Taylor Swift fans eagerly waited for the release of “Red (Taylor’s Version),” which became available at midnight on Nov. 12, and it is the perfect blend of maturity and nostalgia.
Swift has been rerecording her first six albums in an attempt to gain power and ownership over her work. Her old record label, Big Machine Records, denied her the opportunity to own her master recordings and then sold them, unbeknownst to Swift. By rerecording her work under a new label, Swift not only has power over what is done with those master recordings, but she receives all of the financial benefits as well.
The start of the album is the pure rerecordings of all the original songs in the 2012 “Red” album. While there are some instrumental additions to some songs, like extra orchestration in “Red (Taylor’s Version)” and some added technological aspects in “Girl At Home (Taylor’s Version),” the majority of the songs are basically exact replicas, most likely intended to give the listener the ability to download this version and support Swift without much difference in the listening experience.
While most of these songs are technically the same as the ones on the original album, and Swift sings flawlessly, they lack the rawness of Swift’s emotions. In 2012, Swift had just experienced heartbreak and you could hear the pain in her youthful voice, which made her songs that much more powerful and relatable. Now that Swift is older, her voice sounds more mature and the brokenness that was so clear in 2012 is gone. While it is good Swift is happier now, the remakes of the original songs are missing that element, and thus while the songs pair well with the original album, they are not full replacements.
Another key component of the album is the “From the Vault” songs. These are songs that Swift simply cut from the original album or wanted to save for another album, but when other albums were not related to the theme of “Red” like she anticipated, they got lost in the middle ground.
It is clear why these songs were only fitting for the “Red” album, since they stick closely with the themes of heartbreak, remembering the good times and the musical elements of that Swift era. “I Bet You Think About Me” fits with her country style and encapsulates her humorous goodbye to an ex, featuring Chris Stapleton. The song “Message In A Bottle” works well with her more upbeat dancing songs like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Nothing New ” is a great, more pop-focused addition to the album.
The “From the Vault” tracks also include collaborations with artists Phoebe Bridgers, Chris Stapleton and Ed Sheeran, and all three artists’ involvements add to the vocal strength of the songs, making the vault tracks even more new and exciting.
The majority of these songs are not as strong as the original ones chosen for the album, which is why Swift did not include them in her original work. Since they do not take the place of her other work, it is impossible to complain about their presence. The “From the Vault” songs easily fall into the category of the more the merrier.
The not-so-hidden gem of the album is “All Too Well (10 Minute Version).” “All Too Well” became one of the most popular songs on the original album without it even being a single. This 10-minute version was very much anticipated by fans, and it does not disappoint. The additional lyrics add to both the story and the power of the track, and it includes new melodies and phrasing that bring additional layers to the song. Though 10 minutes is a long time, every second adds something to this famous track, and the minutes go by way too fast.
In addition to the 10-minute version’s release, Swift also released “All Too Well: The Short Film” starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. While this film is not included in the album itself, it was such a key part of the album release events that it must be discussed in this review.
This film was Swift’s short film directorial debut, and she absolutely nailed it. The film included the entire 10-minute song, along with an intense scene in the middle. The connection between Sink and O’Brien perfectly captures the intensity of the song, and the camera work in both the long shots and montages work to develop a beautiful visual to the story that fans have loved since 2012. Swift also included nods to some of the iconic moments that all her fans would know, like the birthday cake scene’s familiarity with a similar scene in the “Lover” music video. If this film was to be rated on its own, it would get five stars.
Overall, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is an excellent album, not only due to the great music and memories for the fans but because the message and context behind the album are one of strength and independence. While the album does lack the freshly wounded tone from the heartbreak that “Red” was inspired by, Swift’s mature voice in the remakes and vault songs is just as enchanting to listen to. While this album is by no means a perfect replacement for the 2012 album, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is a great addition to Swift’s discography and definitely worth a listen and download.
Album Rating: 4/5 stars
Film Rating: 5/5 stars
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 stars