Taylor Swift takes us back to 2012 with the re-release of ‘Red’

During Covid, we thought she would stop. She gave us Folklore. Post Folklore we thought she would stop. She gave us ‘Evermore‘, the former’s ‘sister record’. Having released her 2 most critically acclaimed albums ever in 2020, Taylor Swift is yet again on her second album release of the year, with Red (Taylor’s Version).  What we should have all learned by now, is that Taylor doesn’t stop. She will simply never stop. Having been in the game for 15 years, she’s at her most productive, with a near-constant flow of musical output – and no one is complaining.

Red (Taylor’s Version) is the second in Swift’s series of album re-recordings following a major dispute with her former record label; her first five albums were sold without her permission, and she was prevented from buying them back and therefore owning these parts of her catalogue. It’s an unprecedented move, one that left Dave Grohl ‘deeply impressed’, and which Rob Sheffield described as ‘completely insane’. However, Swift hasn’t been battered by the novelty of this process, quite the opposite: Fearless (Taylor’s Version), which was released in April, is the second bestselling album of this year (topped only by her 2020 album Evermore). Despite the success of that album, with last week’s re-release of Red, Swift has actively harnessed the power of a rerelease, turning it from simply an album drop to reclaim autonomy over her songs, into a communal, nostalgic reflection with her fans. Hosting short film premieres, playing acoustic sets, as well as disrupting the very format of Saturday Night Live, by playing the 10-minute version of All Too Well (naturally, what else?) rather than the conventional two songs; Swift is leaving no one behind in this revamp of one of her greatest albums.

On this record’s new version, the production is cleaner, and her recent sonic development is integrated into the record with intermittent production and instrumentation from Aaron Dessner (of The National), who worked closely with her on Folklore and Evermore. Here he supports her recent musical growth with his wistful, gentle production. There is a notable difference in Swift’s voice, having gained almost a decade of experience since the original recording – it sounds exponentially more mature. Whilst occasionally her vocal maturity doesn’t entirely align with the themes and songs of 20-year-old Taylor, such as in the joyful, naïve bop Stay Stay Stay, overall, it informs the record, adding an air of reflection, whilst also meshing effectively with the neater production. The most highly anticipated part of the Red rerelease was the original, aforementioned 10-minute version of the song All Too Well. It quickly became a fan favourite despite neither having a music video nor being released as a single, and the heartbreak ballad was lauded by critics globally. Whilst Taylor cut down the song to roughly 4 minutes for the original album release, last Friday she gave us the original 10-minute version, with an accompanying short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. It was written and directed, of course, by Swift herself. Is there anything she can’t do?

As well as re-recording all of the original songs from the 2012 album, Swift released 9 extra tracks ‘from the vault’, which were written at the time, however not initially included or released. Nothing New, a duet with Phoebe Bridgers is a standout, a melancholy, piercing reflection on starting in the music industry at such a young age. I Bet You Think About Me, with Chris Stapleton, is also glorious – and a soothing reminder that her country twang can be pulled out and revisited when needed. At just over two hours, the album is a heart-wrenching, yet joyous journey for swift fans both casual and fanatical, and there is no better way to end the tracklist, and listening experience overall, than with the 10 minute All Too Well. (By the time I am writing this, she has released yet a third version of All Too Well- [The Sad Girl Autumn version], recorded live at the Long Pond Studios. She never stops. We are never safe).

Overall, Red (Taylors Version) is a wonderful rebirth of Swift’s only ‘true breakup’ album and provides the chance for her and her fans to relive the whole Red era with style, class, and casual short film premieres.