownership of all her previous music. Ultimately, every time that a song from her old albums is streamed, all the money earnt immediately goes to Braun. Swift had previously tried to enter communications with him, but his team wanted her to sign an NDA which would forbid her from saying anything negative about Braun. Enter: the re-records. Fearless (Taylor’s Version) was released April this year and Red (TV) was released 12th November, with four more re-records to go.

Red (TV) is truly a ground-breaking album, as it was always going to be. Red broke records, becoming the fastest-selling album in over a decade, selling 1.21 million copies in its first week – and Red (TV) has already, in its first 24 hours, become the biggest album debut by a female artist on Spotify with over 90 million streams. The re-release includes all the original songs, and nine Vault tracks: a concept introduced with Fearless (TV) - unreleased songs that didn’t make it onto the original albums. Red (TV) is a testament to heartbreak, love, and the uncertainties of entering adulthood.

Her vocals are, of course, phenomenal. It’s nice to hear how her voice has matured in the past decade when comparing with the original. You can clearly hear her emotions, too: happiness in Stay Stay Stay, frustration in Sad Beautiful Tragic. These are events that have happened more than nine years ago, so it’s great to still be able to hear her feelings on them through her singing. There’s something amazing about hearing a 31-year-old Swift singing ‘who’s Taylor Swift anyway, ew?’

She also brought back the artists who were featured on the original: Gary Lightbody in The Last Time and Ed Sheeran in Everything Has Changed. Something that has been brought up previously is the lack of female artists having large supporting roles in her songs, such as HAIM in No Body, No Crime. When it was revealed that Phoebe Bridgers was featuring on one of the Vault tracks, Nothing New, there was concern that she would just be doing backing vocals. After hearing (and sobbing) to the song, I can confirm that Bridgers has her own verse, and both voices complement each other fantastically. I don’t know how they expected me to react to ‘Are we only biding time ‘til I lose your attention / And someone else lights up the room?’ But I cried. Drank some wine. Added it to my crying playlist.

If I had one criticism (and it’s barely that) it would be the whiplash you get when listening to the Vault tracks. I don’t think I’ve recovered from moving so swiftly (ha) from The Very First Night to All Too Well (10-minute version). You have around a four second gap to get your emotions in check to be ready for the absolute heartbreak that is the last track, which has been anticipated for nearly a decade.

Of course, we can’t do a Red (TV) review without talking about the absolute masterpiece that is All Too Well. The song remembers Taylor and Jake Gyllenhaal’s relationship. There’s much controversy: he was nine years older, didn’t show up to her 21st birthday, and don’t even get me started on the scarf. The fall-out shattered her, but through her passion and song-writing, the song has become a classic amongst fans. The re-record didn’t disappoint: whilst the original was so raw for her, this sounded nostalgic. She’s had eleven years to heal. I can’t stress enough that in releasing this song, the primary aim isn’t to get back at Gyllenhaal (although it must feel so cathartic to sing this a decade later) but to share and own her music.

The 10-minute version is genuinely everything you could want and more. Listening to it, I can assure you that it doesn’t feel that long, and it’s such an insight into details of the relationship previously unknown. There’s so much to take in; I’ve been picking a new set of lyrics to focus on every few hours. My current obsession is ‘you kept me like a secret / but I kept you like an oath.’ I’m begging you to watch the short film she created, starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien, which dramatizes the song. Their acting is phenomenal and yes, I cried for a good ten minutes after I finished it.

Red was revolutionary upon its 2012 release and is a better album in 2021. Its popularity proves that it’s timeless. It’s a cathartic journey, for Taylor herself, and old and new fans alike. Her songs are brilliant, but the beauty is that it’s so much more than just releasing another album. It’s continuing the battle of owning her music, it’s a statement, and allows her to revisit past heartbreaks. I can’t recommend Red (TV) enough, but heavily suggest you have a bottle of wine and some tissues to help you through it. Did the love affair maim you too, Jake?

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