“Red (Taylor’s Version)” shines in latest chart-topping debut

Caleb Marll, Guest Writer

Taylor Swift continues to outdo herself — literally. 

The 31-year-old genre-defying artist recently released her 11th studio album, “Red (Taylor’s Version)”: the re-recording of her 2012 album “Red.” With a 30-song track list, the re-release clocks in at just over two hours, including re-recordings of all 20 songs from the original album and nine formerly excluded songs “from the vault.” 

While the original “Red” is praiseworthy in its own right, Swift’s mature vocals set the re-recording apart. Similarly to “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” released earlier this year, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” makes it difficult for listeners to distinguish between the original songs and the re-recordings. However, Swift’s vocal range has certainly expanded since her earlier albums, which is probably why “Red (Taylor’s Version)” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming Swift’s 10th album to do so.

The biggest highlights of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” are the vault songs. Two of them, “Better Man” and “Babe,” are Swift’s recordings of songs she wrote for the country bands Little Big Town and Sugarland, respectively. Both songs were country hits when they first dropped, but Swift’s artistry makes them shine in a new light. 

If that weren’t enough, Swift also includes an all-star selection of featured artists.

In “Nothing New,” Swift and Phoebe Bridgers team up for a characteristically Bridgers folk track. The song laments the struggles of life in one’s early twenties, when youthfulness gives way to the mundane and challenging beginnings of adulthood. 

In “I Bet You Think About Me,” Swift and country rocker Chris Stapleton reminisce about youth, insignificance and a relationship with an older man. The song is full of country twang, complete with strings, harmonica and Stapleton’s raspy harmonies. 

“Run” is a dreamy, whimsical collaboration with Ed Sheeran. The indie-pop song tells the story of a couple wanting to run off to a new life together.

The album contains a number of other hits. 

“Message in a Bottle” is an upbeat track about the prospect of new love. 

“Forever Winter” is also melodically upbeat, but has some of the saddest lyrics on the album — it tells of a friend battling mental health struggles and suicidal thoughts. Swift sings of how, if she had known, she would have done everything in her power to support this friend. 

The album’s biggest hit is its final track, a 10-minute version of “All Too Well” — more than double the length of the original. The re-record reveals the full-bodied emotional roller coaster of sadness, anger, pain and bitterness from what many fans speculate was Swift’s relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal, whom Swift dated when she was 21 and Gyllenhaal was 29. 

In an interview with late-night host Jimmy Fallon, Swift revealed that the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” was originally conceived as a 10-minute song, but had to be cut down for the original “Red.” The re-record is edgier than most of Swift’s other music and includes a considerable addition of one-line heartbreak zingers: “You kept me like a secret but I kept you like an oath” and “You call me up again just to break me like a promise.” Swift also released a self-directed short film to accompany the song that stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien.

“All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” broke the record for the longest song at the top of the Billboard charts, a record Don McLean’s “American Pie” had previously held since 1972.

“Red (Taylor’s Version)” is part of a series that began earlier this year after Swift disclosed a dispute that occured with her record label in 2019. By releasing her original music for the second time, Swift accomplishes the impossible task of reclaiming ownership of creative property in an industry that has long failed to put artists first.

Whether you chalk it up to pop-culture stardom, true creative ingenuity or a combination of both, Swift has succeeded and it seems she will do so again.

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